Friday, July 3, 2020

ArtSpeak: RED "Cave Painting (Altamira)" poem

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Linda at A Word Edgewise for Roundup.

So many thanks to all who have sent in poems for mine and Charles' new poetry anthology -- we've received some wonderful poems! If you're just seeing this, there's still time. Click here for all the details.

Today I've got another ArtSpeak: RED poem for you... from one of the oldest known pieces of art ever.

...and here is my poem! Thanks so much for reading.

Cave Painting (Altamira)

A single bison rises
from cool-damp walls,

its fire-stroked hide
spirited as its eyes.

What hands grasped
pestle to grind the ochre?

What mind imagined
this bison's bold stance?

Who was first to smear-brush-daub
this bison to life?

Who was first to call it red?

- Irene Latham

Friday, June 26, 2020

OPEN CALL for a new Children's Poetry Anthology

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Karen at Karen's Got a Blog for Roundup.

Some of you may have received the notice below via email. In an effort to give everyone a chance to be part of this, Charles and I are posting it on our blogs and social media outlets as well. Charles and I hope you'll send us a poem -- and please, spread the word! Our book can only be as strong and beautiful as the poems we receive.

Hello from Irene Latham and Charles Waters. We’re also known as the I and C Construction Co., where we've been building books one word at a time since 2015! We have just secured a book deal with Candlewick Press for an as-yet untitled collection of poems for children.

Here’s the official description:

In this children's poetry anthology, a diverse group of poets use the word "IF" as the first word in the first line of each poem inviting readers to take their own leaps into different worlds -- from the Practical to the Fantastical -- inspiring and empowering them to hope and dream; to transform their lives and the world; and know that anything is possible. It all starts with IF.

Our goal is to focus on imagination, to introduce readers to the galaxies that lie in wait behind those doors of “I” and “F” – what unseen treasures have you found there? What “if” have you wondered/dreamed/schemed about? Imagine practical things like, “If You Catch a Firefly” by Lilian Moore. Imagine a new you (personal growth). Imagine a different world (people, community, relationships). Imagine anything is possible (fantastical). Such a small, powerful word... what's YOUR “if”? Do YOU have an “if” poem? Would you like to write one?

Here are some basic guidelines:

Please send one poem only.
First word of the first line must be the word “If.” Not "WHAT if." Just IF. (Having “If” in the title is optional.)
Please no “If I Were A” poems. (We have plenty of these already!)
Poem no longer than 28 lines (shorter poems preferred).
Our target audience is ages 4-8.

Send your poem in the body of an email to by 11:59 pm Friday, July 3, 2020. Please also include: your name (or pen name), along with contact info, and a short (1-2 sentence) third-person bio.

If your poem is selected for inclusion, we will be in touch with you later this year. You will be compensated $100 for first-time only (non-exclusive) publication rights of the poem. This anthology is sure to inspire kids by infusing them with the spirit of imagination and endless possibility. We look forward to reading your work!

Wishing you strength and joy.

Our best,

Irene and Charles

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

ArtSpeak: RED "A girl who reads" poem

Be sure to tune in Friday for a very special announcement from me and Charles Waters -- Poetry Friends, you don't want to miss this!

Meanwhile, here's the latest ArtSpeak: RED poem about a girl who reads, written by a girl who reads... A LOT. Enjoy!

A girl who reads

believes this river
of ink
will deliver her
to an unclaimed frontier –

she calls the stars
by name
as the pages

- Irene Latham

Friday, June 19, 2020

ArtSpeak: RED poem "And this is where we shall meet"

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect for Roundup.

Huge thanks to everyone who made our Nikki Grimes Roundup a delight! If you've seen Nikki's Twitter and Facebook posts, then you know it meant a lot to her. Mission accomplished!

**Be sure to check in here next week, June 26, for a big announcement!**

Today I've got another RED poem for you. I think we've all had experience lately with separation from loved ones. It isn't easy when all we can do is dream up a reunion... will it be sweet, sad, passionate? With "red," you never know!

And this is where we shall meet

in the red room
on the corner

street empty
of feet

steeple rising
like a promise

sky thick with wings

and soon –

spilling from our mouths

- Irene Latham

Saturday, June 13, 2020

ArtSpeak: RED "Sister Sister" poem (with Slippers!)

