Friday, April 20, 2018

ARTSPEAK! Harlem Renaissance poem "Storytime"

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference for Roundup... and some celebratory words for the release of her anthology IMPERFECT. Congratulations, Tabatha and contributors... more on this in May!

Welcome to day #20 of 2018 ARTSPEAK!, in which I am focusing on art and artists from the Harlem Renaissance. Today I am still enjoying events with Charles Waters in New York City... and we hope to make it to Harlem. :)

Before we get to today's poem, please be sure and visit Linda at Write Time to see how our Progressive Poem is progressing!

Today I'm continuing my Harlem Renaissance poetry project with a look at sculptor Meta Warrick Fuller. Tomorrow will be our last day with Fuller... then on to William Johnson!

Talk about a woman ahead of her time! Fuller was a poet, artist and sculptor -- the first African American woman sculptor to rise to any sort of prominence. She was also a feminist and activist. Her works celebrated African American heritage and focus mostly on themes of identity -- never shying away from the horrible (see A Silent Protest Against Mob Violence). Even Auguste Rodin admired her work. And here is a favorite quote from Fuller herself:

“Let us train ourselves to see beauty in 'black.'”

Here are the poems in the series so far:
"Sorrow" after Sorrow by Meta Warrick Fuller
"My John Henry" after When John Henry Was a Baby by Palmer Hayden
"Night Music" after Untitled by Palmer Hayden
"A (Sub)way of Looking" after The Subway, 1930 by Palmer Hayden
"Girl to Mama" after Madonna at the Stoop by Palmer Hayden
"For Love of the Game" after Checkers Game by Palmer Hayden
"The Birthday Birds of Bonaventure Island" after Birds of Isle de Bonaventure by Palmer Hayden
"Boat Dock, Early Evening" after Boats at the Dock by Palmer Hayden
"Prayer for the Berry Pickers" after Berry Pickers by Palmer Hayden
"Sometimes Books Are the Only Playground I Need" after Among Them is a Girl Reading by Palmer Hayden
"Measurements" after Octoroon Girl by Archibald Motley
"Barbeque" after Barbecue by Archibald Motley
"American Idyll, 1934" after An Idyll of the Deep South by Aaron Douglas
"The Toiler" after The Toiler by Aaron Douglas
"Let There Be Poetry" after The Creation by Aaron Douglas
"Boy with Plane" after Boy with Plane by Aaron Douglas
"To a Dancer" after Sahdji (Tribal Women) by Aaron Douglas
"For the Builders" after Building More Stately Mansions by Aaron Douglas
"This Poem is a Dream" after Aspiration by Aaron Douglas

Today's piece is called Storytime. First I was thinking of all the sweet things I could say about storytime. But that would be kind of cliche, wouldn't it? Then I remembered how Fuller's known for her bravery in addressing terrible things. That word "terrible" stuck in my brain... it made me think about what helps me through a terrible day, and that is so often reading and creating poems/stories! And so my poem became a story of sorts... and it rhymes! I am generally not a rhymer. But this seemed to fit this poem. Here it is:
Storytime

Won't you tell me a story –
it needn't be too long.
Just tell me a little story
about something gone terribly wrong.

Maybe a girl forgets her lunch,
or a boy can't tie his shoe.
A dog has lost its human,
or a carrot jumps out of the stew.

It doesn't matter what happens.
What I need to hear about is after.
So tell me a story of triumph –
with a dash of action and laughter?

Won't you tell me a story –
it can be great or just okay.
Yes, tell me a little story,
so I can get through this terrible day.

- Irene Latham

Thursday, April 19, 2018

ARTSPEAK! Harlem Renaissance poem "Sorrow"

Welcome to day #19 of 2018 ARTSPEAK!, in which I am focusing on art and artists from the Harlem Renaissance. Today I am still enjoying events with Charles Waters in New York City!

Before we get to today's poem, please be sure and visit Michelle Kogan to see how our Progressive Poem is progressing!

Today I'm continuing my Harlem Renaissance poetry project with a look at sculptor Meta Warrick Fuller.

Talk about a woman ahead of her time! Fuller was a poet, artist and sculptor -- the first African American woman sculptor to rise to any sort of prominence. She was also a feminist and activist. Her works celebrated African American heritage and focus mostly on themes of identity -- never shying away from the horrible (see A Silent Protest Against Mob Violence). Even Auguste Rodin admired her work. And here is a favorite quote from Fuller herself:


“Let us train ourselves to see beauty in 'black.'”

