Friday, December 2, 2022

Maple Tree Magic (poem)

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Catherine at Reading to the Core for Roundup.

Goodness, how can it be December?? And how can our middle son be turning 26 today?? Happy birthday, sweet Andrew! (PF Friends, Andrew was the biggest baby in the nursery that day -- 9 lbs,, 15 oz! -- and today he has the biggest heart of anyone I know! I'm so lucky to be his mom.❤️)

Today's ArtSpeak poem was inspired by this beauty in our front yard:

No wonder the following art caught my eye when I was cruising animal paintings at!

two birds disappear,
re-appear amid crimson stars—
maple’s fall magic

- Irene Latham

Just four more animal-art poems to write for this year's theme (though today's poem might be more of a tree-poem-with-birds than a bird-poem-with-tree!)...what should be my theme for next year? Thinking... 

Thanks so much for reading! 

Friday, November 25, 2022

Quandry, Quarry, Quarrel (poem)

This post brought to you by the letter Q!

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday on this day after Thanksgiving! Be sure to visit Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town for Roundup.

This week I've got some hunting dogs for you! I, myself, have zero experience hunting irl, so for this poem, I decided to "hunt" for language, images, and meaning that would make hunting relatable for non-hunting folks like me. 

What did I find? Some great "Q" words! Thanks so much for reading.

Quandry, Quarry, Quarrel

Who could have predicted
the boat would mosey
this far from shore?

Not clutch of dogs
tense from morning's hunt

not ducks alert
amid thick nest of reeds.

perhaps distracted
by blazing maples—

let the knot slip, or
never tied it at all.

How easily we break—

all of us waiting
for the next whistle.

- Irene Latham

Friday, November 18, 2022

Whenever You're Feeling Weathered (poem)

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Jama's Alphabet Soup for a feast of a Roundup.

I've been crafting! When I saw some "Alabama" shaped ornaments cut from old quilts, I thought, hmm, I can do that....and I did! :)

This week's ArtSpeak: Animals poem is for anyone (like me!) who's feeling a bit worn and weary here at the end of the year. Thank you for reading!

At Sea

whenever you're
feeling weathered

remember: waves
can rise feathered

and crane's
whitecapped wings

can unravel sky,
stir a hundred dreams

- Irene Latham

Friday, November 11, 2022

Squirrel and Cherries poem

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Buffy Silverman for Roundup. 

For today's ArtSpeak: Animals, I've abandoned Picasso but still going miniature with the poems. (Haiku? Small poem? I'm not sure!)

What I do know: I've got a squirrel for you. We have so many (destructive!) squirrel friends here at the lake that we regularly run a Squirrel Relocation Service—We use traps baited with bird seed and then transport our twitchy little friends to release them a few miles down the road.

However, I did not know (until viewing this piece of art and the research it prompted) that squirrels love cherries! Qi Baishi knew. Did you? Thanks so much for reading.

so much we'll never

know—was it squall or squirrel

that plucked these cherries?

- Irene Latham

Friday, November 4, 2022

Dove + Vote = Happy First Poetry Friday of November!

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure and visit Heidi at my juicy little universe for Roundup.

First, an Election Day poem (first published by Scholastic's Storyworks magazine in 2012) I like to share every voting cycle:

Election Day

Sift through promises,
replay interviews;

step inside the booth.
Forget scripted speeches

and candy-wrapped slogans.
Weigh again each pro

and con. Remember
the teeming world,

its people who dream
of freedom—

so many denied
the right to decide.

Read the names,
imagine a future;

make the best choice.
In the space between breaths

your voice is heard
without a word.

- Irene Latham

....and now, my latest—and final!—Picasso poem as part of my ArtSpeak: Animals project. (I'll be back next week with non-Picasso animal art-poetry. :) 

Friends, I had a hard time with this one. Doves, peace, olive branches are all so cliche! How to make fresh? 

I wrote a bunch of versions, and decided to share a yin/yang duo, as I did last week with Picasso's sweet, prancing pig. 