This week's ArtSpeak: RED poem is inspired by the many childhood adventures I had with my sweet sister.... we're still enjoying adventures together!

Sister Sister

Sister, slip your slippers on.
Sister, come to breakfast.
Let's sip some fresh squeezed
orange juice,
smear sticky jam on toast
and lick it from our fingers.

Sister, slip your slippers off.
Sister come outside.
Let's dip into the morning woods
Quick, let's zip past
Fox's neighborhood --

                 Wait, Sister, not so fast!

                  Today, let's listen to the clover grow.
                  Today let's be rain –
                                                      and linger.

- Irene Latham

Thursday, June 11, 2020

NIKKI GRIMES Poetry Friday Roundup is Here!

Hello and Welcome to Poetry Friday Roundup! I'm honored to serve as this week's host.

Today we are all joining in a celebration of Nikki Grimes and her body of work.

Nikki, if you're reading this: SURPRISE! And WELCOME!

Nikki has won all kinds of awards lately, and due to covid, there haven't been in-person events, so this gives us all an opportunity to say:

New York Times bestselling author Nikki Grimes is the recipient of the ALAN Award for outstanding contributions to the field of adolescent literature, the 2017 Children's Literature Legacy Award, the 2016 Virginia Hamilton Literary Award, and the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Her distinguished works include the much-honored books Garvey's Choice, ALA Notable book What is Goodbye?, Coretta Scott King Award winner Bronx Masquerade, and Coretta Scott King Author Honor books Jazmin's Notebook, Talkin' About Bessie, Dark SonsWords with Wings, and The Road to Paris. Creator of the popular Meet Danitra Brown, Ms. Grimes lives in Corona, California.

Most recently her memoir in poems ORDINARY HAZARDS (WordSong, 2019) has garnered a lot of attention, including these awards:

Boston Globe-Horn Book Nonfiction Honor Award
Michael L. Printz Honor Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature
Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Honor Award
2020 Arnold Adoff Poetry Award Winner for Teens

Charles Waters, Nikki Grimes,
Irene Latham at NCTE 2017
It was also on 11 best-books-of-the-year lists (Booklist Best Books of the Year, Bulletin Blue Ribbon list, Horn Book Fanfare list, Shelf Awareness Best Children's Books of the Year, Chicago Public Library Best Teen Nonfiction of 2019, a 2019 Eureka! Nonfiction Children's Books Gold Award Winner, 2019 Nerdy Book Club Poetry and Novels in Verse List, Mighty Girl's 2019 Best Books of the Year, finalist on the Cybils Best Poetry list, Bank St. College Best Books of the Year, World magazine 2020 Children's Books of the Year) and received six starred reviews (Booklist, BCCB, The Horn Book, PW, School Library Connection, Shelf Awareness).

Isn't that wonderful!? I invited Rebecca Davis whom I adore and editor of this book to share a few words with us in celebration of Nikki. Welcome Rebecca!

"Over the years, Nikki has written many powerful books of poetry and prose, always challenging herself as a writer. Her memoir, ORDINARY HAZARDS, shows how writing, faith, and her own brave spirit helped her navigate through the darkest times. These days, as so many are struggling against the dark in our world, I am thinking often of Nikki and of ORDINARY HAZARDS. I hope that readers who need this book will find it and that it will encourage them as they strive toward the light we all need now. 

"It takes courage to write your truth. It was an honor to walk with Nikki as she challenged herself to write ORDINARY HAZARDS, and it's a joy to see Nikki's fortitude and hard work rewarded with multiple awards. I wish that Nikki could partake in the usual celebrations that accompany such awards. May this Poetry Friday celebration of Nikki be a virtual hug and help make up for some of what she's missing. The children's poetry community is beautiful indeed."

Thank you, Rebecca! One thing I really related to in ORDINARY HAZARDS is Nikki's lack of memory of some (painful) events. For me, it's a survival mechanism. I don't want to remember. It takes so much bravery to look the past squarely in the face and invite those memories back... and also to admit to the forgetting? Nikki does both in this book.

