Friday, November 20, 2020

ArtSpeak: RED Bee + Apple = Love Poem!

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Suzy at The Poetry Garden for Roundup.

Quickly, for my #NCTE20 peeps, here again is my schedule. I am excited to be learning from so many this weekend!

And here's an update for those of you who submitted to our IF anthology: we have our final contributor's list and are in the process of contacting all who submitted work. If you haven't heard from us already, you will very soon! Truly, it was an honor to read so many wonderful poems. I wanted to hug them (and you) all!

In other news, this pandemic year has meant lots of home improvement projects for us (and for many!)... this week we painted our kitchen cabinets! Well we didn't do it—Bruce & Mike did. Even if you're not putting in the brushstrokes, it can be kinda chaotic when you're kitchen is out of order! So I am feeling behind on pretty much everything. We're very much looking forward to a quiet Thanksgiving here at the lake. I wasn't going to cook, then I was... and then I decided to go half-n-half: we ordered a turkey and a dessert, and I will make a few sides... including a new one called "Irene's Cranberry Salad," which my mom clipped for me from Guideposts magazine. I'll let you know how if it makes this Irene's tastebuds sing!

And now I'm pleased to offer you another red poem inspired by art created by Richard Jones. Thank you so much for reading this little love poem... are you the bee, the apple... or something else?? xo

Once Upon a Time
by Irene Latham

Bee spied something red—
Home is where the apple is, she said.

You are the heart of my desiring,
Red said, admiring each intricate wing.

Bee danced until the sky turned dizzy.
To think yesterday she'd been in such a tizzy!

Buzzily buzzily buzzily, Bee sighed.
Life is but a dream, Red replied,

for she knew bees could be capricious.
Still her cheeks blushed crimson delicious.

And so the day wept rain and laughter
as Bee + Red lived apple-y ever after.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Three New Poetry Books and ArtSpeak: RED poem "Water Lilies"

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge for Roundup.

I'm excited to share with you some poetry books today. One you already know about, as many of you have poems included— congratulations!! The other two are from the UK, and I learned about them through the CLiPPA Awards. Beautiful books, all!

But first: my session info for #NCTE20. Our title was inspired by the poem "Remember" by Joy Harjo.

... also, good news for THE CAT MAN OF ALEPPO: it's the winner of the 2020 Middle East Book Award (Middle East Outreach Council). Hooray! Also, the audiobook will soon be available (the narrator's voice is PERFECT, I say. PERFECT!), and it's been listed on Evanston Public Library's 101 Great Books for Kids of 2020. Yay for more folks discovering Alaa's amazing good works.

And now, the books. I selected 2 poems from each, just to whet your appetite. You'll want to add these to your holiday gift list for sure. Enjoy!

CHERRY MOON: Little Poems Big Ideas Mindful of Nature by Zaro Weil, illustrated by Junli Song

After the Purple Rains
by Zaro Weil

after the purple rains
restless clouds of
crayon-box wildflowers
hurtle and tumble
in between rock beds
over squelchy slopes
through stone walls
to up-pop
outside my window
how very luck-dazzle
how very spring

by Zaro Weil

said the wise-talking wind
to the seed
then rainumandgrowum
and infivehudredyearsum
a mighty great
forest you'llbeum

HOP TO IT: Poems to Get You Moving
 by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, illustrations by Franzi Paetzoid

When I Move
by Carole Boston Weatherford

When I swim, I become a fish.
When I jump, I become a wish.
When I run, I become the heat.
When I dance, I become the beat.
When I bike, I become the wind.
When I flip, I become the spin.
When I lift, I become the strength.
When I stretch, I become the length.
When I grind, I'm beyond extreme.
When I climb, I behold my dream.
When I move, I'm a force so free
I feel the planet move with me.

Rabbit Dance
by Joseph Bruchac

Over the meadow
a full moon is shining
almost as bright as the sun.

It is the time when
the rabbits all gather
after the day's light is done.

Making a circle
they dance in the moonlight
hopping and stomping their feet,

hearing the music
that's kept in their hearts
moving to that ancient beat.