This first (darker?) one makes me think of the fortunes we unfold from fortune cookies that are more like truisms than fortunes? See what you think. 

Look, an olive branch!

For dove's wings are not enough

to sway the faithless

- Irene Latham

...and now, take 27! It too can be read quite darkly...hmmm.... 

Thanks so much for reading.

sun tattoos dove's wings

with a thousand words for peace

only sky can taste

- Irene Latham

Friday, October 28, 2022

Picasso pig poem

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Jone Rush MacCulloch for Roundup.

We've been in the north Georgia mountains this week exploring the little railroad town of Blue Ridge. Actually, mostly, we've been walking and talking and sleeping and eating! (We needed a break!)

Of course I took a little time out to write the next installment of ArtSpeak: Animals. This week Picasso has a pig for us! 

Friends, I wrote a DARK poem. 

But it does a lot of the things I hope a poem will do, so I am sharing it first... and THEN, because I don't want to leave anyone in a dark place, I've got a more joyful pig poem for you. Thanks so much for reading...see you in November!

It looked so happy,
the prancing pig on the ramp
to slaughter

- Irene Latham


with a snout like that
young pig can't help but follow
every fresh scent

- Irene Latham


Friday, October 21, 2022

Picasso Dachshund dog poem

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Bridget at wee words for wee ones for Roundup.

Last weekend we had our community fall festival. It was so great to see friends and neighbors enjoying pumpkin painting, scarecrows, food & craft vendors, hayrides, and so much more... I was in charge of the silent auction, which brought in over $800 to turn back around into community programming. DH Paul was in charge of grilling 200 hot dogs. :) (This is an oddly appropriate thing to include in this post! Read on!)

Irene & Dahlia
(in front of Floyd Cooper art)
A few days before that, I was at Highlights, where I met for the first time in person my friend Dahlia Hamza Constantine. Joy! Dahlia and I have written a picture book together that celebrates the joyful relationship between a girl and her grandfather "Giddo"— and traditional Egyptian arts like the Tentmakers of Cairo. It will be released by Nancy Paulsen Books in 2025. :)

Dahlia brought me issues of a new-to-me magazine from the UK called Daphne's Diary. It is full of whimsy and just thumbing the pages is an Artist's Date. This week I played with butterflies from inside the pages...and I'm still playing!

Irene & Charles hanging out on the
porch of cabin #10, where Poetry Friday
friends Laura Shovan, Linda Mitchell,
and Rose Capelli stayed before me!
More about Highlights: It was my first time to visit, thanks to Charles Waters, who has a long history at Highlights. His enthusiasm was absolutely my favorite thing about the experience—especially as everything he's ever said about the people and place is 100% true. Beautiful, beautiful! And our group was so kind and brilliant! We really bonded over words and risk-taking and dreams...also, the fabulous Carol Hinz was there. I took so many notes during her talk and had a breakthrough on a wip. :) I'm so, so grateful and look forward to the beauty this group will be bringing into the world and especially into the lives of children. 

And this just in from that amazing publishing duo Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell. I loved writing about friends both far away...and furry!

Today's Artspeak: Animals poem reminds me of the one Dachshund we ever owned, a black-n-tan cutie named Chester. Perhaps you have or have had a Dachshund in your life?? Do tell!

Meanwhile, the end is in sight for this Picasso mini-series...I'm thinking I'll write 2-3 more and then move onto something else. Thanks so much for reading!

whole long body

a smile perched on stubby legs

this dog

- Irene Latham

Friday, October 14, 2022

Picasso Ostrich poem

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Matt at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme for Roundup.

Oh my goodness, what a wonderful time at Highlights! More on this next week, once I've had a chance to unpack. Old friends, new friends, adventures, inspiration, delicious food, heart is full. :)

I didn't do much writing while there, but wow, on the (14 hour) drive home, I voice-recorded many many many notes, breakthroughs, and new ideas. I'm excited to sort through everything and share more.