As some of you may know, Charles Waters and I were able to shout-out Nikki in our book CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship (Lerner, 2018). She is the author who comes to visit our fictional 5th grade classroom, and the book Irene and Charles are in love with (in the book and in real life!) is BRONX MASQUERADE (Dial, 2001). Here is the poem Charles always performs for students during our joint author presentation:

Open Mike
by Devon Hope

I woke up this morning
exhausted from hiding
the me of me
so I stand here confiding
there's more to Devon
than jump shot and rim.
I'm more than tall
and lengthy of limb.
I dare you to peep
behind these eyes,
discover the poet
in tough-guy disguise.
Don't call me Jump Shot.
My name is Surprise.

- Nikki Grimes

And don't miss Nikki's 2020 releases: BEDTIME FOR SWEET CREATURES and SOUTHWEST SUNRISE.

Now, for the Roundup! Thank you for reading, and please leave your links below.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter
p.s. If you're looking for this week's ArtSpeak: RED poem, you'll find it on the blog tomorrow. :)

Friday, June 5, 2020

ArtSpeak: RED "The World of the Vase is Dark, Wet" poem

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

Also: if you'll be joining the Roundup (here!) next week June 12, you're invited to share a post in honor of Nikki Grimes and her body of work. 

I don't have an great words or thoughts to share today. I'm feeling emotionally fragile, as I know many of us are. Writing helps. Here's the latest ArtSpeak: RED poem in all its messy raw-ness. Thank you for reading. xo

The World of the Vase is Dark, Wet

it sits
on a table
with opinions
as fact

it holds
the scent
of bliss,
the velvety
of open

it admires
the red wall:
it's passion,
as blood,
and just
as necessary

- Irene Latham

Friday, May 29, 2020

ArtSpeak: RED "The Truth Is" poem by Irene Latham

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

4 Things That Have Brought Me Joy This Week:
1. My library opened back up! I'll be heading over there later today  to pick up a nice stack of books on hold for me.
2. I made some parmesan mushroom risotto that was pretty darn awesome.
3. We walked in a warm, gentle rain several days in a row.
4. I got some unexpected happy-making mail. :)

And now here is the latest ArtSpeak: RED poem. Enjoy!

The Truth Is

a girl can wear flowers
and still know sorrow

the wind can scatter sorrow
and still push a sail

a sail can bloom crisp, white
and still harbor regret

regret can steal hours, days, years
and still the sun rises red

- Irene Latham

Friday, May 22, 2020

Getting Inside Out with Marjorie Maddox (and a summer RED poem, too)

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

I'm neck-deep in revision with Charles Waters on our historical verse novel coming in 2022, but I did manage to squeak out another ArtSpeak: RED poem for you... and I'm delighted to welcome Marjorie Maddox to Live Your Poem, to share about her book Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises.

This book is full of inspiration, and fun stuff to add to your poetry arsenal... Welcome, Marjorie!

The delicious:

MM: Poetry and play, poetry and prompts—it’s all delicious, isn’t it? In Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises, we begin by stepping inside the poem and using every one of our senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. A heaping plate of ideas for tweens, teens, teachers, parents, and poets of any age, Inside Out invites you to play and ponder using poetry’s most scrumptious ingredients.

Here’s one to get both your taste buds and your thinking cap tingling!

How to Taste a Poem

The table’s well set, but please
come as you are. No need for white gloves
or black tuxedos. Pass the appetizer plate
to your left and try a lightly fried haiku
or lemon-peppered limerick. Nibble away
as you would a jumbo shrimp stuffed with oxymorons.
For an entrée, may we suggest a well-done ode
or an Italian sonnet smothered with marinara sauce?
Now, sit back and savor the syllables
until your taste buds plump with flavor,
but leave room for dessert—
aged alliteration topped with assonance and consonance:
a sugary smorgasbord of simply scrumptious sounds.

- Marjorie Maddox

Follow this up with a linked writing exercise, and get ready to create your own mouth-watering poems. Or stinky-smelling poems. Or itchy-scratchy feeling poems.