I've never seen them
dancing and dancing
but I know that it is so.

I've seen their footprints
all in a circle
there in the late winter snow.

 poems by Karmelo C. Iribarren, translated by Lawrence Schimel, illustrated by Riya Chowdhury

What the Streetlight Says
by Karmelo C. Iribarren, translated by Lawrence Schimel

What a 
humiliating life:

by day
the dogs
and at night
the drunks.

wasn't I born
a table lamp?

by Karmelo C. Iribarren, translated by Lawrence Schimel

When night begins to fall
and the first apartments turn on their lights,
the buildings that border the plaza
look like gigantic crossword puzzles.

Finally, here's my latest ArtSpeak: RED poem. I'm so glad that several of you have discovered the padlet galleries -- I love seeing all that art in one place! Yes, please share these with students. Thank you!

This week, I've returned to Monet— and revised "red" to "pink" —all in the name of alliteration.:) 

I am hyper-aware that my "red" year will soon come to a close... just six more RED poems! Which art to choose, which art to choose? And... what should be my theme for 2021??? These are the questions... meanwhile, thank you so much for reading!

Water Lilies

Spring pond
dons glossy
green skirt
with plump

- Irene Latham

Friday, November 6, 2020

ArtSpeak: RED poem "somewhere"

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Susan at Soul Blossom Living for Roundup for what I think is her first Roundup. Yay!

What a strange week... I don't know about you, but it's been a bit hard to focus. I do have some happy book news to share:

THIS POEM IS A NEST received another starred review, this one from School Library Journal!  

★ "A beautiful, emotional, and incredibly creative poetry book that inspires reflection, dreaming, and writing. A must for libraries and schools."

Big smiles from this poet. :) :) :)

And... I got to kitten-sit for one night, which was absolutely delightful. Nothing quite as hopeful as a kitten!

Lacy! (my mom's new cuddle-love)

 Finally, here is my third poem in a row inspired by illustrations shared by Richard Jones on Twitter. Enjoy!


a world turns
without words
like lost,

we are not
by winter

each moment

as a red coat
with no pockets

- Irene Latham

Friday, October 30, 2020

A Trio of Poems to Get you: Voting / Dreaming / Listening to Owls

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Linda at TeacherDance for Roundup. I've got a trio of poems for you today:

1. Election Day / Go Vote poem (first published in Scholastic's Storyworks magazine):

 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

2. A Halloween Poem (a revision of a poem I posted in August last year... time and distance helps!)

October Dreams

Inside October
waits a field
of plump pumpkins

Inside a pumpkin
nests a clutch
of white seeds

Inside a seed
echoes a breath
of fresh hope

Inside hope
exists a world
of joined hands

Inside a hand
rests a spoon
to scoop a pumpkin

Inside a pumpkin
lives a lifetime
of Octobers

Inside October
sleeps a child
with orange dreams.

- Irene Latham

3. The latest ArtSpeak: RED poem, after a (dapper) owl by Richard Jones. This is my second Richard Jones offering... the first was last week's "Night Swimming," about writing. Today's poem a pure fun, because that's what this little owl inspires in me! Thank you so much for reading. xo

When Dapper Owl Dons a Hat

he wants you to say,
look at that!
He wants you
to point, giggle,
perhaps even clap.

And if indeed
you point, giggle, clap,
that owl might even
croon for you.
Listen —


- Irene Latham

Friday, October 23, 2020

ArtSpeak: RED poem "Night Swimming," with thanks to Richard Jones

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Jama's Alphabet Soup for what's sure to be a delicious Roundup.

I'm taking a break from Monet to spend some time with a modern-day artist Richard Jones, who illustrated THE PROPER WAY TO MEET A HEDGEHOG: And Other How-To Poems. He often posts art on Twitter, and lately some have featured the color red! With his permission, I snagged a few that called to my muse, and I'll be sharing those on coming Fridays.

Today's poem is inspired as much by the name of Richard's piece as the piece itself... I don't know about you, but most of my "night swimming" involves swimming in words... I often wake to record ideas/lines/book fixes in the Notes feature on my phone. So I wrote a poem about it. Enjoy!