I don't know what an ostrich has to do with Highlights (or anything), but I did tackle Picasso's drawing as the latest in this mini-series as part of my ArtSpeak: Animals project.

 Actually, now that I'm reading it again, it's kind of exactly where I am in my writing life as described above! Ha! How our poems reveal us... 

Thank you so much for reading.

ostrich swerves through grass

a blur of fluffy feathers

far from flightless

-Irene Latham

Friday, October 7, 2022

Live from Highlights!

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure and visit Sarah Grace Tuttle for Roundup.

The header is actually wishful thinking...but I am en route (driving!) to Highlights, where Charles Waters and I are leading a retreat on Poetry for Kids: A World of Publishing Possibilities. We're excited to share this time with other passionate poetry peeps!

 Earlier this week I posted about ghosts of AFRICAN TOWN over at Smack Dab in the Middle. Read the poem here.

And here's my latest ArtSpeak: Animals poem. Yep, another Picasso-inspired haiku! (The 10th, actually. I just counted. :) Thanks so much for reading.

on dark autumn morn

rooster will not be silenced

the sound of sunshine

- Irene Latham

p.s. Whatever's happening in the world, however dark the day...we can all be roosters! xo

Friday, September 30, 2022

Picasso Fox poem

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference for Roundup.

Now that we are entering the last quarter of the year (!), I've got my One Little Word on my mind... WHIMSY. How has whimsy played into my life? When I look around my house, I see a whole lot of whimsy! Here's the latest addition:

Yep, I repurposed a leaky canoe into a raised bed garden! Don't you dig the blue paint? I planted kale for fall, and I kind of love it. :)

I think I've added some whimsy to my writing life, too...taking more chances, being more playful, stretching my imagination... 

For this week's ArtSpeak: Animals, I've got another Picasso for you! And a bonus poem, too. It kind of emerged as I was trying to write about the fox. (Don't you love when that happens?!) Thank you so much for reading.

a lone duck calls
and from the tall grass a fox
sets world ablaze

- Irene Latham

...and speaking of's the bonus poem, just right for this time of year! :)

with a fox for
a soul, it blazes all hours
this autumn maple

- Irene Latham

Friday, September 23, 2022

Picasso grasshopper poem

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Rose at Imagine the Possibilities for Roundup.

I'm on the road today, heading home from my mom's. She's about halfway through her radiation treatments, and we are in the process of getting her moved closer to us. It's a big undertaking!

I'm also in the process of querying agents for a big sweeping novel for adults. (My agent doesn't represent adult projects.) It's not my favorite way to spend my time, I'll tell you that! But I love this book SO MUCH. And this is just part of the journey, right?

For this week's ArtSpeak: Animals project, I am still really enjoying this Picasso mini-series! (This is #8.) I'm just going to keep going until I get tired of it, or until I run out of Picasso's animal drawings—whichever comes first. Thank you so much for reading!

Little grasshopper

springs from stalk to stalk—playing

hide and seek with sun

-Irene Latham

Friday, September 16, 2022

Picasso Elephant poem

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Kathryn Apel for a Down Under Roundup.

This month while the tv runs college football games, I've been piecing a quilt! 

I realized a while back that I had quite a lot of black fabric in my stash. Black is not the most popular color to include in a quilt—which has made a black quilt project all the more enticing! I decided to use strips and construct squares on the diagonal—kind of a "crazy" quilt—and then arrange 4 squares to create some sort of funky block. 

(I am not a precision quilter! More of an improvisational quilter, ala the Gee's Bend quilters.)

As I've been sewing, a name for the quilt popped into my head: "Midnight in the Garden of Good & Glorious." 

No "evil" in this quilt! But lots of midnight. And my sweet friend Donna gave me some beautiful black-horse fabric, so I'll be incorporating it into the back— which I haven't figured out yet! I'll keep you posted.

