Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Roll Call (after BLACK GIRL MAGIC by Mahogany L. Browne)

I've just been reading BLACK GIRL MAGIC: A Poem by Mahogany L. Browne, Art by Jess X. Snow (Roaring Brook Press). It's a small, gift-sized picture book that features a poem the author wrote to celebrate black lives, without ever saying "Black Lives Matter." In the back there's a Roll Call.

"Roll Call is an act of naming the people who brought you into the room. Roll call is an act of taking up space."

And it made me want to create my own Roll Call, of those that have made room for me and invited me into a conversation with the world. A list that I can come back to, add to, etc. Here is the start:

Abraham Amy Andrew April Barry Beryl Bob Bobbie Bonnie Carl Carol Charles Dan Daniel Donna Doraine Doshie Emon Eric Erin Evelyn Gary Hannah Janet Jeannine Jennifer Jerri Jim Joyce JuliAnna Kahlil Karen Kate Katherine Katrina Ken Kim Langston Laura Lee Lenora Linda Liz Lori Lynn Mary MicaJon Michelle Naomi Nelson Paige Pat Patty Paul Raymond Rebecca Robert Robyn Rosemary Ruth Sarah Seth Sharon Stacey Stephen Steve Sue Susan Suzanne Sylvia Terry Walter Winston

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Behold! These Lions

My 2018 One Little Word is Behold. When these lions roared, I could not ignore them. Thanks to Eric for capturing them so beautifully... proof that spring is on its way!

These lions
rouse drowsy forest

- Irene Latham

Friday, February 23, 2018

Poem for a Music Teacher

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

I've been having one of those weeks where I feel like I've been running behind and running behind and running behind... lots going on in my writing life, which is lovely and inspiring, but also has me a little bit frazzled!

Anyhow, this too shall pass.

If you haven't added your Golden Shovel to my roundup of Golden Shovel poems, please do!

Also, check out this thoughtful, lovely write-up about CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? over at A Fuse 8 Production, by Betsy Bird. We are all learning, aren't we?

And here is my offering for today: a poem for a music teacher as it appears in SCHOOL PEOPLE, poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illus. by Ellen Shi, brought to us by the fine poetry-loving folks at WordSong/Boyds Mills Press.

This was my first LBH anthology to be included in - what an honor and thrill! I was especially excited when Lee told me my assignment was "music teacher." As many of you know, I actually HAVE a music teacher -- Laura Usiskin, who's an amazing cellist and teacher. I'm so grateful to be working with her!

AND I've had music teachers pretty much my whole life, what with the dozen or so years I took piano and the handful of years I was in choir... and the years my kids took piano and cello and percussion... and then, yes, surely, school music teachers, thought they are not quite clear in my mind.... my school memories are a bit of a blur because there were SO MANY SCHOOLS. (11 by the time I was 14! Thanks to my family moving so frequently.)

Anyhow, for me, music is JOY, and all the music teachers Ido remember have embodied that joy -- so I knew I wanted joy in my poem.

I'm not sure where the "rain" came from, though it IS the best music... or how I linked this poem with "She Walks in Beauty" by Lord Byron, but that's what happened. There's also a nod to Phantom of the Opera in there, which Lee caught right away. :)

Music Teacher
by Irene Latham

She walks in music, like morning rain:
drip-drop, pitter-patter, boot-stomp, splash!

And all that's best of noise and silence
meet in her flash-flood smile.

She doesn't say Hush or Stop or No-
she says, Yes! Louder! Sing, my angels, sing!

And so our hearts overflow,
symphonies river from our lips.

We walk in music like morning rain:
drip-drop, pitter-patter, boot-stomp, splash!


Thank you for reading! If you have a music teacher, do some boot-stomping and splashing with him or her today! xo

Thursday, February 22, 2018

A Roundup of Golden Shovel Poems in honor of Nikki Grimes' ONE LAST WORD

Congratulations to Nikki Grimes, author of this year's winner of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award!

It was my pleasure to serve with other esteemed poetry people on the committee to select this award... what a lovely experience it was to talk books and poetry and language and art -- and it was tough, too!

One of the most challenging things about the process is comparing books for young readers to books for older readers... it forces one to set aside individual aesthetics and preferences and really look at each book as a package. We all agreed that ONE LAST WORD is one phenomenal package, filled with beauty, hope, art, and some powerful wordsmithing.