Here are the poems in the series so far:
"My John Henry" after When John Henry Was a Baby by Palmer Hayden
"Night Music" after Untitled by Palmer Hayden
"A (Sub)way of Looking" after The Subway, 1930 by Palmer Hayden
"Girl to Mama" after Madonna at the Stoop by Palmer Hayden
"For Love of the Game" after Checkers Game by Palmer Hayden
"The Birthday Birds of Bonaventure Island" after Birds of Isle de Bonaventure by Palmer Hayden
"Boat Dock, Early Evening" after Boats at the Dock by Palmer Hayden
"Prayer for the Berry Pickers" after Berry Pickers by Palmer Hayden
"Sometimes Books Are the Only Playground I Need" after Among Them is a Girl Reading by Palmer Hayden
"Measurements" after Octoroon Girl by Archibald Motley
"Barbeque" after Barbecue by Archibald Motley
"American Idyll, 1934" after An Idyll of the Deep South by Aaron Douglas
"The Toiler" after The Toiler by Aaron Douglas
"Let There Be Poetry" after The Creation by Aaron Douglas
"Boy with Plane" after Boy with Plane by Aaron Douglas
"To a Dancer" after Sahdji (Tribal Women) by Aaron Douglas
"For the Builders" after Building More Stately Mansions by Aaron Douglas
"This Poem is a Dream" after Aspiration by Aaron Douglas

Today's piece is called Sorrow. It shows a mother's anguish upon the death of a child. What a tough thing to write about... and the thing that immediately leapt to my mind was "My Lover's Gone" by Dido. I decided to use it as sort-of a mentor text. Also, I was thinking of "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen. I love the lines: "Love is not a victory march, it's a broken Hallelujah." I wanted to see what I might say about sorrow. I'm not sure I've found "it" yet, but here is my start! I love when my mind turns to music for inspiration.



Sorrow

my baby's gone
her breath no longer
warms my breast

she left at dawn
as I slept I felt her slip
so cold so cold

sorrow's not a well run dry
it's a mountain stream
gushing down
                    down

my baby's gone
no lullaby will ever
bring her back to me

bring her back to me

- Irene Latham


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

ARTSPEAK! Harlem Renaissance poem "My John Henry"

Welcome to day #18 of 2018 ARTSPEAK!, in which I am focusing on art and artists from the Harlem Renaissance. Today I am enjoying events with Charles Waters in New York City!

Before we get to today's poem, please be sure and visit Christie and Wondering and Wandering to see how our Progressive Poem is progressing!

Today I'm continuing my Harlem Renaissance poetry project with a final piece Palmer Hayden. Tomorrow I'll introduce sculptor Meta Warrick Fuller.

Here are the poems in the series so far:

"Night Music" after Untitled by Palmer Hayden
"A (Sub)way of Looking" after The Subway, 1930 by Palmer Hayden
"Girl to Mama" after Madonna at the Stoop by Palmer Hayden
"For Love of the Game" after Checkers Game by Palmer Hayden
"The Birthday Birds of Bonaventure Island" after Birds of Isle de Bonaventure by Palmer Hayden
"Boat Dock, Early Evening" after Boats at the Dock by Palmer Hayden
"Prayer for the Berry Pickers" after Berry Pickers by Palmer Hayden
"Sometimes Books Are the Only Playground I Need" after Among Them is a Girl Reading by Palmer Hayden
"Measurements" after Octoroon Girl by Archibald Motley
"Barbeque" after Barbecue by Archibald Motley
"American Idyll, 1934" after An Idyll of the Deep South by Aaron Douglas
"The Toiler" after The Toiler by Aaron Douglas
"Let There Be Poetry" after The Creation by Aaron Douglas
"Boy with Plane" after Boy with Plane by Aaron Douglas
"To a Dancer" after Sahdji (Tribal Women) by Aaron Douglas
"For the Builders" after Building More Stately Mansions by Aaron Douglas
"This Poem is a Dream" after Aspiration by Aaron Douglas

I learned in the book HARLEM STOMP! that Hayden was a janitor and then came to prominence as the first winner of the Harmon Foundation art competition in 1926 (an art contest created to recognize African American artists). Much of Hayden's work centered on black American life, legends and folk heroes. He was criticized for lapsing into a portrayal of blacks that seemed rooted in cultural stereotypes, a reminder that “blacks were performing for a white audience.” I also love the information about Palmer's life and work found here.

