Monday, May 8, 2017

When Poetry Meets Picasso (at Oakwood University)

Last month it was my privilege to visit Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama, where, among other things, I hijacked Dr. Kem Roper's creative writing class for a session about poetry inspired by art. I shared with them some of the ways I approach writing after art, and also offered some tips and prompts for their own writing.

Here are the students choosing postcard images to write about:

To read a couple of amazing student poems at Dr. Roper's blog, click here ("Woman Enough") and here ("Keys"). SO inspiring!

Thierry Lundy
Also inspiring was the performance poet Thierry Lundy who preceded me at the evening's reading. Wow! I loved the wordplay in his poem, his performance, and the message, which reminded me of this picture my son Eric snapped during spring break at Tybee Island (GA) pier:

on the pier at Tybee Island, GA

Dr. Benson Prigg
(head of the English Dept.
and all around inspiring guy!)
I have said it before and I will say it again: it's an honor to be asked to do the thing I love, which is to share my stories and poems with readers -- and to help writers learn to tell their own stories. So often I come away inspired and rejuvenated, ready to tackle that revision or start some new piece. It's a gift TO ME to spend this time with students. I love it. Thank you for inviting me, Oakwood University! I was struck by the loving, nurturing environment at your school. What a lovely place to grow and write.

Dr. Ramona Hyman
 Because this event happened to coincide with the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I wanted to read a poem in his memory. I had selected a poem beforehand, but after Dr. Ramona Hyman shared her book of poems I AM BLACK AMERICA with me, I discovered a poem of hers that I had to share. Thank you, Ramona, for also giving me permission to share it here!

Psalms: for the Blues II
by Ramona Hyman

In the rain
We three drag a blues

This blues not
Musicology books about
One strand guitars
And Black boys blowing
Music from soda bottles

with Dr. Kem Roper
The blues is real
It's calluses for hands
Chicken, pig feet, and biscuits
On a Tuesday morning for food

It's real
Like bad feet, corns
And bruised bitten lips

This blues not
Intellectuals arguing
Authenticity in an old
Mississippi upper room
This blues: walking
Down highway 61
To a grave-digging job

It's a dirty boy's lyric
A laundry woman's lament
It's real

Chisels deacons, a church full
Singing gospel songs
Etches deaconess
Chanting, chanting

This blues sweeps
Trying' to purge a spiritual
In a country back room scene.
This poem first appeared in African American Review.

Isn't that wonderful? I am honored to have my very own copy of this book, thanks to Ramona.

Also please keep in mind that while these were college students, students of all ages can write poems inspired by art! If you're interested in this workshop for your group, please contact me by email irene (at) irenelatham (dot) com.

1 comment:

  1. Who better than Irene and Mona Lisa to throw down the gauntlet! Write a poem inspired by art. Your poems inspired by art are so inspiring. Someday I'll accept the dare.


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