Night Swimming

Poems find me
in the sigh

between red sky
and blue tide—

words swell,

a gleam
of quicksilver dreams

teeming inside
my heart.

- Irene Latham

Friday, October 16, 2020

ArtSpeak: RED poem "Monet's Haystacks"

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

Last week I traveled with my 23 year old son across north Alabama, and we passed quite a few hay fields. He was struck by the beauty of the big mounds beneath the brilliant autumn sky... and then when I went to my art file to select a piece of art, there was Monet's "Haystacks" waiting for me! What resulted is a very simple poem. Thanks so much for reading... wishing you a little something joyful simmering today (whatever that may be!)

Monet's Haystacks


     what's left

            of summer


- Irene Latham

Friday, October 9, 2020

ArtSpeak: RED poem "A Traveling Song"

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

Many thanks to Janet F. for encouraging me to make this How to Find Nestlings handout! Hopefully this will make it even easier for teachers/readers to experience the joy of found poetry. :)

Also, I invite you to visit Michelle Kogan for the final day of the THIS POEM IS A NEST blog tour. So many thanks to these fabulous bloggers! Be sure to visit Carol @ Beyond LiteracyLink to read her "gold-dust poem," too. 

Do you haiku?

Calling all haiku poets! Tuscaloosa Sister Cities International is accepting haiku (Japanese-style poetry) for our project, "Coming Together During a Global Pandemic". Haiku traditionally feature three lines of poetry, formatted in 5-7-5 syllable structure.
Shall we walk outside?
Yes, we can, but not too close.
Please maintain distance.
Haiku may be solemn, observational, experiential, or provocative in nature. What a productive way to share thoughts and experiences during these challenging days.All are welcome to participate.  Please submit your haiku by October 16, 2020, to and include your name and city.  TSCI plans to publish a booklet with the top 100 haiku at the end of the year!     

My latest ArtSpeak! RED poem is a short little love poem after a Monet I've never seen before. Be looking for more Monet in the coming weeks! 

A Traveling Song

I love you where the red road rambles,
I love you beside a sapphire sea.
Whether day brings blooms or brambles,
with you is where I want to be.
- Irene Latham

Friday, October 2, 2020

Snapshot of A World Full of Poems by Sylvia Vardell

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference for Roundup. I'm delighted today to be featuring Sylvia Vardell in celebration of her new anthology A WORLD FULL OF POEMS, brought to us by DK. 

And, to make it even more fun: on this very same day, Sylvia is featuring *me* on her blog -- or rather, my new book THIS POEM IS A NEST.  :)

I'm so excited about Sylvia's new big book of poems. I often tell new-to-poetry people to start with an anthology, because no matter your tastes and inclinations, you will likely find something there to love! It's why I often gift anthologies, too. (I have, in fact, already ordered copies of Sylvia's book to gift this holiday season!) And what better person to curate a collection of poems than poetry-dress-wearing, poetry-expert-and-enthusiast Sylvia??! So let's get to it, shall we?

Welcome, Sylvia!

SV: Thanks so much, Irene, for inviting me to share a bit about my new poetry anthology, A World Full of Poems. It’s been such a privilege to work on this book, especially during the first months of this horrible pandemic. All that quarantining enabled me to hunker down and dive deeply into poetry for young people. I have my own substantial library of poetry for young people and pulled piles of books to search for poems, then more piles, then more poems, and so on. I was given the assignment of finding approximately 150 poems for this anthology from the editor in London who vetted all the poems (along with her staff). I think it may be the first anthology of poetry that DK Books has published, although I may be wrong about that. (Please let me know if I’ve got that wrong!) It was my task to recommend poem after poem as they sorted through what fit best for each of the eight categories they had established.

The Fresh (Unexpected):

One of the things that was particularly fresh and fun was seeking poems from poets outside the U.S., particularly from the UK. Fortunately, I have MANY anthologies and collections
and had fun reading and hunting for the “just right” poem. I only wish we could have had more time to include even MORE poems by MORE English-speaking poets outside the U.S. But I am so happy to find so many poems by so many diverse voices inside and outside the U.S.!