And I love this quote: "I decided to paint to support my love of art, rather than have art support me." — Palmer Hayden quoted in Nora Holt, "Painter Palmer Hayden Symbolizes John Henry," New York Times, 1 Feb. 1947. 

Today's piece is called When John Henry Was a Baby. Remember the legend of John Henry? Palmer Hayden did a number of pieces about John Henry. Like me, you probably remember the song. As I approached this piece, I knew that I didn't want to repeat the story; I wanted to bring something new in my poem. So I started thinking about John Henry's mother, and his relationship with her. What might he tell him? How did she influence the man he later became? Is this how she might remember him after his death?





My John Henry

A wiggler and a wanderer,

he sure did love that little hammer!



And each time a train whistle shattered
the sky, how he'd pull toward it.

I knew that boy was going places.
I knew he'd do great things.

But, oh, how I long
to hold him in my lap again!

What I'd give to hear his chattering,
sweeter than any chickensong.

My John Henry may have driven steel,
but he had sunflowers in his eyes.

- Irene Latham

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

ARTSPEAK! Harlem Renaissance poem "Night Music"

Welcome to day #17 of 2018 ARTSPEAK!, in which I am focusing on art and artists from the Harlem Renaissance.

Before we get to today's poem, please be sure and visit Ruth at There is no such thing as a Godforsaken town to see how our Progressive Poem is progressing!

Today I'm continuing my Harlem Renaissance poetry project with another piece Palmer Hayden. Just one more day, and then we'll move onto sculptor Meta Warrick Fuller.

Here are the poems in the series so far:

"A (Sub)way of Looking" after The Subway, 1930 by Palmer Hayden
"Girl to Mama" after Madonna at the Stoop by Palmer Hayden
"For Love of the Game" after Checkers Game by Palmer Hayden
"The Birthday Birds of Bonaventure Island" after Birds of Isle de Bonaventure by Palmer Hayden
"Boat Dock, Early Evening" after Boats at the Dock by Palmer Hayden
"Prayer for the Berry Pickers" after Berry Pickers by Palmer Hayden
"Sometimes Books Are the Only Playground I Need" after Among Them is a Girl Reading by Palmer Hayden
"Measurements" after Octoroon Girl by Archibald Motley
"Barbeque" after Barbecue by Archibald Motley
"American Idyll, 1934" after An Idyll of the Deep South by Aaron Douglas
"The Toiler" after The Toiler by Aaron Douglas
"Let There Be Poetry" after The Creation by Aaron Douglas
"Boy with Plane" after Boy with Plane by Aaron Douglas
"To a Dancer" after Sahdji (Tribal Women) by Aaron Douglas
"For the Builders" after Building More Stately Mansions by Aaron Douglas
"This Poem is a Dream" after Aspiration by Aaron Douglas

I learned in the book HARLEM STOMP! that Hayden was a janitor and then came to prominence as the first winner of the Harmon Foundation art competition in 1926 (an art contest created to recognize African American artists). Much of Hayden's work centered on black American life, legends and folk heroes. He was criticized for lapsing into a portrayal of blacks that seemed rooted in cultural stereotypes, a reminder that “blacks were performing for a white audience.” I also love the information about Palmer's life and work found here.

And I love this quote: "I decided to paint to support my love of art, rather than have art support me." — Palmer Hayden quoted in Nora Holt, "Painter Palmer Hayden Symbolizes John Henry," New York Times, 1 Feb. 1947. 

Today's piece is called Untitled by Palmer Hayden. I was drawn to this piece instantly -- maybe because I DO dream of music. :) However, I feel like "dreaming of music" os a bit of a cliche... so I wanted to do something different. Often when I am fighting a cliche, I find that "less is more." (Which IS a cliche! Ha!) And that's exactly how I was able to move forward -- by thinking short and punchy. I don't know... this was the best I could do with the time I allot each morning for this process! I DO like the unexpectedness of the trumpet blast being the sound that put this man to "sleep at last."



Night Music

drumbeat
easy feet

guitar strum
dream hum

trumpet blast
sleep at last.