In ArtSpeak: Animals news, I'm still having fun with Picasso. Today I have a sweet little elephant poem for you. Thanks so much for reading.

how jubilantly

elephant calf welcomes dawn

parade of mothers

- Irene Latham

Friday, September 9, 2022

Picasso Mouse poem

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink for Roundup.

with Daniel on his first birthday,
September 1995
September is a big birthday month in my family. Both my parents were born in September. One of my brothers. My eldest son. A niece. A nephew... actually, I learned that more babies are born worldwide in September than any other month. 

In recent decades in the U.S., that month is August, followed by July. Interesting, yes?

So this month has already held some birthday celebrations, and we're not done yet! 

Switching gears...this week's ArtSpeak: Animals continues my Picasso mini-series. Meet Picasso's mouse, who has quite an impressive tail! It just seems wrong to write anything lengthy about these simple line drawings, so I am getting some practice as a miniaturist/haiku poet lately. It's been fun...and challenging! Thank you so much for reading.

just behind the door

a mouse parades down the aisle

bride of shadows

-Irene Latham

Friday, September 2, 2022

Picasso Owl poem

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Linda at TeacherDance for Roundup.

Holy September, it's football season. That's a pretty big deal 'round these parts! On Friday nights we really enjoy supporting our local team—a small 1A K-12 school with a stadium perched atop gorgeous Straight Mountain. Lupita's ice cream truck is usually there, too, which is always a treat. 

I'm continuing my ArtSpeak: Animals Picasso mini-series with an owl! Owls are one of those subjects well covered by poets, so it feels like quite a challenge to write something fresh about them...but how could I NOT tackle it, when Picasso's art is so dang adorable?! Thanks so much for reading.

the mystery is

how owl so round and ruffled

learned to drink moonlight

- Irene Latham

p.s. Here's a site featuring 51 owl poems, some familiar, some new to me. Enjoy!

Friday, August 26, 2022

Picasso penguin poem

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Tanita at fiction, instead of lies for Roundup.

I'm away from my desk this week, but I do have for you the latest in my ArtSpeak: Animals Picasso mini-series. 

This week, a penguin! Picasso's penguin reminds me of the Penguin Books (one of my publishers!) logo, which is pretty basic:

...and it makes me think of the book Mr. Popper's Penguins, which I love. 

And who can forget the penguin dance in Mary Poppins? (Makes me smile every time!)'s not my first time to tackle penguins. WHEN THE SUN SHINES ON ANTARCTICA (Lerner, 2016), with illus. by Anna Wadham, features nature poems about four kinds of penguins who nest on the frozen continent: Adelie, gentoo, Emperor, and chinstrap penguins...for which I was able to cover penguin courtship, nesting, fledgling, and play time!

Other have found inspiration in penguins, too. Pablo Neruda in his poem "Magellanic Penguin" includes this stanza:

Penguin, static traveler,
deliberate priest of the cold,
I salute your vertical salt
and envy your plumed pride.

read the complete poem here.

Finally, here's today's effort. Thank you so much for reading!

penguin surveys waves

only one leap between ice

and deepwater flight

- Irene Latham

Friday, August 19, 2022

Picasso Flamingo poem

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Dave at Leap of Dave for Roundup. 

You know that feeling when you finally finish a big, consuming project, and experience the relief and euphoria of being DONE—only to find yourself floundering a bit, lost and confused, not knowing where to send your energy next?

That's been me this week. 

It's just weird to not have focus after being ultra-focused for several months. I've tried to be gentle with myself, reading a lot, letting whatever's next find me, instead of pressing so hard into the (writing)'s okay to take it easy sometimes. 

Perhaps it's these thoughts that influenced my latest effort in my ArtSpeak: Animals Picasso mini-series. Please meet Picasso's flamingo...thanks so much for reading!

flamingo poses

in shrinking summer puddle

rain dance

-Irene Latham

Friday, August 12, 2022

Picasso Dog Poem

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

I'm continuing my ArtSpeak: Animals Picasso mini-series this week with a dog drawing. 