AND, in the year since this book's release, we've seen so many writing Golden Shovel poems! This was not something the committee was charged with recognizing, but it's definitely something I find noteworthy. Here are some links to some Golden Shovel poems by friends in the Poetry Friday community:

Margaret Simon's students using "A Letter in October" by Ted Kooser

more from Margaret and her students

a slew of Poetry Friday Friends at Laura Shovan's blog - Laura's poem is after "The Red Wheelbarrow" by William Carlos Williams

Holly Mueller's poem is after "The Summer Day" by Mary Oliver

Sara Lewis Holmes' poem uses "Pied Beauty" by Gerard Manly Hopkins (and also includes links to other Poetry Sisters' Golden Shovels)

Carmelo Martino over at Teaching Authors uses a poem by Gwendolyn Brooks (for other poems honoring Gwendolyn Brooks, see this anthology of Golden Shovels!)

Carol Varsalona uses a quote to create her Golden Shovel

Donna Smith writes after Rupert Brooke's "The Treasure"

Donna Smith uses a Theophrastus quote about time

Linda Mitchell after a photo caption on display at a super cool tiny museum about the Suquamish People of the Pacific Northwest. 

Buffy Silverman using "Tree for All" by Irene Latham (from DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST)

Ruth Hersey writes after a line from Paul Simon

Heidi Mordhorst uses a line from "Making Peace" by Denise Levertov

Kay McGriff using Langston Hughes' "I Dream a World"

Mary Lee Hahn writes after Malvina Reynolds' song "Let it Be"

***Be sure to check out new poems created for Michelle's DMC  March 2018 Challenge here***

...and I know there are so many more! If you'd like your link included, please just share in comments, and I will add them in.
Meanwhile, thank you, Nikki, for this book and and all the ways it has inspired us! (More on how this book inspired ME very soon! :)

Also, big thanks to Lee for creating and supporting this annual award, which we learned isn't going anywhere. Thanks to Lee's generosity, it will continue to recognize and inspire poets for years and years to come!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Lake Dog

We have had a blast introducing Ruby to the lake... she is a born sailor! Remember The Sailor Dog by Margaret Wise Brown? It was definitely one of my childhood favorites. And now, our Ruby loves being on the fishing boat and can't stand it when we cruise off in the kayaks without her. (Inflatable kayak  + Ruby's claws = potential disaster.) 
We are excited to see how she reacts when we catch some fish while she's on board... she can be pretty excitable, soI think a flopping fish is really going to rock her world! I'll let you know. Meanwhile, we are enjoying a few warm, breezy days punctuated by flowering cherry trees and daffodils brightening hillsides and ditches. 
Spring is coming, yes it is!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Poems for President's Day

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Jone at Check it Out for Roundup.

Yesterday I shared the Michigan report, about last week's school visits in Grand Rapid's Michigan. Today I want to introduce you to a special student I met at Wealthy Elementary -- Skyler T.

Skyler presented Charles and I with hand-written copies of her poem "If I Were the President."
Skyler T. and me

It takes so much bravery to write something in the first place, but to SHARE it? With an author visiting your school? THAT takes moxie! Go, Skyler! I'm grateful to have permission to share her work with all of you. Thank you, Skyler and Principal Carlye Allen and Skyler's mom. :)

No matter how you feel about our current president -- or any of our former presidents -- haven't we all imagined at least once, what WE would do if WE were the president? Here's Skyler's poem, just in time for President's Day. Enjoy!

If I were the president
By Skyler T

If I were the president I would be so happy,
And when I travel to the white house guess what I would do,
I'd take a swim at the pool,
Then would take a shot at the bowling ally,
Next I would grow a tree of 100 dollar bills,
After that I would build a fountain for people to throw coins in,
and after dark I would colect all of that money,
Then I would have a sleep over with all of my friends,
we would jump on my bed,
untill we were dead!

Isn't that joy-filled and imaginative?! And, as it happens with poetry, Skyler's poem inspired me to write a poem:

Jumping on the Bed at the White House
- for Skyler T.

As my arms fly up
and my sister squeals,
I imagine the jumpers
who've jumped
here before:

wiggly Tad Lincoln
and FDR's terrier Fala;
the Bush twins,
and the Obama girls.

As we leap
and laugh and twirl,
it's as if there is
no war –

no sadness, no death.
Just me and my sister
in a soft-sheeted world.

- Irene Latham

Jumping on the bed at the White House... I am IN. As tragedies like the Broward County school shooting unfold around us, we need jumping-on-the-bed moments more than ever. My deepest sympathies to these families, and all of us, as we grieve. xo

The Michigan Report

Last week Charles and I had such a great time in snowy Michigan! Here's the welcome sign that made us feel... welcome!