The Difficult:

SV: The most difficult part of this anthology building was finding perfect poems and then not being able to use them. Why? Including a poem in an anthology requires getting permission from the poet and usually from the publisher that originally included that poem in a book (unless it’s out of print and rights have reverted back to the poet). So, that means tracking down the permission source—both poet and publisher, sending inquiries, getting responses, and finding out the permission fee. DK Books had a limit to what they could pay for a poem (given that they wanted to include 150 poems). In most cases, it worked out just fine, but there were a few cases in which the fee was so high, it was beyond our budget. I shouldn’t be surprised that a poem by Langston Hughes or Pablo Neruda would cost quite a bit to include in an anthology, but I had high hopes!

The Delicious:

SV: One of my favorite things in this process is that I was able to secure permission to include two poems by one of my favorite poets: Karla Kuskin! She was one of the first contemporary poets writing for young people that I encountered as a brand new teacher in the 1970s. I had grown up on the classics (like Longfellow) and wasn’t aware that there were poets TODAY who wrote for young people—what a revelation! (This was around the same time of Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends in 1974; boy, do I feel OLD!). Although she has passed away, Kuskin’s poetry is still so relevant, engaging, and thoughtful. I hope I can help new readers fall in love with her work too. Here’s just one of her wonderful poems (and it appears in the book, too). 

Anything Else:

SV: Finally, my last task was creating some “activity” pages for the back of the book and you may know that I LOVE back matter! I went to town here and they ended up using about half of what I developed—which is fine. I made a poem “treasure hunt,” as well as providing tips on sharing and writing poems. I even had fun using Canva to create a graphic design for each page to show them how I thought these activities could be made more visually interesting and engaging for kids.

And now the book is coming out (Oct. 6) and I can’t wait to see it! I don’t have my copies yet, but I hope they arrive soon. I’m so happy to see 110 poets get their work out into the world and that DK Books has taken this chance on poetry when publishers are sometimes “shy” about doing so. Meanwhile, I just discovered that you can purchase the book on the Target website and that may be the craziest surprise of all!


Thank you, Sylvia, for sharing your book here today! And thank you for including two of my poems: "Summer Storm" and "Let's Celebrate the Elephant." YAY!!!

And now, my latest ArtSpeak: RED poem! I didn't know what to title this poem, and when I settled on "The Power of Art," I did an internet search on the same. I discovered this book that I immediately ordered! The power of art, indeed... also, you'll notice a little epigram "after Rilke." That's because of this Rilke quote which I adore, and sort of became the structure for the poem: I am circling around God, around the ancient tower, and I have been circling for a thousand years, and I still don't know if I am a falcon, or a storm, or a great song.” Thank you for reading!

The Power of Art
after Rilke

I stand in the gallery –
I stand, I sit.

I pace for a morning,
an afternoon,
all day.

And still I wonder:
am I the singing parakeet

or the artist's solemn

or something else,
dancing just outside
the frame?

- Irene Latham

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Meet Johanna Wright, illustrator of THIS POEM IS A NEST


O frabjous day! Today marks the release of THIS POEM IS A NEST... and my day on the blog tour. Yay! So many thanks to these generous bloggers! Mwah!

Friday 9/25  Kirby Larson blog
A Word Edgewise/Linda Mitchell

Monday 9/28 Reflections on the Teche/Margaret Simon 

Tuesday 9/29  Live Your Poem/Irene Latham

Wednesday 9/30  Laura Shovan blog

Friday 10/2  Poetry for Children/Sylvia Vardell

Saturday 10/3  Smack Dab in the Middle 

Monday 10/5  TeacherDance

Friday 10/9  More Art 4 All/Michelle Kogan 

To celebrate properly, I'm delighted to welcome the illustrator Johanna Wright to Live Your Poem. Fun fact: Johanna and I are studio sibs! We share agent Rosemary Stimola. :)

Johanna's sense of whimsy and heart was the perfect match for these poems, and I couldn't be happier to share this book with her.... and her process is pretty amazing! Welcome, Johanna!