If you’re ready for sounds and more sounds, give this one a try:

Alliteration Acrostic

Always repeat the initial sound.
Listen to what the letters say, then
Let your ears do the talking.
If sound and sense dance, dance with them.
Turn up the volume,
Enter into the rhythm,
Relish the repetitions.
Answer S with S,
T with T,
Increasing your skill with patient practice.
Only avoid the often annoying avenue of
Not adding additional apt alliterative and assonant options to an acrostic.

- Marjorie Maddox

Or this one:


Bash, crash, smash—
Onomatopoeia makes his splash of sound
with each squishy step or booming pound
Margie with Gizmo
of movement. He moans, hisses, murmurs, swishes
his way across the poem.

Boisterous, he usually forgets to whisper.
Instead, he shakes, rattles, and rolls his bellowing voice
until each letter shivers with anticipation
at what soon will be darting, soaring, or swooping
noisily toward the ear.

- Marjorie Maddox

There’s plenty to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch inside Inside Out. Come on in!

The difficult:

MM: But maybe you’re someone who only feels so-so about poetry. Maybe you even HATE IT! That’s Ok. This book is ALSO for you, maybe even especially so! Why, you ask?

After more than thirty years of teaching poetry at the university, secondary, and primary levels, I’ve got a few things to say about that. In fact, that’s one of the big reasons I wrote Inside Out! For one, poetry shouldn’t be about finding some secret key to unlock some hidden meaning—especially for young or new writers. It should be fun, plain and simple.

And it should be exciting. And challenging, but in a way that motivates you to climb faster and higher, to get the best-ever possible view—or, alternatively, in a way that inspires you to slow down, stare a while longer at the world around (or within) you.

Talk about invigorating! Inside the poem, there’s a lot to see and discover. Don’t be afraid to get up close and personal. As I say in “How to Touch a Poem,” “This is a hands-on operation—/the more fingerprints, the better.”

What else? Inside Out makes easy what some might label “difficult”— iambic pentameter, sonnets, villanelles, clerihews, triolets, sestinas, and more. Don’t let these formal sounding words scare you off! Stripped of their fancy names, they’re just word puzzles and silly riddles. They’re more ways for you and your friends to have fun! Here’s what I mean.

Getting Ready with Iambic

Iambic likes to clack un-stressed, then stressed.
He taps it like a drum when he gets dressed.
He chomps it when he eats his toast and jam,
then struts to class like he’s a marching band.
To walk with him you need to keep his beat.
Five times unstressed, then stressed equals five feet.
Get ready for a marching metered day—
Pentameter’s his favorite game to play.

- Marjorie Maddox

So if marching to iambic, texting a triolet, or fishing with sestinas, sounds like fun, you’re right. They are!

The unexpected:

MM: Sometimes when you throw out that fishing line of words, you catch a whole lot of unexpected ideas! As I say in “Fishing with Sestinas”

...Let’s dream
this water together, this lake of dreams
brimming full of rainbow, rhyming fish/
that glitter as they leap...

To me, one of the greatest joys of writing is what you discover along the way. Inside Out is a way to share that joy with you. To help in the discovery process, I’ve included 9 interactive exercises that you can do on your own or with others. It’s a bag of word tricks to get you rocking, writing, and, of course, discovering the unexpected. Can’t wait to see how you’ll surprise yourself with some new-found poetic acrobatics!

Anything else:

MM: I write poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and children’s literature. My first poem was published in Campfire Girl Magazine when I was eight, and I am the great grandniece of Branch Rickey, the General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who helped break the color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson to Major League Baseball. I am a university professor, who gives workshops and readings around the country, including at elementary, middle, and high schools. I have published over seventeen books, including 4 for children or teens. 

Some additional links of interest:

Sylvia Vardell's Poetry for Children blog
Jama's Alphabet Soup

Thank you, Marjorie, for livening up this post with your enthusiasm for poetry! I know many will enjoy this new book.

And now... my latest ArtSpeak: RED poem, after "Castle and Sun" by Paul Klee. I guess I've got summer on my mind... wishing everyone a beautiful first-weekend-of-summer Memorial Day!

Geometry of Summer

each day
a red circle

each night
safe inside a square

each dream
a triangle reaching for rain

- Irene Latham

Friday, May 15, 2020

Call Me Zinnia (red) poem

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

I've had a busy week, but I do have a new ArtSpeak:RED poem to share with you. This one inspired by a Mary Cassatt painting. I just knew this girl had a story to tell... enjoy!

