Friday, March 31, 2017

Let's Celebrate National Poetry Month 2017 with poetry, art, podcasts, postcards & more!

Hello, and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit amazing Amy at The Poem Farm for Roundup! Amy is also celebrating her 7th blogiversary with a giveaway of a set of 10 EVERY DAY BIRDS, so be sure to stop by!

Wow, can we really be on the eve of National Poetry Month?! I'm excited! There are so so many ways to celebrate... you can find out how others are celebrating by reading Jama's roundup post at Jama's Alphabet Soup!

Here at Live Your Poem, for the third year in a row, I will be posting a poem a day inspired by art.

In 2015, I didn't have a theme per se - beyond all pieces of art coming from the digital collection at the National Gallery of Art.

Last year, 2016, in honor of the release of FRESH DELICIOUS, I focused on
Plant, Grow Eat!

You can find links to all of those poems on the ARTSPEAK! tab above!

This year's ARTSPEAK! will focus on.... portraits! To add some diversity to the images, I am not limiting my selections to the National Gallery of Art collection. I actually found a number of my subjects on the Google Arts & Culture app, which I love.

I will be listening with my "spirit ear" as I look at these paintings. I am very excited to find out what secrets these people (and a few animals) want to share with me!


I look forward to reading everyone's National Poetry Month offerings! And here are a few other ways I'll be celebrating:

Our Progressive Poem! Yay! Tomorrow Heidi will share the first line at my juicy little universe. See the full schedule in the sidebar!

My gracious poet-friend Sarah has an amazing collection of broadsides, and she will be posting one a day at her blog To Give to the Light during National Poetry Month!

There is a Twitter chat focusing on how poetry can bring us together Thursday, April 6, 7 pm EST with hashtag  #FirstBookChat. Poets I know who will be attending include Janet Wong, Sylvia Vardell, Charles Water, Nancy Bo Flood, Alma Flor Ada, Isabel Campoy, Joseph Bruchac, and me! Hope you will join us.

Daily poetry podcasts! I'm pleased to be one of many in our community who contributed to Bookology's Poetry Mosaic Podcasts. You can keep up on Twitter @newsbookology or Facebook.

I will be sending out my annual "Live Your Poem" postcards! If you're not already on my list, there is still time to sign up:

I also have a number of speaking/teaching engagements, which I hope to share more about as they come to pass!

Finally, a random art poem in celebration of this last night before National Poetry Month:


 - after “Woods at Night with Travelers” by Joris van der Haagen

While you sleep
I steep
the trees
in silver light,

I open my jar
of stars
to guide travelers
from afar

and lean
into your window
to kiss your

- Irene Latham

Monday, March 27, 2017

LEAVING GEE'S BEND paperback cover!

LEAVING GEE'S BEND was released from Putnam/Penguin in January 2010. It was my first book for children, and what got me out of my pajamas: that first year I gave over 100 presentations about the book and Gee's Bend! It changed my life in so many wonderful ways, so of course it holds a dear place in my heart.

And now it's coming out in paperback! I'm so grateful to NewSouth Books who acquired it after Putnam/Penguin let it go out of print. It releases in April, and my hope is that Ludelphia goes out and makes many more new friends!

Here's the paperback cover:

And here is an invitation to the event we've got planned for the release:

Sunday, April 23, 2017
2 pm
Emmet O'Neal Library
50 Oak St., Mountain Brook, AL 35213

Community members will share Gee's bend stories, quilts, favorite scenes, and more! Gee's Bend quilters Mary Ann Pettway and China Pettway will be there! Other featured guests include Mary Allison Haynie (AL Folklife Association), Lillis Taylor (Bib & Tucker), Claudia Pettway (That's Sew Gee's Bend), students, teachers, friends, and others! Y'all come!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Language with Neither Noun nor Verb

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Catherine at Reading to the Core for Roundup. Can you believe it's just one week until National Poetry Month?! If you signed up for the Progressive Poem, I will be sending you some information mid-week next week.

Don't forget to sign up to receive a postcard from Jone's students. It's one of my favorite NPM traditions.

I also have a National Poetry Month postcard tradition, now in its 6th year! It features art, and it's free! Sign up by clicking the image below.

And now for a poem by Susan J. Erickson, as found in a book called EARTH BLESSINGS: Prayers, Poems and Meditations selected by June Cotner.

Spirit Ear
- After a line by Rumi

Let your spirit ear listen
to the green dome's passionate murmur.
Ferns burst from the earth,
their coiled heads muted cymbals
in spring's orchestra.
From the topmost branch of a cedar
a Bewick's wren sways and trills
about something that translates as happiness
in a language with neither noun nor verb.
Water and wind, chords of clouds,
a crescendo of light.