The delicious:

This book was incredibly delicious to illustrate. I felt like I had the freedom to explore and examine the poems in a way that felt a bit deeper to me than books I’ve worked on in the past. This was especially true in my favorite section of the book, Only Human. I loved diving deeper into the imagery and emotions of those poems. And I loved how each spread, each poem could have entirely new characters, settings and stories within them. There was so much freedom in that, as an illustrator.  


The Difficult:
JW: I think the other side of having so much freedom, created some challenges too.  I had to create my own parameters while feeling into what it meant to illustrate some complex concepts. I used the nature theme as a guide for the illustrations, along with some fantastical imagery like unicorns and mermaids. This helped to create some limits, which actually freed me up even more!


The unexpected:

 JW: I wanted to take some of these illustrations a bit deeper than their surface meaning and I learned a lot about myself and found new ways of working in the process. Because so many of the poems were wide open to interpretation, I learned to use my own feelings and intuition more consciously as a creative guide. 


Anything else: 

 JW: The concept for this book is so unique and Irene’s talent for finding nestling poems is really remarkable. I loved working on this project and I’m so proud of this special book! 


A thousand thank-yous, Johanna! Truly, it's an honor to share this book with you.

And now, readers, you are in for a treat! Please enjoy this video Johanna created that features her talking about her process on top of some time lapse videos of the NEST artwork being created. Beautiful!

Friday, September 25, 2020

Almost a NEST

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday. Be sure to visit Jone at
Deo Writer for Roundup. 

Today begins our THIS POEM IS A NEST Blog Tour! I'm so grateful to these generous bloggers/poets/humans for sharing about this book that means so much to me. In spite of covid and these troubling times, this book, poetry Fridays, and poetry in general makes me feel connected to all of you, to myself, and to the world. Thank you.

Friday 9/25  Kirby Larson blog & A Word Edgewise/Linda Mitchell

Monday 9/28 Reflections on the Teche/Margaret Simon 

Tuesday 9/29  Live Your Poem/Irene Latham

Wednesday 9/30  Laura Shovan blog

Friday 10/2  Poetry for Children/Sylvia Vardell

Saturday 10/3  Smack Dab in the Middle 

Monday 10/5  TeacherDance

Friday 10/9  More Art 4 All/Michelle Kogan 

Also, if you haven't seen it on Twitter, I am doing a giant 12-book + NEST giveaway in honor of THIS POEM IS A NEST:

Simply subscribe to my e-newsletter. And if you are already a subscriber, then you are automatically entered. :)

I did manage to craft a new ArtSpeak: RED poem amidst all this nesting... thanks so much for reading!

At the Window

I stand at the window
as snowdrops whirr

I dream at the window
as tree limbs shiver

I breathe at the window
as sunbeams stir —

I am not cold.
I am listening,
                learning —

No matter how others hurry
the world at the window

says, I am here,

- Irene Latham

Friday, September 18, 2020

ArtSpeak: RED poem "The Opposite of Invisible '


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

I've been NEST-building this week... doing my best to get the word out about my forthcoming THIS POEM IS A NEST. I'm delighted by readers' enthusiasm so far... and so, so grateful. Thank you!

Today for ArtSpeak: RED I'm returning to one of my favorite Impressionist women painters, Berthe Morisot.  I found a bit of myself in this bright, curious face (even though I seldom wear red), and even though at any gathering I am far more the "there you are!" kind of person than the "here I am" girl represented in the poem. Thanks so much for reading. 

The Opposite of Invisible

cardinal wings

wet berries
in a milk-glass

in a red blouse –

Hello, world!
I am

- Irene Latham

Friday, September 11, 2020

ArtSpeak! RED poem: The Truth About Happy Families

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Kiesha at Whispers from the Ridge for Roundup. 

It's been a busy writing week for me... I finished (another) first draft of a middle grade novel I started back in 2014. Hooray! It's got magic, secrets, adventure... and a girl who wants a horse! I started working on it again this past April, and I'm just delighted with how it's grown. We'll see how I feel when I pick it up again in a few weeks for revisions. :)

Meanwhile, here's my latest ArtSpeak! RED poem... I had already selected my art when I (accidentally) popped on Instagram, and I saw all the happy families... and then I wrote this poem. Thank you for reading!

