Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: HANDS

For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.


I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?
In January I wrote about: apron, bar, basketball, bed, bicycle, birthday, boat, broom, button, cake, car.

In February: chair, chlorine, church, concert, cookbook, couch, dancing, desk, dessert, dining room table, diploma.
March: divorce, door, dream, emergency room, envelope, eyebrows, first apartment, first job, food, game, garden.

April: I took a break to focus on ARTSPEAK: Happy!

Here are the prompts for May: gloves, great-grandparent, guidebook, gun, gym class, hair, hands, hat, high heels, honeymoon, hood.

HANDS

So I've written about my own (piano) hands in CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? I inherited my mother's hands – wide, capable hands with prominent veins.

Interestingly, I heard Henry Winkler on a podcast recently say that this is considered good fortune in some cultures. Who knew? I do recall receiving a compliment once specifically about my hands – a stranger asked if I was a “hand” model. (!) That was quite a few years ago, but it still makes me smile.

One memory I haven't documented is about a scar on my left hand. It's a round white scar, about an inch below my pointer finger's knuckle. When asked about this scar I have been known to say, “it's from a cigarette burn.” That's exactly how big it is! And doesn't that sound like an interesting (horrible) story? This is the curse of being a storyteller, I think... we can imagine so many more entertaining stories about ourselves that it's hard sometimes to settle for the truth – which is that in college I had a wart pop up in that spot, and the scar is the result of having it removed.

lefty!
Another “hands” note: I'm left-handed, and I have always loved that about myself! It's a big part of my identity – proof that I really am an artsy, creative whose default is right-brained thinking/problem-solving.

Yes, there are frustrations: smearing ink as I grip the pen with pointer finger and thumb, leaving the rest of my fingers drag behind like a snail's shell... and how the ink will stain my skin, making me look like I forgot to wash. Most desks, scissors, instruments, etc. are not made for lefties. When dining with friends or family, I must always choose a seat on the outside of a table, so that I'm not bumping elbows with my tablemate. But these are all just part of the lefty experience. I wouldn't trade them for anything.

And here is a memoir- poem about being right brained and left handed:

The Left-Handed Way of Learning the States

When Mrs. Fattig says
we must memorize
the names of all the states,
I start with orange Florida,
and journey up the east coast
before heading west
to pink California.
I add blue Hawaii
and white Alaska last.

When I'm done
with my recitation,
I've only named 48 states.
Should've done it
alphabetically,
my best friend Barbie says.

But why would I want
to spend so much time
memorizing a boring list
when my heart clackety-clacks
to trace green mountains
and aquamarine lakes
as I cruise across
the map's brown state lines? 

- Irene Latham

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: HAIR

For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.


I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?
In January I wrote about: apron, bar, basketball, bed, bicycle, birthday, boat, broom, button, cake, car.

In February: chair, chlorine, church, concert, cookbook, couch, dancing, desk, dessert, dining room table, diploma.
March: divorce, door, dream, emergency room, envelope, eyebrows, first apartment, first job, food, game, garden.

April: I took a break to focus on ARTSPEAK: Happy!

Here are the prompts for May: gloves, great-grandparent, guidebook, gun, gym class, hair, hands, hat, high heels, honeymoon, hood.

HAIR


So... I've kind of already written about hair in CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? Here's the "hair" spread... my poem is 100% autobiographical:

poem by Irene Latham (L), poem by Charles Waters (R)
illustrations by Sean Qualls & Selina Alko















Hair

Now my hair 
is long and straight -
 a curtain I can hide
behind.

But once
when I was little
I begged
for an Afro,

so Mama cut
my hair short 
as a boy's
and gave me
a perm.

I fluffed it
with a pick
big as 
it would go -- 

until my brothers
laughed,
called me 
a circus clown,

without the red nose.

- Irene Latham


Other hair memories include the horrible awful hair cut I got in Ninth Grade... I asked for a "Tenille," which is kind of a long bowl-cut, after Toni Tenille. It was the end of the day, and the hairdresser did not seem to get the "long" part, and I ended up with a hairut that made me cry! From that day forward I have worn my hair long -- I was not ME with that short 'do! I do admire people who easily morph their hair from one style to another...my (long) hair truly is part of my identity.