I want to do much more listening with my spirit ear! This poem jumped out at me today for a couple of reasons. First, it's spring.

Second, I've been reading a book called YOU MUST CHANGE YOUR LIFE: The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin by Rachel Corbett. So when I first read "Rumi" I was thinking "Rilke" - a mistake I have made more times than I'd like to admit!

Anyway, the book is fascinating. I didn't know these two were friends! I'm actually far more interested in Rodin than in Rilke. I really had no idea the influence Rodin (and other artists) had on Rilke's life. I've long enjoyed Rilke's poetry, but I feel a kinship with him now that I didn't before, as art and artists are such an important source of beauty and inspiration in my own life. And Rodin! What a force!

Third, this poem reminds me of another book I listened to recently: ANNA AND THE SWALLOW MAN by Gavriel Savit. Set in 1939 Krakow, 7 year old Anna knows many many languages, but she tells the Swallow Man that she doesn't know the language of birds. It's a beautiful book-- I'm currently listening to it for a second time. (When it won the Odyssey Award, one of my favorite librarians gifted it to me! SO GRATEFUL, Wendy Stephens!)

Books and poetry and spring... talk about abundance! Life is good. Thanks so much for reading!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Honey of a Memory Pillow

I have had many special pets in my life, but there is one that remains the most special of them all: a palomino Shetland pony named Honeysuckle Rose -- Honey, for short.

She was just six months old and no bigger than a German Shepherd when we packed her into the back seat of our car to bring her home. Oh, how I loved that pony! I was 11, and I spent so many hours out in the backyard grooming her and talking to her and loving her.

At the time we were living on Willie Rd. in Folsom, Louisiana, which is not known for its cold weather. But all the thoroughbred horses that lived on the farms in the area always sported blankets whenever the temps dropped below freezing, so I thought Honey should have a blanket, too. But where to find a blanket for such a small pony?!

a picture of me with my Christmas
loot (including Honey's blanket),
circa 1982
Enter my seamstress mother who is a genius at solving problems with fabric. When she was a teen active in 4-H, she had once made a blanket for her cow -- a blanket the cow couldn't shake. So she made one similar for Honey and gave it to me for Christmas.

I put it on Honey right away! And have this oh so distinct memory of a photograph of the two of us that day, on the back patio, Honey sporting her new blanket, and me patting her head. But. Maybe that photo doesn't actually exist, because I haven't been able to find it anywhere!

Fast-forward 35 years... I found the blanket in a box of keepsakes. My mom was shocked to learn I'd kept it all these years! On our scrapbook weekend, I brought it to my mom with a pillow form and a request: make this into a pillow. And  this is what she did:

Isn't it gorgeous! She used the red plaid lining as piping, and kept one of the straps operational! (I told you, she's a genius.) And here's what she monogrammed on the backside:

What a treasure! Thank you, Mama. Here a couple of other Honey-n-me pics, just for fun:

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What I Learned About Books, Writing and Writers at UGA's Children's Book Festival

Wow, what a great festival! I loved meeting Georgia book-lovers, and the facilities at UGA were perfect! Here are some of the highlights:

1. Listening again to Natalie Lloyd talk about the magic of books. I heard Natalie speak last year at TLA, so I knew to expect bubbly inspiration -- and pics of her dog Biscuit -- and Natalie did not disappoint. I love what she shared about the impact of books on her own childhood, particularly THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE and THE BABYSITTER CLUB. You can definitely see these elements in Natalie's books! When she read the opening to A SNICKER OF MAGIC, I realized she did on page one what I've just been reading about in WIRED FOR STORY by Lisa Cron, which is to show the reader right away that something is amiss. This creates intrigue and the desire for the reader to read on! (Seriously, writers, you want this book. It's a life-changing book for me!)

2. Being reminded by international-spotlight author Kathryn White that it's important to create books that deal with tough issues, like in her book WHEN THEY FIGHT. It was inspired by her childhood experiences of her parents fighting, and in the book, it's BADGERS who are fighting -- which gives the reader some distance while still allowing them to relate... and to know they are not alone.

3. Talking about resilience and resistance with author Lois Ruby. Lois provided an amazing bibliography of historical titles that incorporate these two qualities. I LOVE these kind of books, and I was thrilled to hear about so many that I haven't yet read. So many good books to look forward to!