The Truth About Happy Families

A polkadot family
lives on a polkadot street.
They feast
on polkadot meals
and sip polkadot drinks.

This polkadot family
looks happy as can be!
But you know
and I know
things aren't always
as they seem.

The truth about
this polkadot family
is that some days happy
is just a dream.

- Irene Latham

Friday, September 4, 2020

What Dogs Dream Of -- NIGHT WISHES, Poems Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins


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

How can it be Labor Day weekend?! It just doesn't seem possible. And yet... here we are at the end of lake season and the beginning of (hopefully) less intense heat. We're donning our masks and heading to a high school football game tonight, in hopes of feeling somewhat "normal" and part of our community. Next weekend there's an open house for our town's community theater, which, in spite of covid, has moved to a new (beautiful) location  -- which means more community, and the promise of exciting things to come.

In other news, a single author copy of THIS POEM IS A NEST arrived in my mailbox! This book means so much to me, and I love its intimate trim size, how carry-around-able it is, and how lovely. Here's a video to give you a sneak peek, too. It's available for pre-order now, and will be on sale September 29. YAY!

Now for today's offering: my poem in NIGHT WISHES, poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illus. by Jen Corace (Eerdman's, 2020). This is such a sweet little book! Congratulations to all the contributors. I'm so pleased to be included. :)

I was delighted when Lee asked me to write a poem about a dog... and the beach-loving dog I created for the poem came to life in our Rosie! She loves the beach. So while she wasn't born yet when I wrote this poem, I don't think it's a coincidence that Rosie is ours... and I bet she has dreams just like the one in this poem.

by Irene Latham

You're sleepy-still
Your breathing’s deep. . .

Remember the day we dug a hole?
Played chase with the surf?
You gathered seashells
while I spun in happy-yappy circles.

When blazing sun and burning sand
made your eyes start to blur,
we curled together under
a wide, striped umbrella.

You are my runner, my snuggler,
my best-ever fetch-er.
Are you dreaming now – like I am –
about our next adventure?

... and here's a picture of Rosie last month at the beach!

Finally, here's my latest ArtSpeak! RED offering. Thank you so much for reading!

Hello, Neighborhood

Do houses have thoughts?

What if they could talk?

What if their windows
aren't eyes,
                   but mouths?

Oh oh oh
Now I know –

all the houses on my street
are blowing kisses,
                   making wishes.

They're asking me
in stereo
to stop and say hello

hello hello hello

- Irene Latham

Friday, August 28, 2020

Exploring "Certainty" with Margaret B. Ingraham

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

I'm away from my desk, but I'm thinking of all you wonderful Poetry Friday friends! Can you believe we've nearly made it to September?!

I want to invite you to check out Georgia Heard's latest virtual poetry workshop offerings at The Poet's Studio. What a fabulous learning opportunity!

And if you're looking for this week's ArtSpeak! RED poem, I posted it yesterday, it's after a Picasso piece called "A Red Skirt."

Also, I'm delighted to introduce to you a new-to-me poet Margaret B. Ingraham, author of Exploring this Terrain: Poems (Paraclete Press, 2020).  Margaret was kind enough to respond to a few simple prompts, and also to share a gorgeous and timely poem from her new book. We'll start with the poem, and then hear from Margaret herself.

by Margaret B. Ingraham

Certain things my mother knew
and she would not forget them:
like the scent magnolias take
when the sun has pressed
its full weight down inside
the cup of blossom long enough
to spring the hinges
of every creamy petal
and turn each one to chamois cloth,
beige and soft;
or the sunset glow
of tufted titmouse breast;
or mystery of kestrel's flight
soaring to crescendo height when
still wings dangle dangerously
on the precipice of fickle breeze.

Mother lived to open up the world to us
in things that always closed
or hid or ebbed away:
like frothy lace the small waves
tool along the sand at turn of tide;
or caddis fly's empty case
clinging to the smooth flat bell
of a stone in running shallows;
or tender young mimosa leaves curling
to put themselves to sleep
when we'd brush our tiny palms
across the smallest fronds.
These were the things, my mother said,
that nature always ordered
and on which we could depend.