Another memory, not about my hair, but my brother Ken's: for a while Ken, who's just 17 months older than me, wore a rat tail. Ken was often a thorn in my side (and everyone else's too!). His worst offenses were the way he stole each and every one of my best girlfriends... yep, they all ended up dating, or MARRYING Ken! Such treachery! Anyhow, once when he'd just stolen yet another of my friends, I got my revenge: in the middle of the night I crept into his room while he was sleeping, and CUT OFF HIS RAT TAIL.

I know! Terrible, isn't it??! Just shows you how BIG those childhood emotions can be... 



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Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: GYM CLASS


For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.


I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?
In January I wrote about: apron, bar, basketball, bed, bicycle, birthday, boat, broom, button, cake, car.

In February: chair, chlorine, church, concert, cookbook, couch, dancing, desk, dessert, dining room table, diploma.
March: divorce, door, dream, emergency room, envelope, eyebrows, first apartment, first job, food, game, garden.

April: I took a break to focus on ARTSPEAK: Happy!

Here are the prompts for May: gloves, great-grandparent, guidebook, gun, gym class, hair, hands, hat, high heels, honeymoon, hood.


GYM CLASS

I have never been a sporty gal, so when it came to gym class, I'd pretty much do anything to get out of it. In elementary school I managed to skip playing softball by staying in and cleaning the classroom. This included straightening the book shelves and washing down the chalk board. With what glee I would look out at my classmates through the window!

I also managed to get out of PE in high school. The coach was also in charge of the bus schedules, and when he saw I was good at organization, he asked if I might help him. And so I did! I worked on those bus schedules and didn't have to play basketball even once. 

But I didn't get out of gym class every time... my 9th grade year and first year in Alabama, I had to endure the horror of dressing out in the PE “uniform,” which consisted of shorts only in team colors (red, gray, or white) and t-shirts specially designed by the school. I never liked the way I looked in this ensemble, and I remember feeling awkward and uncomfortable.

The only positive memory I have of gym class is doing quite well in the Presidential fitness test. Fitness has always been important to me – growing up with an obese father will do that to you – and thanks to Grandma Dykes (and those who came before her) I've got “flexibility” in my genes.


Friday, May 17, 2019

A Vital Question & A (D-) Definition of Poetry

originally published 1992
Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Margaret at Reflections on the Teche for Roundup.

I'm feeling a wee bit lighter today, as I reached a point in my revisions where I can STOP... and print the book out to read in 7-10 days -- once my brain has cleared a little!

I wish I had more time... alas, I'm on a deadline. The good news this isn't my last chance to improve the book -- there will be another round, or three. :)

While at the Florence-Lauderdale Library last month, I picked up a few books at the used book store. One of them was THE D- POEMS OF JEREMY BLOOM: A Collection of Poems About School, Homework, and Life (sort of) by Gordon Korman and Bernice Korman (son & mother!).

Poor Jeremy. He just can't figure this poem thing out. Ha! I can relate!

Here are two of the poems I really enjoyed:

VITAL QUESTION

If  a poem doesn't rhyme -
How do you know
       It's a poem?

If it's about sunsets and flowers, well okay.

But some of them might be about termites, and rats,
Cockroaches, earwigs, bedbugs
  and silverfish,
Battalions of cooties,
  And are more like the exterminator's report
         Than a poem.

So how do you now it's a poem
   If it doesn't rhyme?

-----

DEFINITION

A poem.

Rhyme salad,
Chopped by the word processor,
Garnished with pictures,
Sprinkled with adjectives,
Tossed by a poet-chef.
Lettuce, onions, tomatoes, images --

A poem.

-----

So Jeremy learned something, didn't he?

If I could talk to him, I'd add... "surprise!" Because surprise is one of my most favorite elements of a poem.

What about you? What would you tell Jeremy?

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: GUN


For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.

I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?
In January I wrote about: apron, bar, basketball, bed, bicycle, birthday, boat, broom, button, cake, car.

In February: chair, chlorine, church, concert, cookbook, couch, dancing, desk, dessert, dining room table, diploma.
March: divorce, door, dream, emergency room, envelope, eyebrows, first apartment, first job, food, game, garden.

April: I took a break to focus on ARTSPEAK: Happy!

Here are the prompts for May: gloves, great-grandparent, guidebook, gun, gym class, hair, hands, hat, high heels, honeymoon, hood.