Call Me Zinnia

If you must
compare me
to a flower,
make it
a summer-
loving zinnia.
I may not
sport bright
but I am
I won't wilt
in the heat.
Go ahead,
call me
and watch
my smile

- Irene Latham

... and now dear Poetry Friday friends, what flower would YOU prefer to be compared to?

Me? I'd say "violet," but that's probably because I'm a February girl... but there's a lot of meaning there to love.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

A Trio of Short Haircut Poems

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Michelle at Today's Little Ditty for what's sure to be a wonderful Roundup. And to all the moms, stepmoms, grandmoms, honorary moms, fur-baby moms, garden moms, whatever-moms... thank you for the love you give the world!

Before I get to today's ArtSpeak: RED poems, I want to invite you to a Facebook Live Book Launch happening tomorrow 1:00 pm at Alabama Booksmith, a wonderful indie bookstore in Birmingham that specializes in signed first editions. Both Karim Shamsi-Basha and I will be there signing books, and we'd love to sign one for YOU! Plus you can support a great bookseller during this difficult time. Win-win!

AND... yesterday I posted a video of me reading "Cloud Nine" from NINE... and it includes a shout-out to my 3rd grade teacher Jo Ellen Fattig (Lewis Elementary, Ft. Meade, FL), whose name appears in the book, and whom I would love to locate!

So... thanks to the pandemic, folks everywhere have been experimenting with home haircuts. There's a lot of trust involved in cutting someone's hair and in allowing someone to cut your hair, isn't there? And there are quite a few haircut poems in the world, which made this a bit of a bugger to write about... but I was determined to write in response to this piece of art, which I first found on Tabatha's blog. Thanks, Tab! (As much as I love that red kerchief, it didn't make its way into any of my poems.)


Scary Haircut

Comb has teeth,
scissors have fangs --
Mama uses both
when she cuts my bangs.

Bad Haircut

A little nip here
A snip-snip there
A comb and a brush
and a shave and a shear –
wait – where's my hair?

Puppy Cut

Sometimes while Sugar is sleeping
I comb and scissor, brush and fluff –
shhhhhh... it's a secret I'm keeping.

- Irene Latham

Friday, May 1, 2020

SECRETS OF THE LOON by Laura Purdie Salas and Chuck Dayton

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Liz at Elizabeth Steinglass and visit for Roundup. 

I can't believe it's May! Be sure to see my latest ArtSpeak: RED (watermelon!) poem from yesterday.

Today I'm excited to share with you the latest by Laura Purdie Salas... and to welcome her to Live Your Poem to respond to a few prompts below. 

You just never know what Laura's going to come up with next, and I love this new book so much. Laura accomplishes A LOT with this text... you will be inspired by the joyful, informative wordsmithery, and the photographs by Chuck Dayton are lovely. And lucky us: we're all invited to the Launch Party! It will be on Facebook, May 4 at 3 pm CST and will feature Laura doing a readaloud, backstory from Chuck, Q and A, and giveaways of 3 signed copies. I totally plan to be there! Click here for more information. 

Meanwhile, here's the description from the publisher: 

Vivid depictions in words and photos illuminate the mysterious world of loons, viewed through the lens of a chick learning how to survive— and thrive—in her first year.

Below white pines, at water’s edge, in guarded nest of mud and sedge, squeezed inside an olive egg, bill meets wing meets folded leg.
With these few words, the scene is set for the hatching of Moon Loon. During her first summer with her parents and brother in the northland, Moon Loon has a lot to learn. Mom and Dad teach essential lessons, like how to catch and eat fish, how to avoid becoming a snack for snapping turtles, and what songs to sing and when. Moon Loon also discovers her secret skills, like how to float, how to dive, and— eventually—how to fly.

Laura with editor Shannon Pennefeather
Laura Purdie Salas’s poetic recounting of a loon’s adventurous first summer celebrates the piney northern landscape and features the gradual development and occasional drama that fills Moon Loon’s days. Supplementary back matter by Chuck Dayton highlights fascinating details of loon biology and ecology, gleaned from expert sources as well as observation. Dayton spent five summers photographing loons from his kayak on a northern Minnesota lake, capturing key moments in the lives of these iconic birds.