- Irene Latham

Monday, April 16, 2018

ARTSPEAK! Harlem Renaissance poem "A (Sub)way of Looking"


Welcome to day #16 of 2018 ARTSPEAK!, in which I am focusing on art and artists from the Harlem Renaissance.

Before we get to today's poem, please be sure and visit Sarah Grace Tuttle to see how our Progressive Poem is progressing!

Today I'm continuing my Harlem Renaissance poetry project with another piece Palmer Hayden. We'll stick with him two more days!

Here are the poems in the series so far:

"Girl to Mama" after Madonna at the Stoop by Palmer Hayden
"For Love of the Game" after Checkers Game by Palmer Hayden
"The Birthday Birds of Bonaventure Island" after Birds of Isle de Bonaventure by Palmer Hayden
"Boat Dock, Early Evening" after Boats at the Dock by Palmer Hayden
"Prayer for the Berry Pickers" after Berry Pickers by Palmer Hayden
"Sometimes Books Are the Only Playground I Need" after Among Them is a Girl Reading by Palmer Hayden
"Measurements" after Octoroon Girl by Archibald Motley
"Barbeque" after Barbecue by Archibald Motley
"American Idyll, 1934" after An Idyll of the Deep South by Aaron Douglas
"The Toiler" after The Toiler by Aaron Douglas
"Let There Be Poetry" after The Creation by Aaron Douglas
"Boy with Plane" after Boy with Plane by Aaron Douglas
"To a Dancer" after Sahdji (Tribal Women) by Aaron Douglas
"For the Builders" after Building More Stately Mansions by Aaron Douglas
"This Poem is a Dream" after Aspiration by Aaron Douglas

I learned in the book HARLEM STOMP! that Hayden was a janitor and then came to prominence as the first winner of the Harmon Foundation art competition in 1926 (an art contest created to recognize African American artists). Much of Hayden's work centered on black American life, legends and folk heroes. He was criticized for lapsing into a portrayal of blacks that seemed rooted in cultural stereotypes, a reminder that “blacks were performing for a white audience.” I also love the information about Palmer's life and work found here.

And I love this quote: "I decided to paint to support my love of art, rather than have art support me." — Palmer Hayden quoted in Nora Holt, "Painter Palmer Hayden Symbolizes John Henry," New York Times, 1 Feb. 1947. 

Today's piece is called The Subway, 1930, which is fitting, because later today I will be in New York City! Yay!

As I was thinking about what to write, it seemed to me that the subway hasn't changed all that much. If anything, we are MORE isolating than ever, what with all our devices and earbuds, etc. Here's where I landed:




A (Sub)way of Looking

No one sees anyone
on the subway.

Bodies press close/close
but mind-doors whoosh shut

before handholds are secured
and train jerks forward

on a track that clacks,
me me me me me –

What if, instead,
everyone looked someone

right in the eye,
smiled a good-day smile,


said, hi, how are you?

- Irene Latham


Sunday, April 15, 2018

ARTSPEAK! Harlem Renaissance poem "Girl to Mama"

Welcome to day #15 of 2018 ARTSPEAK!, in which I am focusing on art and artists from the Harlem Renaissance.

Before we get to today's poem, please be sure and visit Donna at Mainely Write to see how our Progressive Poem is progressing!

Today I'm continuing my Harlem Renaissance poetry project with another piece Palmer Hayden. We'll stick with him a couple more days!

Here are the poems in the series so far:

"For Love of the Game" after Checkers Game by Palmer Hayden
"The Birthday Birds of Bonaventure Island" after Birds of Isle de Bonaventure by Palmer Hayden
"Boat Dock, Early Evening" after Boats at the Dock by Palmer Hayden
"Prayer for the Berry Pickers" after Berry Pickers by Palmer Hayden
"Sometimes Books Are the Only Playground I Need" after Among Them is a Girl Reading by Palmer Hayden
"Measurements" after Octoroon Girl by Archibald Motley
"Barbeque" after Barbecue by Archibald Motley
"American Idyll, 1934" after An Idyll of the Deep South by Aaron Douglas
"The Toiler" after The Toiler by Aaron Douglas
"Let There Be Poetry" after The Creation by Aaron Douglas
"Boy with Plane" after Boy with Plane by Aaron Douglas
"To a Dancer" after Sahdji (Tribal Women) by Aaron Douglas
"For the Builders" after Building More Stately Mansions by Aaron Douglas
"This Poem is a Dream" after Aspiration by Aaron Douglas

I learned in the book HARLEM STOMP! that Hayden was a janitor and then came to prominence as the first winner of the Harmon Foundation art competition in 1926 (an art contest created to recognize African American artists). Much of Hayden's work centered on black American life, legends and folk heroes. He was criticized for lapsing into a portrayal of blacks that seemed rooted in cultural stereotypes, a reminder that “blacks were performing for a white audience.” I also love the information about Palmer's life and work found here.