I'm not sure what Picasso intended when he drew this dog, but to me, it looks like a dog vigorously scratching—on the side that we cannot see. (What do YOU see?) Thanks so much for reading. 

dog can't stop

tiny itchy visitors

summer picnic

- Irene Latham

Friday, August 5, 2022

Picasso Cat poem


Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone for Roundup.

Earlier this week BE A BRIDGE was released! It's the 4th book Charles Waters and I have created together (brought to us by Carolrhoda/Lerner, illustrations by Nabila Adani), all about acceptance and inclusivity, with some really concrete ways even very young kids can practice being a bridge. It's got some fun, useful back matter, too, to extend this topic through activities and a Bridge Builder Pledge. 

We can all be bridge builders!

This week's ArtSpeak: Animals poems begins a new sub-series I'm doing. Recently I spied in an antique shop a framed set of 6 of Picasso's simple line animal drawings. I took a picture, and when I came home, I discovered Picasso did 24 of these! 

I'm excited to write poems for them....starting with this cat. :) Thank you so much for reading.

old cat wakes

stretches snow out of bones

morning prayer

- Irene Latham

Friday, July 29, 2022

If Cows Were Red or Yellow (poem)

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Marcie Atkins for Roundup.

A bit of a rough week here in LathamLand, traveling to help my mom through round of chemo, only to have those plans foiled by covid—which has delayed her treatment until next week. In the meantime a series of other unfortunate events, but nothing that can't be overcome. Thanks for your prayers and well mom is a trooper!

I decided to write about cows, because my mom LOVES cows. She has a long history with them, not the least of which was her 4-H Grand Champion dairy cow, Penny.

Mary Hedden (16) & Penny

The art I found invites imagination, so I was able to bring in some thoughts/ideas/imaginings I've had lately about the word "someday."

I've always loved the promise of "someday," but recently I read/heard (somewhere) that "someday" is a meaningless word, because there's no real date/time associated with it. It's all pie in the sky, as any future could happen—or not. Which begs the question, what in the world is certain anyway? Not that got my cows making the long walk home!

What are your thoughts/feelings on the word "someday"? 

Here's my poem. Thank you so much for reading.


cows will be red or yellow
we'll fill our pails with orange milk

escape the swelter, take shelter in a barn
where cool dirt curls between our toes—

remember brown cows, sweet milk?
our together-breath will purple the air

such joy a secret delicious thing
in the land of what may or may not be

- Irene Latham

Friday, July 22, 2022

Camel poem

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit marvelous Mary Lee at A(nother) Year of Reading for Roundup. 

I'm at a doctor's office this morning—bleh! (Just yearly check-up time, so no worries.) Hope all of you are doing well and surviving the heat. (Another 'bleh!')

This week's ArtSpeak: Animals poem features a camel.

For a long time, I thought camels carried water in their humps. Not true! Also, I didn't know that camels are born without a hump. The hump develops as soon as the came begins to eat solid food. Here's a great list of other camel facts.

I'm drawn to camels for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was the camel ride our family enjoyed (when I was a child) in front of the Great Pyramids in Egypt. "Our" camel was named "Florida"... at least until the next tourist-family came along and told the camel handler where THEY were from. :)

If you'd like a great dive into the mind of a camel, check out ONCE UPON A CAMEL by Kathi Appelt. 

And now here's my poem. I wanted to include facts about the purpose of a camel's hump(s), but in a roundabout apply-it-to-humans way. Thanks so much for reading.

Be a camel when you travel

carry inside you
        a suitcase
packed with provisions—

that way you'll weather
any delays with grace

you won't be distracted
by grit of hunger

your teeth won't chitter
no matter how bitter
the sandswept night

wherever you wander,
whatever your adventure

          you will be filled

- Irene Latham

Friday, July 15, 2022

Daffodil, Crow...and a Poem Grows

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Elisabeth at Unexpected Intersections for Roundup.