Combining imaginative language and striking photography, Secrets of the Loon introduces readers to the sights, sounds, and survival strategies of Minnesota’s state bird.

Laura Purdie Salas
 has written more than 130 books for kids, including Animal Babies and Their FamiliesWater Can Be . . . ; and Snowman – Cold = Puddle: Spring Equations.

As an environmental lawyer, Chuck Dayton protected the landscapes and animals he now observes, camera in hand.

Available May 2020 from the Minnesota Historical Society Press

And now, please welcome Laura!

The delicious: Listening to loon calls as I worked on the book. I would periodically pop over to the Loon Preservation Committee for a quick audio of loon calls. Other times I would play YouTube videos of loon calls softly in the background on a loop. That wild, eerie cry just instantly takes me to the Northwoods.

The difficult: I was invited into this book collaboration in February of 2019, and because of the fast timeline to publication, I did most of my drafting in the spring. There were no loons yet in Minnesota, as they don’t usually arrive until May, so I didn’t get to go see loons in person while I was writing.
an interior spread from SECRETS OF THE LOON

The unexpected: This was hard! I’ve written lots of books that are a publisher’s idea and that I write to their specific guidelines. Those are for educational publishers. This project was sort of similar. Shannon Pennefeather, the wonderful Minnesota Historical Society Press Managing Editor, came to me with the photos and idea from Chuck Dayton (he also wrote the backmatter). I had freedom to choose the tone and style (prose, rhyming, poetry collection?) I thought would work best. I was surprised at the unexpected pressure I felt. It was oddly smack-dab between the “assignment” of writing for educational publishers, where I know exactly what is expected of me, and the freedom of my passion writing, where I write the books I love and hope a publisher will publish them. With Secrets of the Loon, I was hoping to please the eventual reader, of course, but also Shannon and Chuck. Talk about nerve-wracking! (I tried four different approaches: straight prose, rhyming, a haiku collection, and diary entries.) Also, writing a narrative to fit both existing photographs AND the scientific timeline of loon development was much more challenging than I expected. A real jigsaw puzzle!

Laura on Burntside Lake
A connection: The Common Loon is Minnesota’s state bird, but I haven’t seen loons in the wild very many times. When our daughters were little, we used to go to Camp du Nord up near Ely, Minnesota. (This is also near where Chuck took the photos for this book.) I remember our very first year at Camp du Nord, we all went on a night-time family hike listening for wolf calls. I thought I heard one, and I was so excited! It turned out to be a loon wail, which I had never heard before. So haunting. (And a little embarrassing.) Each year we went to camp, we would canoe and kayak in clear, cold Burntside Lake, and a few of the years there was a loon pair raising chicks on the lake. Great memories!
So there you have it. I wanted to write a "secrets of" poem to go with this post, but it just didn't come together. Maybe later. Meanwhile, congratulations, Laura, on another beautiful book!

For more info, including book trailer and downloadable activity sheets on this page of Laura's website.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

ArtSpeak: RED "Watermelon Time" after The Watermelons by Diego Rivera

Hello on this last day of National Poetry Month! I'm giving this poem it's own post because it was a bugger to write. You can view all the poems in the ArtSpeak: Red series (so far) on padlet
For this poem, I typed pages and pages of watermelon ideas -- only to discard them. It's hard to write about something so familiar and bring something fresh to a poem... and then I remembered one of Charles Water's poems about peanut butter that the kids adore. It uses rhyme, and so I decided I could do that, too, and at least make watermelon FUN (because it is!).

 So there you go. My only concern is: will kids know what "champagne" is? I don't know!

Here it is again, not tied to the image:

Watermelon Time

Honey, grab a watermelon.
Baby, pick a big one!
Now let's crack it open –
we'll feast on juicy sun.

Honey, is your belly full?
Baby, did you taste sweet rain?
Watermelon, o watermelon!
Summer's own champagne.