Yesterday I wandered off
the well-marked trail
lured by the hope of hearing
low lamentations of the mourning dove
or distinct call of black-capped chickadee,
tones that float effortlessly
from small birds' quivering throats.
Instead the clearest sound I heard
was one I'd thought endangered long ago:
arduous and heavy-headed hammering
only a pileated woodpecker makes
when it has found the restive beetle
burrowing down inside a dying trunk.

This, of course, was part of what she knew:
some things open,
others close,
and certain things abide.


Isn't that a beautiful reminder of what nature can give us in the midst of whatever turmoil we're experiencing?

And, now... Welcome, Margaret!

The delicious:

MI: When I hear or see the word “delicious” I naturally think first of some of my favorite foods, but the addition of the definite article “the” broadens my perspective a bit – particularly as it relates to Exploring this Terrain specifically and to my poetry generally. Unlike many other poets I know, I never determine in advance what I am going to write about. Rather, I respond to what I encounter and then attempt to capture it and to share it through language. “O taste and see,” declared the psalmist and great poet David, and that is what I endeavor to do as I experience life. And to “taste and see,” I want to add “hear and smell and touch”…because we humans are constantly reacting to things happening around us that engage some or all of those senses, whether we are aware of it or not. My work as a poet is to bring attention to that, I guess. My most sincere hope was and is that the reader will savor with me the marvelous and unique flavor that can be found in every moment, image, sound that I have endeavored to capture and convey through words. The psalmist completes his line with the statement “the Lord is good.” I believe that too and that that “goodness” is demonstrated in all of creation.

Over the course of my writing career lots of folks have characterized me as a nature poet. I am delighted to accept the designation; but my subject matter and scope of vision are broader than that, I think. I prefer to call what others refer to as nature, creation. All of my poetry then explores one of the various and distinct terrains of creation that define and inform our lives. My book is divided into seven sections, and each of those sections examines a distinct type of terrain – some defined by the typography of the natural, physical world and some by those less concrete, but no less real, realms of relationship, memory, heart and spirit. My hope is that my poems makes these delicious for the reader. A food we call delicious may be sweet or sour, tangy or subtle, hot or mild; similarly, what makes a poem delicious can be as broad-ranging as that.

The difficult:

MI: Because Exploring this Terrain is a collection containing work created over a period of years rather a volume concentrating on a single theme, selecting the poems to include or to omit was a bit of a challenge. Once I’d made those selections deciding in which particular section of the book each of the 70 poems belonged was also sometimes a difficult decision. I knew that where I placed the poem essentially signaled to the observant reader what I thought the poem was “about.” But poems, like life itself, are complex and multi-faceted. A number of the poems could have been placed logically or comfortably in more than one section. But by going back in my head not just to the writing of the poem but more importantly to the experience that inspired it, I was able to resolve the dilemma.

The most difficult of the difficulties (whew!) I routinely encounter as a poet is finding the right – or should I say best -- last line with which to conclude the poem. I am not exactly sure why this is the case, except that the experience or realization enshrined in a poem never really ends for me. It does for the reader, however, and in that context I often believe that the last line is the most important in a poem.

Of course it can be argued honestly that the first line is of paramount importance because it is largely responsible for engaging the reader. English professors often congenially squabble about the greatest first lines in various literary genres. As interesting and stimulating as that

discussion can be, I choose to avoid it. And I don’t think about my own opening lines that much either – because I know that they are most often “given” to me. I don’t mean this is a mystical or “woo-woo” way as some of my friends would characterize it. The first lines of my poems generally come as a simple gift, the consequence and reward of attentiveness to the world around. They are usually triggered by something auditory (like a bird’s song) or visual (like the way the light moves or casts a particular shadow). Unfortunately, those first lines are usually fleeting as well. If I don’t jot them down almost immediately, they vanish as surely as the fog. That is the beginning of the act of writing a poem for me, but only the beginning. What the first line or lines demand of me then are days of recollection and concentration, often hours of research, weeks and sometimes even years of revision before I am ready to present the piece to an audience. So the process can be difficult; but it is a difficulty I embrace because, for me at least, the exploration always leads to discovery and blessing.