GUN

My father was a collector, and for a while he turned this sensibility toward guns. His collection was displayed in a glass-fronted solid-oak gun cabinet that sat in the foyer of our home. While he didn't do a lot of shooting or hunting -- I do have some stories he wrote about some big hunting adventures with business associates during our Louisiana years -- he believed wholeheartedly in the 2nd Amendment and for as long as I can remember was a proud member of the NRA. 

Because our household included five children, Papa took it upon himself to educate us about guns. I remember our “gun classes” where he taught even reluctant-to-even-look-at-a-gun me about how to hold a gun, how to shoot, how to clean, store, etc. He said, “gun safety is about education,” and these classes were mandatory. I remember the weight of a pistol in my hand, and how different it felt from a rifle. I enjoyed the challenge of aiming – how each gun required something different: a slight shift to the left or right, or, with this model, you've got to aim it dead-on. My heart pounded so hard it hurt when it was my time to shoot – and when the shot was fired, I remember before any other feeling the relief of it being over. 

I'm grateful my father took the time to do this with us, even though at the time I didn't want to. He showed me what it was like to be a responsible gun owner, and a responsible parent.

*I just realized that a gun (or guns) show up in both my middle grade novels, and in the one I am currently revising (coming 2021). Clearly this is a subject my writer-heart is still exploring.


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: GUIDEBOOK

For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.

I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?
In January I wrote about: apron, bar, basketball, bed, bicycle, birthday, boat, broom, button, cake, car.

In February: chair, chlorine, church, concert, cookbook, couch, dancing, desk, dessert, dining room table, diploma.
March: divorce, door, dream, emergency room, envelope, eyebrows, first apartment, first job, food, game, garden.

April: I took a break to focus on ARTSPEAK: Happy!

Here are the prompts for May: gloves, great-grandparent, guidebook, gun, gym class, hair, hands, hat, high heels, honeymoon, hood.


GUIDEBOOK

The first guidebook that pops into my head is WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU'RE EXPECTING. I wore that book out! But that's an adult answer. It took me a little longer to remember a guidebook from my childhood. 

What I finally came up with was all the books I used in order to learn how to care for horses. I knew SO MUCH about horses and horse care! And my research wasn't limited to just one book or even one type of book. I supplemented the more factual volumes with literature, like the James Herriot books, which I adored. 

I also loved DEAR READERS AND WRITERS by Marguerite Henry. It's basically a book of letters Marguerite received, and her responses to them. Little did I know that someday I, too, would receive letters about books I've written. This book is one of the select few that survived our downsizing adventure a few years ago. It turns out to be not just a guidebook for animals (horses, especially), but also a guidebook for being an author. And there's a page I've sticky-noted – why did I mark this page? For what purpose? I cannot recall. What I can do is share it here with all of you:

Dear Marguerite Henry,
Which book has been the most satisfying to you?
Mary Rasmussen, Baltimore, Maryland

[MH:] CINNABAR was far and away my most fun book to do. But truthfully, I am like a mother with many children. Each story means something very special to me; so I could no more name a favorite than a mother could say she likes her firstborn best, or her youngest.

The reason, I guess, that Cinnabar's story was the most fun was because I felt as free as Cinnabar. I knew that when it was done, I wouldn't have to ask him, or his vixen, or his cubs, to read it very carefully and sign a paper saying they approved every word I had written about them.


When you are free, the words kind of sing themselves along. [bolding courtesy of moi, because how true, how true!]

------
.... and I have just this moment decided what my summer reading project will be: The Marguerite Henry Complete Collection! I can't wait to get started.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Beach Dog

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Liz (whose SOCCERVERSE is coming very soon!) at Elizabeth Steinglass for Roundup.

It's been another busy spring week here with travel and school visits and revising and other madness... and more to come! I'm excited to be seeing my mom this weekend... big happy Mother's Day to all the moms among us!

And now, just a little something to share from Rosie's first visit to the beach. :)
Rosie at Dauphin Island, 7 months (photo by Eric)

Beach Dog

Look, Dog –
sand, waves, shells!

Don't be scared, Dog –
driftwood, crabs, gulls.

Go ahead, Dog –
Splash!

Watch out, World –
All-Wet dog! 

- Irene Latham

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: GREAT-GRANDPARENTS

my paternal great-grandmother
and namesake,
Hannah Irene Dennis
For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.

I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?
In January I wrote about: apron, bar, basketball, bed, bicycle, birthday, boat, broom, button, cake, car.