And I love this quote: "I decided to paint to support my love of art, rather than have art support me." — Palmer Hayden quoted in Nora Holt, "Painter Palmer Hayden Symbolizes John Henry," New York Times, 1 Feb. 1947. 

Today's piece is called Madonna of the Stoop. And it's fitting because I've just spent time with my mother! I've long written about the mother-daughter relationship, how rich and complex it is, and how fortunate I am to have been so well-loved by my own mother. Moments with her are a treasure! And so, with a nod to Harlem Renaissance poem Langston Hughes' "Mother to Son," I give you "Girl to Mama."




Girl to Mama

I say, Mama,
that halo you forced
upon my head
is dented now
and dingy
with layers of dust.

And those angelwings
you stitched
upon my back?
Those threads
unraveled long ago.

But you remain
Madonna of the stoop,
keeper of the lost
and tattered.
Shine, Mama.

                     Shine!

- Irene Latham

Saturday, April 14, 2018

ARTSPEAK! Harlem Renaissance poem "For Love of the Game"

Welcome to day #14 of 2018 ARTSPEAK!, in which I am focusing on art and artists from the Harlem Renaissance. Today I am participating in the Word of the South Festival ... on stage at noon, with author-illustrator Laura Freeman.

Before we get to today's poem, please be sure and visit Heidi at my juicy little universe to see how our Progressive Poem is progressing!

Today I'm continuing my Harlem Renaissance poetry project by introducing another artist, the third so far in this series: Palmer Hayden.

Here are the poems in the series so far:

"The Birthday Birds of Bonaventure Island" after Birds of Isle de Bonaventure by Palmer Hayden
"Boat Dock, Early Evening" after Boats at the Dock by Palmer Hayden
"Prayer for the Berry Pickers" after Berry Pickers by Palmer Hayden
"Sometimes Books Are the Only Playground I Need" after Among Them is a Girl Reading by Palmer Hayden
"Measurements" after Octoroon Girl by Archibald Motley
"Barbeque" after Barbecue by Archibald Motley
"American Idyll, 1934" after An Idyll of the Deep South by Aaron Douglas
"The Toiler" after The Toiler by Aaron Douglas
"Let There Be Poetry" after The Creation by Aaron Douglas
"Boy with Plane" after Boy with Plane by Aaron Douglas
"To a Dancer" after Sahdji (Tribal Women) by Aaron Douglas
"For the Builders" after Building More Stately Mansions by Aaron Douglas
"This Poem is a Dream" after Aspiration by Aaron Douglas

I learned in the book HARLEM STOMP! that Hayden was a janitor and then came to prominence as the first winner of the Harmon Foundation art competition in 1926 (an art contest created to recognize African American artists). Much of Hayden's work centered on black American life, legends and folk heroes. He was criticized for lapsing into a portrayal of blacks that seemed rooted in cultural stereotypes, a reminder that “blacks were performing for a white audience.” I also love the information about Palmer's life and work found here.

And I love this quote: "I decided to paint to support my love of art, rather than have art support me." — Palmer Hayden quoted in Nora Holt, "Painter Palmer Hayden Symbolizes John Henry," New York Times, 1 Feb. 1947. We'll be sticking with Hayden for a few more days.

Today's piece is called "Checkers Game." It totally makes me think of our middle son, who is a passionate gamer. He loves video games best, but he also enjoys cards and chess... been a while since we've played checkers.... must remedy! This one is for you, Andrew!

For Love of the Game
- for Andrew


I love to play a board game
a scored game
a make-me-a-lord game!
I love to sit across from you
and see the win unfurling.

I love to play a board game
an adored game
a can't-be-ignored game –
Happiness fills my chest
when strategies are whirling.

I love my hours at the board; 
win or lose, gaming is its own reward.