Duncan from the side, just like he draws
all his characters!
4. Getting a peak into Duncan Tonatuih's process. Duncan enjoys creating books about social justice issues, and he demonstrated how he uses photoshop to make his books. His style is distinctive in that he only ever shows one side of a character's face, and he draws stylized ears and feet and hands. He also uses a lot of texture that he scans from real life (hair, blue jeans, etc.) and "paints" digitally onto his sketch. Fascinating!

5. Listening to local-author spotlight Kelly Bingham and making a connection about how writing verse novels (and any poem) is like animation art: one quick moment to show emotion/story. I also was reminded of my days working at Disney (I worked at the travel agency for a semester in college... while Kelly was an animation artist/story director!) and also of Sesame Street when Kelly mentioned THERE'S A MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK being the inspiration for her book Z IS FOR MOOSE.

Book people are so very fascinating, aren't they? And that was just the speakers.... I loved meeting so many teachers and librarians! The best thing I came home with was hope for this novel I have rewritten 548 times... (sorry to say that is only a slight exaggeration). But, YAY!

Friday, March 17, 2017

This Poem is Green

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

I am away from my desk today, attending the Georgia Children's Book Festival, but I did want to pop in for St. Patrick's Day to share a green poem. :)

Also, if you haven't signed up for our 2017 Progressive Poem, there are just two slots left! Sign up here.

About St. Patrick's Day: I have never felt a particular affinity for the holiday, even though during the years we lived near New Orleans, participating in the St. Patrick's Day parade was a pretty big deal. All the guys would dress up in green-trimmed tuxedos and march through the streets kissing girls. We watched safely from a balcony -- yes, there was alcoholic beverages involved, and this is the Big Easy we're talking about... not the best place for a tween girl!

Anyhow, fast forward to last year, when I visited Bismarck, North Dakota for some sessions on One Little Word, but mostly to see my father. Not only did I find out we actually DO have Irish blood (something about a fiery red-headed great-grandmother?!), but someone also snapped what would turn out to be the last photo of me and my father together.

Isn't he adorable in his leprechaun hat? So now St. Patrick's Day fills me and empties me. I'm glad to be busy today.

And here is a poem, freshly written, green spots and all:

This Poem is Green

Green like a hillside
gowned in clover,
green like sea-washed glass.
It's pushing up through hardscrabble soil,
tender leaves unfurling
on a frosty March morning.
Each day it begins,
or begins again –
there is always something new to learn.
Sometimes it gets wobbly,
like now: it's queasy heart
squeezed by the tides
of opinion.
Sometimes it sees other poems
that are far better-dressed,
poems with wings,
and this poem grows even green-er.
What else is there to do then,
than retreat to the forest?
This poem knows to listen
to giants. It carried their wild songs
like DNA in each syllable,
it holds lost fathers and daughters
in its branches,
and when it breathes,
the sky tastes like salt.
See? This poem is so green
it's already turning blue.

- Irene Latham

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Children's Book Festival in Athens, GA!

veggie painting at COMO (Athens, GA) Oct. 2016
I am excited to be traveling today to the Children's Book Festival in Athens, Georgia. I am a Georgia peach, after all!

This is my first time to attend the festival, and I am delighted to be presenting once again my FRESH DELICIOUS program "Reading is Delicious: Fun, Fresh Programming for Kids." Among other things, we will be using jeweler's loupes to create analogies AND painting with asparagus. :)

I also have a new veggie book to share with the librarians: FRESH-PICKED POEMS: A Day at the Farmers' Market by Michelle Schaub. It was my good fortune to meet Michelle at Poetry Camp last summer, and she is a peach for sure! When I asked her about sharing a poem, she sent me "Pile Up," and added these comments: "I probably had the most fun writing this poem.  I got a little carried away playing up the alliteration and assonance when choosing words, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself in the process.  I also liked coming up with the twist, or maybe I should say "tumble" at the end."

Here is the poem:

Pile Up

Farmer Rick's meticulous
when setting up his stand.
He places all his items
into stacks precisely planned.
His cauliflower towers
take him eons to align.
His pyramids of peppers
show impeccable design.
No one sloppy heap of beets,
no single misplaced pea.
Each veggie castle he constructs
has perfect symmetry.
But when Miss Mallory arrives
Rick sports a wary smile -
she always picks her produce from
the bottom of the pile!

- Michelle Schaub

Isn't that fun?! Congratulations, Michelle!