You're invited to read my brand new post over at Highlights blog on How to Revise Poetry: 20 Questions to Ask. Hope you find it useful!

I've got my head down this week, closing in on a revision of a BIG historical novel, so my mind is full of the puzzle pieces that must fit together just so...

No wonder I wanted to write something short for this week's ArtSpeak: Animals poem.

 Well. You know how challenging the short form can be, right? And with my brain a bowl full of mush, I've had difficulty deciding which effort is the best I decided to include ALL my efforts here today. :)

Maybe this gives you a bit of a picture of the poetic pathways in my brain, the imaginative leaps, the way I like to play with sounds and images...I think this kind of sharing can be useful for any poet studying the craft—how do we get from idea to poem? For better or for worse, here's this week's path.

Please let me know which version you prefer! (I formatted the last one, since that's where I stopped.) Thanks so much for reading. 

Here's the art I selected:

untitled by Sohrab Sepehri 
(who was also a poet!)


Hope is a crow
finding a daffodil
in the snow

snow-dusted daffodil
smiles at a passing crow—
hello! hello!

eager daffodil
throws off blanket of snow—
hello crow

daffodil lifts head
from pillow of snow—
hello crow

crow doesn't know
to call it daffodil—
another sudden sun

what we call
crow calls hope

Daffodil in Love

She throws off
blanket of snow—
hello crow

trembling daffodil
throws off blanket of snow
hello crow

crow is first
to notice daffodil rising
from snow

crow is first
to notice new sun
climbing out of snow

crow is first
to notice daffodil rising—
snow queen

crow is first
to notice bold bloom
breaking free of snow

crow is first to notice
yellow petals burning
through late winter snow

crow folds its wings
before yellow snow queen—
hello spring

Friday, July 8, 2022

Goldfish Party (poem)

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit beautiful Jan at bookseedstudio for Roundup.

Today's ArtSpeak: ANIMALS poem features fish! I wasn't sure if the fish in the art were goldfish or koi—or something else! But the information I found here made me go with "goldfish." 

I've always loved fish ponds and aquariums...this art is my kind of party! Thank you so much for reading.

summer wind

stirs a party of goldfish—

orange confetti

-Irene Latham

Friday, July 1, 2022

Flamingo School of Dance (poem)

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Janice at Salt City Verse for Roundup.

I'm traveling today, but I do have an ArtSpeak: Animals poem to share with you. 

This art screams two things to me: "Florida!" And, "summer." 

I had a lot of fun playing with words to write a flamingo-dance poem. Thank you so much for reading!

Flamingo School of Dance

It may take
two to tango

but flamingo
prefers a tangle—

six legs
three long necks
one pool full
of fluffy
feathered skirts—


- Irene Latham

Friday, June 24, 2022

Peacock in Love (poem)

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Catherine at Reading to the Core for Roundup.

Big news! After a long covid-induced delay, Charles Waters and I will be in-person, teaching a workshop at Highlights October 8-11, 2022 called Poetry for Kids: A World of Publishing Possibilities. We'll be talking about many things, including:

 1) finding your voice in the wide world of children's poetry

 2) revising poetry (one of my most favorite things to teach!)

 3) performing poetry (for school visits, online outlets, and other events)

Please join us for fun, fellowship, learning, and inspiration! Click here to learn more.

Today's ArtSpeak! Animals poem is a love poem. I think love poems are my favorite comfort food! And...we saw a peacock in love recently when we visited Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs, AR. (If you are in the area, please do not miss it! Acres of gorgeousness!)

As for the peacock in love, his name's George. The photo does NOT do him justice at all! (too shady) 

But Walasse Ting's art does. :) Thank you so much for reading!

Peacock in Love

two eyes aren't enough
so with a gentle rustling
of feathers
he pops open his parasol,
trains a hundred more eyes
on her and her alone

a benediction
bright enough to eclipse
hunger, sickness,

all his iridescent attention


- Irene Latham