In February: chair, chlorine, church, concert, cookbook, couch, dancing, desk, dessert, dining room table, diploma.
March: divorce, door, dream, emergency room, envelope, eyebrows, first apartment, first job, food, game, garden.

April: I took a break to focus on ARTSPEAK: Happy!

Here are the prompts for May: gloves, great-grandparent, guidebook, gun, gym class, hair, hands, hat, high heels, honeymoon, hood.

GREAT-GRANDPARENTS

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I didn't meet any of my great-grandparents in person. But I was named after one of them – my paternal great-grandmother Hannah Irene Dennis-- and I have blogged about my name and shared a "Namesake" poem here. The most impactful thing I know about my namesake is that "she never said a bad word about anyone." Those are some big words to live up to, and I have never felt I quite get there... though I am much more chill and nonjudgmental than I once was. It's something to aspire to, isn't it? 

I have always felt great love for this woman, and I do love her name. Once someone asked me if I wasn't named Irene, what name would I choose? I immediately said "Hannah." The other thing I know about my namesake is that my father dubbed her "Bigmama." I love that, too. She had a big heart. She was incredibly loving. And she, along with my other paternal great-grandparents, was a salty pioneer of the pinewoods and swampy rivers of north Florida. That's a pretty amazing legacy, if you ask me.

The only other one I know anything about is my maternal great-grandmother Ralston -- Cora Belle Bargar. She lived with my mom and her family when my mom was a teenager, so she had a big impact on my mom's life. She was, apparently, a feisty, little woman – not even 5 ft. tall. She was also an expert seamstress, and my mom learned a lot of craft-y skills from her -- including the classic-to-me "As you sew so shall you rip." From what I can recall, she was able to give my mom love in ways that her mother couldn't... and isn't that often the way it is with grandmothers?

Monday, May 6, 2019

The Butterfly Hours Memoir Project: GLOVES

For 2019 I'm running a year-long series on my blog in which I share my responses to the writing assignment prompts found in THE BUTTERLY HOURS by Patty Dann.

I welcome you to join me, if you like! I've divided the prompts by month, and the plan is to respond to 3 (or so) a week. For some of these I may write poems, for others prose. The important thing is to mine my memory. Who knows where this exploration will lead?
In January I wrote about: apron, bar, basketball, bed, bicycle, birthday, boat, broom, button, cake, car.

In February: chair, chlorine, church, concert, cookbook, couch, dancing, desk, dessert, dining room table, diploma.

March: divorce, door, dream, emergency room, envelope, eyebrows, first apartment, first job, food, game, garden.

April: I took a break to focus on ARTSPEAK: Happy!

Here are the prompts for May: gloves, great-grandparent, guidebook, gun, gym class, hair, hands, hat, high heels, honeymoon, hood.

GLOVES
So... I wasn't a debutant, wasn't into baseball.We moved a lot, but seemed to park only in hot climes (Saudi Arabia or  the southeastern US) so I may have had mittens at one time or another, but I don't recall any cold-weather gloves. I maybe could write about work/garden gloves... medical gloves? No... the only gloves I really remember are Grandma's gloves.

Grandma's Gloves

a set of gull's wings
tucked inside a nest
of tissue paper

smooth and fragile
as seashells,
so soft we must only

stroke them
with our fingertips
and dream of the day

still oceans away
when we'll be graceful enough
to slip them on 

- Irene Latham

.... just wanted to add that I've been looking at this project from the eyes of my child-self. Had I written this poem from my adult perspective, I might have included the fact that once I was "graceful enough/ to slip them on," they wouldn't fit my hands! I inherited my mother's wide, capable hands, and Grandma's hands were much thinner. What a disappointment to finally be allowed to try on the gloves only to find... I couldn't get them on after all. Sigh.


Thursday, May 2, 2019

Spirit of Spring

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Hello and welcome to Spiritual Journey Thursday! Big thanks to Carol for rounding us up over at Beyond LiteracyLink.

I do love spring... who doesn't? As a kid, the best part was meeting baby animals... chicks, calves, foals. Just this morning I saw a young rabbit nibbling clover in our backyard, and also a squirrel family. Joy! Though we were not so happy about the squirrels invading our screen porch to raid the bird seed – and leaving destroyed screens in their wake. Sigh. How quickly a little bit of wildlife can become too much!