The unexpected:

MI: In the context of COVID-19, “the great unexpected,” most everything else that was unanticipated seems to pale. Your question, however, was specifically focused on the unexpected in relation to my book, so I will confine my answer to that. There was no how-to manual for launching a new book in a pandemic, and all the conventional means of reaching readers that I’d scheduled– like a launch, book talks and signings, in-person events – had to be scuttled. Connecting with readers face-to-face has always been especially meaningful for me and I do miss it. But I would never have anticipated how creative and united the entire literary community, in all its several roles, would be. Your invitation to be part of your Poetry Friday blog is just one example of the happily unexpected opportunities and support I have received. There was a virtual book launch on You Tube produced by my publisher Paraclete Press that allowed me to engage with folks I otherwise would not reach. There was Poetkind Podcast and there have been other virtual and online readings. During the podcast interview the host Susan Mulder asked, “How can you read poetry during a pandemic, at a time like this?” Reflexively I responded, hearing my own voice before I was even aware that I was speaking: “How can you not read poetry at a time like this?” That was unexpected. But I stand by those words. I thank you for the opportunity to pose and answer that question here and to share one of my poems with your readers. You selected it, of course, and I am pleased with your pick. Its entitled “Certainty,” and if we ever need to consider and hold fast to that which is certain, it is at a time such as this.

Anything else?

MI: Yes. Thank you, Irene, for affirming through this Poetry Friday blog the proposition that poetry does and must have an important place in this uncertain world of coronavirus. I am honored to have been invited into this space and given the opportunity to share what I am sure will be an unfamiliar poem to most of your readers.

During this strange time, and after it has passed, may we all be attentive to and grateful for the certain things that abide.


So many thanks to Margaret, and to Rachel at Paraclete Press, for reaching out to me about this book. I love sharing beautiful poetry books with others!

Thursday, August 27, 2020

ArtSpeak: RED poem "Red Skirt"

 Today's ArtSpeak: RED poem is the first in a small grouping of Picasso art pieces I'll be responding to, all featuring the color red. It makes me long for a red skirt! Perhaps I will make one ?? I'll keep you posted. Meanwhile, thank you so much for reading!

Red Skirt

A red skirt
doesn't stop
the hurt

but it does fluff
and swaddle,

creates a nest
for me
to move past
the mad --

or at least
a space
to sit and rest.

- Irene Latham

Friday, August 21, 2020

ArtSpeak! RED poem "Milkmaid's Lament"

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Ramona at Pleasures from the Page for Roundup. 

Speaking of Ramona... this week she sent me a link to a live presentation (coming Aug. 23 - here is the link) of cellist Wendy Sutter playing Bach's Six Solo Cello Suites. So sweet, and so lovely! (Thank you, Ramona!) 

And... in a serendipitous twist, I had just been practicing the Prelude to Bach's Cello Suite 1 when I received Ramona's text. :) And that re

Me-n-Lady Godiva
minded me that I haven't updated my cello progress here in a while. It's been FIVE YEARS since I started taking lessons! And yes, currently I am working on Bach's Suite 1 as well as Suzuki Book 7. It's an absolute dream to be able to play these pieces... my life continues to be enriched by my cello practice, and I expect to be taking lessons for another five years... and then... who knows??

My poem this week features another woman performing a mundane task (like Vermeer's Lacemaker from a few weeks ago)... and imagines her feelings about this task. I ended up playing with repetition in the poem, too, because these daily tasks ARE repetitive. Thank you for reading!

Milkmaid's Lament

Someone must mind the milk –
I do not mind that it's me.

I've warmed to the task
of sorting froth-curd-cream

from milk warmed
by blood and breathing.

Morning's breathing
sounds like a sleepy baby's sigh

as milk spills from the russet jug.
I want to hug this gentle moment,

but it spills into the next
       and the next        and the next

without any mind of me at all.

- Irene Latham