- Irene Latham

Friday, April 24, 2020

FOLLOW THE RECIPE: Poems about Imagination, Celebration, and Cake by Marilyn Singer

words by Marilyn Singer,
art by Marjorie Priceman
Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Christie at Wondering and Wandering for Roundup. Is it really the last Poetry Friday of National Poetry Month? How did this happen? Sigh.

I'm delighted today to welcome Marilyn Singer to Live Your Poem to talk about her (delicious!) new book.  As is my tradition for author interviews, I've provided Marilyn with four simple prompts. Take it away, Marilyn!

The delicious:

MS: As you might guess, a book entitled Follow the Recipe: Poems about Imagination, Celebration, and Cake (Dial, 2020) was inspired by the delicious. My husband, Steve Aronson, and I were in a restaurant in Howard Beach, NY. We’d just had a delightful time birdwatching at Jamaica Bay, and we were ready for a good meal. At an Italian restaurant, we ordered a dish we’d never had before—pasta e piselli, a simple and yummy combination of pasta and peas. While we were eating, an interesting idea struck me. I said to Steve, “Hmm, I wonder if a book of poems about recipes would work? Not just food recipes, but other kinds of recipes?” Steve knows that such ideas are dangerous—once they take hold, I can’t stop myself from doing something with them. That one took hold fast! The first poem I wrote was “recipe for patience” and it is about shelling peas.

At yet another delicious lunch, I mentioned the concept to my editor, Lucia Monfried, and she loved it. I wrote a bunch more poems and she accepted the manuscript. But she wanted more poems…which perhaps leads to the difficult…

The difficult:

MS: I’d already written a lot of poems and I wasn’t sure I had it in me to write more—and, I mean, like six or so more. But after some relaxation and refreshment (some of Steve’s good cooking—he’s the main chef in our house), I did write more. All of the poems in the book include mentions of food, sometimes metaphorically. Lucia suggested that they go from concrete to more abstract. So they start with “recipe for a good recipe” through poems such as “recipe for a poem” and end with “recipe for celebration.”
One of the poems is a reverso, a form I created for Mirror Mirror (Dutton, 2010), illustrated by Josée Masse. It’s a poem with two halves. You read the first half down, then the same lines in reverse order, with changes only in punctuation and capitalization, and each half says something different. In Follow the Recipe, my reverso is a recipe for science.

Another difficult thing was finding the right illustrator for the book. It definitely took a while. But then Lucia suggested Marjorie Priceman, and I was thrilled. I love her work and I love what she did with our book. She used collages to make it seem like an old beloved book of recipes, perhaps one passed down among generations. I think it’s fabulous!

It also took us a while to come up with the title—and it usually does. LOL!
More Marilyn responses below! But first... please enjoy this poem from the book (posted with permission from the publisher):
words by Marilyn Singer, art by Marjorie Priceman
Recipe for Endurance

Think of a time before blenders and mixers,
electric fixers.

Think of a time before microwaves, stoves,
when their wasn't sliced bread, only freshly baked loaves.

Keep stirring the pot.

Picture the chance to strengthen a limb
without going to Gym.

Think of porridge or pudding or maybe risotto
back in the day and use this as your motto.

Lots of things change. Some do not.
Think of endurance - you still need it a lot.
And keep stirring the pot.

- Marilyn Singer
The unexpected:

MS: I think pretty much any idea for a book is unexpected. It’s one of the surprises of being a writer. Some ideas don’t turn into full manuscripts. Some manuscripts don’t turn into books. When they do, it’s definitely an unexpected delight. And if they actually sell a lot of copies, that’s really unexpected. Heh.

Anything else:

MS: I hope people will enjoy the book and perhaps try writing their own recipe poems on a variety of topics. I also hope everyone will enjoy some cake—as well as sharing it together, in the near future.

Thank you, Marilyn, for visiting today!

Readers, please check out this book. And maybe write a recipe poem??? That's what I did. :) It was inspired by a friend who sent me a (Montana) sunset poem earlier this week to cheer me up on after a sad day. So much thoughtfulness in the world right now... I'm so so grateful. Truly, it's been tough. We'll get through it... we will, we will!

Recipe for a Sunset

and more sky

or beach


a hand to hold
maybe a dog

all the colors

a place
to be still

to lean
into the world


- Irene Latham