Rosie - 6 months
We've loved having a puppy in our lives this particular spring. Rosie is growing and learning, turning into a real dog right before our eyes. One day I'll be so frustrated that she won't let me trim her nails, and then the next I am delighted because she actually comes when I call her. Up and down, up and down... mostly up! So, animals with all their joy and hope continue to speak to me of the spirit of spring.

This month is full of family events – a family trip to the beach, a cousin's wedding, a niece's first baby, a nephew's graduation from high school. And Mother's Day, which I'm delighted to be sharing with my mom and my adopted siblings. I will carry the spirit of spring – the newness, the hope, the miracle of green – through all of these gatherings.

Wishing all of you inspiration and renewal this season! Thanks, Carol, for this topic and for rounding us up. xo

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

ARTSPEAK: Happy! poem "Yosemite Morning" by Irene Latham

Hello and welcome to the final post in ARTSPEAK: Happy! my 2019 National Poetry Month poem a day project, in which I am responding to pieces of art that make me happy. Read why in my introductory post.

I have loved this series. What a great way to start my day! I look forward to revising some of these, and I appreciate so much all of your encouraging comments along the way. THANK YOU. 

Poems so far in ARTSPEAK: Happy!:
Girl in a Yellow Dress after "A Girl in a Yellow Dress, 1917" by Amedeo Modigliani
When the Stars Come to Town after "Cafe Terrace at Night" by Vincent van Gogh
On a Golden Day in May after "Checkered House" by Grandma Moses
Beach Time after "Children Playing on the Beach" by Mary Cassatt
The Weight of Happiness after "Flower Seller" by Diego Rivera
By the Sea "Coastal Scene with Gulls" by Maud Lewis
Sister Song after an untitled piece by Henry Darger
Two Cows after "2 Cows" by Maud Lewis
Girl in Hat after "Girl in Hat" by Norman Lewis
Backstage after "Dancers in Green and Yellow" by Edgar Degas. 
"So Many Suns" after Kohbar of Mithila
"To an Olive Tree" after Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun by Vincent van Gogh
"Three Black Cats" after Three Black Cats by Maud Lewis
"When Grandma Reads" after Mrs. Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren by Mary Cassatt
"On a June Afternoon" after Pigeon on a Peach Branch by Emperor Huizong
"On the Water" after On the Water by Mary Cassatt
"Autumn Prayer" after Red Vineyard at Arles by Vincent van Gogh
"Julie Manet with Cat" by Pierre-Auguste Renoir
"When a Horse Writes a Poem" after Horse Head on a Yellow Background 1953 by Fernand Leger.
"Fiddle Song" after The Fiddler by Marc Chagall
"A Dream of Yellow" after Tree Against a Yellow Background by Odilon Redon
"The Letter" after The Letter by Mary Cassatt
"To a Sunflower" after Sunflowers by Vincent van Gogh
"Only in Summer" after The Yellow Boat by Gustave Caillebotte
"Wish I May, Wish I Might" after Starry Night Over the Rhone by Vincent van Gogh
"The Guitarist" after Girl in Yellow and Blue with a Guitar by Henri Matisse
"First Day of Autumn" after Wheat Fields with Cypresses by Vincent van Gogh
"Anticipation" after Woman with a Yellow Jacket by August Macke
"Yellow Irises" after Yellow Irises with Pink Cloud by Claude Monet

Today's piece is Valley of the Yosemite by Albert Bierstadt. Yosemite Valley is one of those spiritual places for me... and Paul and I will be visiting Yosemite this summer, so this is coming at a good time for me. :) This poem kind of went in an adult direction, as I remembered my last trip to Yosemite (with my father) but that's okay. Enjoy your virtual trip to Yosemite. :)
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Yosemite Morning
- after "Valley of Yosemite" by Albert Bierstadt

And the sun said, Good morning, mountains
and the rock faces blazed to be so acknowledged

deer drank from pristine pools of water,
bears grazed berries from the thickets

and we dared not blink for fear of wasting
the sun's welcome-to-the-world gaze –

a gift given so freely and so often,
yet we, caught in webs of our own making

so often fail to see –

but this morning, tucked in the valley of giants,
we praise the maker and the miracle

we lift our hearts to the sun,
we say, burn me

- Irene Latham



Be sure to check in with Donna at Mainely Write to read our complete Progressive Poem! Yay!