- Irene Latham

Friday, April 13, 2018

ARTSPEAK! Harlem Renaissance poem "The Birthday Birds of Bonaventure Island" (for Lee)

Welcome to day #13 of 2018 ARTSPEAK!, in which I am focusing on art and artists from the Harlem Renaissance. Today I am in Tallahassee, FL, where I will be visiting family (yay!) and participating in the Word of the South Festival tomorrow... on stage at noon, with author-illustrator Laura Freeman.

And it's a very special Poetry Friday, thanks to our hostess with the mostest, Robyn Hood Black, who's throwing a birthday party for the one and only Lee Bennett Hopkins!!! Be sure to grab cake and confetti and other mayhem during today's Roundup at Life on the Deckle Edge.

To celebrate, I decided to write today's poem for Lee!

Before we get to today's poem, please be sure and visit Linda at A Word Edgewise to see how our Progressive Poem is progressing!

Today I'm continuing my Harlem Renaissance poetry project by introducing another artist, the third so far in this series: Palmer Hayden.

Here are the poems in the series so far:

"Boat Dock, Early Evening" after Boats at the Dock by Palmer Hayden
"Prayer for the Berry Pickers" after Berry Pickers by Palmer Hayden
"Sometimes Books Are the Only Playground I Need" after Among Them is a Girl Reading by Palmer Hayden
"Measurements" after Octoroon Girl by Archibald Motley
"Barbeque" after Barbecue by Archibald Motley
"American Idyll, 1934" after An Idyll of the Deep South by Aaron Douglas
"The Toiler" after The Toiler by Aaron Douglas
"Let There Be Poetry" after The Creation by Aaron Douglas
"Boy with Plane" after Boy with Plane by Aaron Douglas
"To a Dancer" after Sahdji (Tribal Women) by Aaron Douglas
"For the Builders" after Building More Stately Mansions by Aaron Douglas
"This Poem is a Dream" after Aspiration by Aaron Douglas

I learned in the book HARLEM STOMP! that Hayden was a janitor and then came to prominence as the first winner of the Harmon Foundation art competition in 1926 (an art contest created to recognize African American artists). Much of Hayden's work centered on black American life, legends and folk heroes. He was criticized for lapsing into a portrayal of blacks that seemed rooted in cultural stereotypes, a reminder that “blacks were performing for a white audience.” I also love the information about Palmer's life and work found here.

And I love this quote: "I decided to paint to support my love of art, rather than have art support me." — Palmer Hayden quoted in Nora Holt, "Painter Palmer Hayden Symbolizes John Henry," New York Times, 1 Feb. 1947. We'll be sticking with Hayden for a few more days.

One thing I learned about Palmer Hayden is that he painted a lot of boats and seascapes, both here in the U.S. and in Europe... and Canada, as it turns out! I learned that thanks to today's piece: Isle de Bonaventure.

The Isle of Bonaventure is off the coast of Quebec, Canada, and it is hosts a significant migratory bird population. The birds in the painting are gannets (which I'd never heard of). It's their black-tipped wings that give them away! Read more here.

And since today is Lee's birthday, and we're all celebrating, I thought first of playing a version of "Happy Birthday" on my cello, but I'm in a hotel room (!), and so I thought the best I could do is make my poem somehow about Lee's birthday. Here's where I landed. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LEE!

The Birthday Birds of Bonaventure Island
- for Lee Bennett Hopkins on his 80th birthday

The gannets wing in
same time each year

their graceful white bodies
warming the sky,

each wingbeat
echoing past year's journey:

its hurricanes
and oil spills

its glide-rise currents
and stunning skyscapes.

Have you ever seen
so many birds?

Look closer:
their black tipped wings

are commas,
urging you onward,

                        ever onward.


- Irene Latham

Thursday, April 12, 2018

ARTSPEAK! Harlem Renaissance poem "Boat Dock, Early Evening"

Welcome to day #12 of 2018 ARTSPEAK!, in which I am focusing on art and artists from the Harlem Renaissance. Today I am in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, at one of my favorite-ever events: Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival!

Before we get to today's poem, please be sure and visit Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink to see how our Progressive Poem is progressing!

Today I'm continuing my Harlem Renaissance poetry project by introducing another artist, the third so far in this series: Palmer Hayden.