Speaking of fun, the festivities in Athens also include an SCBWI sponsored "authors in your backyard" session, as well as a reception. I am excited to meet more Georgia educators, librarians and book-lovers -- and of course to see SCBWI friends!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Jazzing it Up with Poetry at Young Author's Conference (Mobile, AL)

This past Saturday it was my honor and privilege to be the speaker at the "Jazz it Up with Poetry" Young Author's Conference at West Regional Branch Library in Mobile, Alabama. This is an annual event sponsored by Mobile Public Library, Friends of the Mobile Public Library and Metro Mobile Reading Council. And It. Was. Amazing!

I met so many wonderful young authors and artists who shared their work with me in a lovely bound edition... of course I asked them to sign my book for me! And I met some fabulous adults, too, all of whom are dedicated to promoting the love of books. So much volunteer energy goes into an event like this, and I am grateful to have been a part of it.
Busy young authors just before my presentation!
One highlight was getting to see fellow Birmingham author-friend Chandra Sparks Splond and her daughter Jessica. Here is our selfie:

I talked about poetry and my other books and how making connections with readers has brought so much meaning to my life. I was thrilled when they gifted me with this t-shirt, which I will be wearing during April (National Poetry Month) for sure!

Check out these signatures from young authors... one in particular fills me with tenderness:

Big thanks to everyone involved, especially Nancy Anlage and Elizabeth Gillespie, for taking such good care of me and making me and Paul feel so very welcome. I'm in awe of the work you do -- what a gift to the community!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Sign Up Here for 2017 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem!

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit lovely Michelle at Today's Little Ditty for Roundup.

I do have a poem to share with you today, but first:

It's that time again! National Poetry Month (April) will soon be upon us, which means it is time again to sign up for our annual KIDLITOSPHERE PROGRESSIVE POEM. This year -- our 6th year! -- our goal is to create a poem for kids, and Heidi Mordhorst will be launching our first line! The rest is up to all of YOU! I invite you to choose your day in comments, and I will update the calendar below as we go along.

ETA: Schedule for 2017 is FULL. Thank you!

Here's how it works:

Poetry Friday Friends and other poetry lovers are invited to join in a community writing experience during National Poetry Month (April).

What is it? a poem that travels daily from blog to blog, with each host adding a line, beginning April 1. Anyone who wants to join in the fun can sign up below. First come, first served. If you are new to the Progressive Poem, please include your email and blog url in comments -or- send via email: irene (at) irenelatham (dot) com. 

1 Heidi at my juicy little universe
2 Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
3 Doraine at Dori Reads
4 Michelle at Today's Little Ditty
5 Diane at Random Noodling
6 Kat at Kat's Whiskers
7 Irene at Live Your Poem
8 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
9 Linda at TeacherDance
10 Penny at a penny and her jots
11 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
12 Janet F. at Live Your Poem
13 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
14 Jan at Bookseedstudio
15 Brenda at Friendly Fairy Tales
16 Joy at Poetry for Kids Joy
17 Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
18 Buffy at Buffy's Blog
19 Pat at Writer on a Horse
20 BJ at Blue Window
21 Donna at Mainely Write
22 Jone at Jone Ruch MacCulloch
23 Ruth at There is no such thing as a godforsaken town
24 Amy at The Poem Farm
25 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
26 Renee at No Water River
27 Matt at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme
28 Michelle at Michelle Kogan
29 Charles at Poetry Time
30 Laura Purdie Salas at Writing the World for Kids

Once we have a complete schedule, I will be send via email the HTML code to include in your post and/or sidebar so that readers might follow along/look back/look forward. And feel free to snag the above graphic!

Can't wait to see where our poem will take us this year! (To view poems from previous years, click on the Progressive Poem tab above.)

And now, a poem for you. I've just finished reading PIECING ME TOGETHER by Renee Watson. It's the story of Jade who is poor and black and attending a white private school in Portland as she navigates race and privilege and relationships on the road to success. And it ends with a poem by Jade's best friend Lee Lee:

Black Girls Rising
by Lee Lee Simmons

Our black bodies, sacred.
Our black bodies, holy.

Our bodies, our own.
Every smile a protest.
Each laugh a miracle.

Piece by piece we stitch ourselves back together.
This black girl tapestry, this black body
that gets dragged out of school desk, slammed onto linoleum floor,
tossed about at pool side, pulled over and pushed onto grass,
arrested never to return home,
shot on doorsteps, on sofas while sleeping
and dreaming of our next day.

Our bodies a quilt that tells stories of the middle passage,
of roots yanked and replanted.

Our bodies a mosaic of languages forgotten,
of freedom songs and moaned prayers.

Our bodies no longer
disregarded, objectified, scrutinized.

Our bodies, our own
Every smile a protest.
Each laugh a miracle.

Our bodies rising.
Our feet marking, legs dancing, our bellies birthing, hands raising,
our hearts healing, voices speaking up.

Our bodies so black, so beautiful.
Here, still.


- Renee Watson

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

An Abundance of Photographs

loose photos
When I chose Abundance as my 2017 One Little Word, I wasn't sure what it would mean in my life. I never really know where a OLW is going to take me. But Abundance has really been helping me take stock: what do I have? where can I cut? how can I give?

Last month I wrote about an Abundance of Notebooks. This month I've discovered my Abundance of Photographs.

an abundance of scrapbooks
I'm a historian, a memory-maker and a memory-keeper. I have always always loved photographs. And I come from a family of avid photographers: my father, my younger brother and my sister. We have each spent hours, days, weeks of our lives devoted to recording and preserving our experiences. We've gone through slides and snapshots and film. I, alone, have made dozens and dozens of scrapbooks. Reliving and remembering my life is almost as fun as the original experience!

photo ornaments
Why all this mad need to document? I don't know. It kind of goes against everything I am moving toward these days in my effort to be present for my life. When one has a camera trained on every experience, one is at least one lens away from actually being there. And why must the sunrise be captured on film, instead of simply enjoyed? I don't know.

I guess taking a photograph is one way to hold on to something, to preserve it. A way to go back, to experience the joy all over again.

photo collage
I have learned things from photographs. I have treasured the ones I have that include loved ones no longer on this planet. I have loved getting to know a younger ME in photographs. And I have loved sharing photographs with our children of themselves when they were wee. It's a way to say, see, there you are, a version of you, and that version still exists.

photos in frames
But I do wonder: what happens to all these photographs when I am gone? Who will care? And how sad that many of these faces will turn nameless, unknown?

And then I think: it's okay. There is enough time and space in the world for everyone. It's good and right that we should all move on.

I don't know what will happen to all my photographs, but I am sure that they have been a huge source of joy for me. And maybe not quite as necessary as they once were? Yes, I can feel myself trusting that these things, these experiences will continue to exist even without photographs as proof.

But still: is there anything more precious than a photograph?

a new father, my Papa, holding his
third child/firstborn baby girl - me

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Unexpected Magic of Author Visits

This past week it was my privilege to visit two local schools: Thompson Intermediate School in Alabaster, Alabama, where I shared time with 4th and 5th graders, and Berry Middle School in Hoover, Alabama, where I spoke with 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. Read all about it in the Hoover Sun! Attention local schools: I offer half-price visits to schools in the Birmingham metro-area who schedule visits one year in advance. Now booking for 2018! More details at the School Visits page of my website.

These are both big suburban schools, with 400-500 kids in each grade level, so in each case, I spoke to one grade-level at a time, in the gym. And It. Was. Awesome.

First, Thompson. This was librarian Christi King's first author visit, and wow, did she do a great job! She was even able to overcome a last minute book-ordering issue with grace and success. Everyone I met was so sweet -- these kids are getting a lot of love! I am so grateful to be even the tiniest part of that.

One of the best parts was lunching with a few students who asked me questions for a school newspaper article. These girls were so fun and savvy... I predict great things in their future!

And check out this cake for Dr. Seuss's birthday! (From Edgar's Bakery. It was delicious.)

Now for Berry Middle. Many authors are intimidated by middle schoolers. They are notoriously hard to engage. NOT THESE STUDENTS.
I loved my time with these kids, how we visited while signing books, and the great questions they asked during my sessions. What a great learning environment! And educators and parents, you know this doesn't just happen. It starts at the top! Thank you to principal Chris Robbins and especially to librarian Ginger Hewitt, who took such great care of me (reminding me to take a potty break, giving me a few minutes of down-time, etc...) and had things so well-organized, it was a dream.

A highlight of this visit was during the special lunch when students (and a teacher!) read their favorite parts from both LEAVING GEE'S BEND and DON'T FEED THE BOY. It's been a while since I wrote those books, so it was like hearing someone else's words... and I was touched by their choices... and also, unexpectedly, inspired.

I have struggled lately with new projects, and this made me feel like, yes, I can do this. I have done it before. And it just made me really want to hang in there, to give great kids like these a new, exciting reading experience. It's an honor to be a part of anyone's reading life. And it's a little bit magic: the magic of connection. Of people. Of hope and love and literature. I can't think of a better reason to write books.

Finally, here is a bonus gift from a sweet, talented 5th grader:

Thank you, Amelia! And thanks everyone so much for reading!