Here are the poems in the series so far:

"Prayer for the Berry Pickers" after Berry Pickers by Palmer Hayden
"Sometimes Books Are the Only Playground I Need" after Among Them is a Girl Reading by Palmer Hayden
"Measurements" after Octoroon Girl by Archibald Motley
"Barbeque" after Barbecue by Archibald Motley
"American Idyll, 1934" after An Idyll of the Deep South by Aaron Douglas
"The Toiler" after The Toiler by Aaron Douglas
"Let There Be Poetry" after The Creation by Aaron Douglas
"Boy with Plane" after Boy with Plane by Aaron Douglas
"To a Dancer" after Sahdji (Tribal Women) by Aaron Douglas
"For the Builders" after Building More Stately Mansions by Aaron Douglas
"This Poem is a Dream" after Aspiration by Aaron Douglas

I learned in the book HARLEM STOMP! that Hayden was a janitor and then came to prominence as the first winner of the Harmon Foundation art competition in 1926 (an art contest created to recognize African American artists). Much of Hayden's work centered on black American life, legends and folk heroes. He was criticized for lapsing into a portrayal of blacks that seemed rooted in cultural stereotypes, a reminder that “blacks were performing for a white audience.” I also love the information about Palmer's life and work found here.

And I love this quote: "I decided to paint to support my love of art, rather than have art support me." — Palmer Hayden quoted in Nora Holt, "Painter Palmer Hayden Symbolizes John Henry," New York Times, 1 Feb. 1947. We'll be sticking with Hayden for a few more days.

One thing I learned about Palmer Hayden is that he painted a lot of boats and seascapes, both here in the U.S. and in Europe. And lately my life has included a lot of boats and lakescapes... so, today I give you boats!



Boat Dock, Early Evening

sailboats doze
with eyelids half-closed
as dreams of open sea
licklap their hulls

- Irene Latham

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

ARTSPEAK! Harlem Renaissance poem "Prayer for the Berry Pickers"

Welcome to day #11 of 2018 ARTSPEAK!, in which I am focusing on art and artists from the Harlem Renaissance. Today I am in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, at one of my favorite-ever events: Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival!

Before we get to today's poem, please be sure and visit Brenda at Friendly Fairy Tales to see how our Progressive Poem is progressing!

Today I'm continuing my Harlem Renaissance poetry project by introducing another artist, the third so far in this series: Palmer Hayden.

Here are the poems in the series so far:

"Sometimes Books Are the Only Playground I Need" after Among Them is a Girl Reading by Palmer Hayden
"Measurements" after Octoroon Girl by Archibald Motley
"Barbeque" after Barbecue by Archibald Motley
"American Idyll, 1934" after An Idyll of the Deep South by Aaron Douglas
"The Toiler" after The Toiler by Aaron Douglas
"Let There Be Poetry" after The Creation by Aaron Douglas
"Boy with Plane" after Boy with Plane by Aaron Douglas
"To a Dancer" after Sahdji (Tribal Women) by Aaron Douglas
"For the Builders" after Building More Stately Mansions by Aaron Douglas
"This Poem is a Dream" after Aspiration by Aaron Douglas

I learned in the book HARLEM STOMP! that Hayden was a janitor and then came to prominence as the first winner of the Harmon Foundation art competition in 1926 (an art contest created to recognize African American artists). Much of Hayden's work centered on black American life, legends and folk heroes. He was criticized for lapsing into a portrayal of blacks that seemed rooted in cultural stereotypes, a reminder that “blacks were performing for a white audience.” I also love the information about Palmer's life and work found here.

And I love this quote: "I decided to paint to support my love of art, rather than have art support me." — Palmer Hayden quoted in Nora Holt, "Painter Palmer Hayden Symbolizes John Henry," New York Times, 1 Feb. 1947. We'll be sticking with Hayden for the next week! 

Today's piece is called Berry Pickers. I've been berry picking before, and it brings warm family memories... and in this pic there appears to be three generations represented. Here's where I landed:


Prayer for the Berry Pickers

May tender sun ever guide
you to sweetness

May gray dog
rattle snakes from brambles

May your buckets hang light,
then heavy

May you know the flavor
of sunlight and rain

May your purpling fingertips
bring grins, giggles

May you leave plenty
for birds and bears to feast

May your love for one another
ripen, not rot

May warm scent of berries

ever remind you of this day

- Irene Latham