Thanks to Charles for braving the weather to take the pictures. And thanks to East Grand Rapids Middle School for sharing the days with us. I loved meeting these eager educators and students! Big thanks to Principal Anthony Morey and teacher-poet Kim Doele for doing all the behind-the-scenes-work... SO much goes into an author visit. I'm always touched to be in the presence of those who are willing to do this work for the kids. That's what it's about. That's why we do this.

Here are a few of the many stand-out moments:

1. Driving down neighborhood streets on snowy pre-dawn days with blue-lit sky and trees arching over Lake Dr... for an Alabama gal, it was magical! I was enchanted by the snow pretty much the entire trip -- until I thought it might interfere with me getting home! Charles was kind enough to brush our car down each (cold!) morning, and now I've got snow-driving experience. :)

One of the many gingerbread houses we passed!

2. Presenting with Charles! After all our hard work creating the presentation, finally, we were able to share it with students. 6 times. In one day.

3. Meeting Gary D. Schmidt. I am a HUGE fan of Gary's work -- and I knew he lived near Grand Rapids. So, imagine my delight when Kim was able to set up a supper for us! We had a great time talking books and words and LIFE at a neat restaurant on (frozen) Lake Reeds called Rose's. Plus Gary signed my copy of OKAY FOR NOW, which happens to be my favorite of his novels.
Irene Latham, Gary D. Schmidt,
Kim Doele, Charles Waters

4. The analogies workshop with students, in which I introduced the Private Eye method using a jeweler's loupe. We wrote poems about the moon and our palms and lions... fun to hear these students' amazing ideas and images.

5. Sharing LEAVING GEE'S BEND with a special group of readers... they asked some really thoughtful questions!

6. The diversity group. Nothing I type here will do justice to our discussion with these students! So many good hearts, so many amazing poems! I was filled with hope after all the sharing in that room. We will be posting responses to our CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? Gallery very soon!
In the sharing circle...

student with "Talking Stick" reading
her poem while we all listened.
7. Presenting with Charles in front of the 811 (poetry!) section at the Wealthy Elementary Library. So many good titles!! And what great kids... I will introduce you to a special student tomorrow. :)

8. Being interviewed by the Wealthy Elementary video team... and doing The Yarn with Charles and Travis Jonker! Air date to be determined, but should be in the next month or two.

Young journalists!
9. Sharing boots (!) and rainbow shoelaces with one very loving and enthusiastic educator at Wealthy Elementary. #Startaconversation

10. Coming home full of poetry and light and happiness and gratitude! Even though Friday ended up being a snow day, my flights still went out as scheduled... and Charles and I were able to write across the table from one another, instead of across the country! :) To everyone who had a hand in this one... THANK YOU. I am here fairy-clapping. xo

Irene Latham, Kim Doele, Charles Waters

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A Gallery of Poetry and Art Inspired by CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR?

Now that Charles and I have been able to share CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? with readers, we are pleased to offer a space to continue the conversation through art and poetry.

Yes, thanks to the wisdom of Poetry Friday poets, we have created a Padlet for teachers to share student work, found HERE.

Please share your words and art with us! 

If you've already created something, or whenever you do, we'd be glad to showcase it. In this way we can inspire each other, and together make the world a place where all may experience a sense of belonging. Thank you!

And now a sneak peek from our recent adventures in Grand Rapids, Michigan. So many thanks to the wonderful educators who hosted us... full report coming soon!

Irene Latham & Charles Waters presenting
at Wealthy Elementary (East Grand Rapids, Michigan)

Monday, February 12, 2018

After the (ALA Youth Media) Awards

Each year I cozy up with my computer to livestream the ALAYMA. For those of us who love children's books, it's better than Christmas! This year there was much to love... well done, committees!

Not a lot of poetry, though... LONG WAY DOWN by Jason Reynolds received by Newbery and CSK Honors, and MACY MACMILLAN, RAINBOW GODDESS by Shari Green got Schneider Family Award, and I think that's it ??

Jacqueline Woodson did received the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award (taking the baton from Nikki Grimes), but yeah, I think a slow year for poetry, at least in the awards department. Readers, do let me know if I missed a poetry title.

The two books I right away ordered from Amazon were the Newbery winner HELLO, UNIVERSE and the Sibert winner VINCENT & THEO: The Van Gogh Brothers, which I have reserved numerous times at my library and somehow still not read. Excited to catch up on these!

Also excited for PIECES OF ME by studio-sib Renee Watson (CSK winner and Newbery Honor), which is lovely and addresses systemic racism, and also the hair-themed CROWN: An Ode to the Fresh Cut... which I adore! Readers this is a good one to pair with CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? :)

What stood out to you about this year's awards?

Monday, February 5, 2018

Advice for Artists that Applies to Writers, Too

Today I'm delighted to be in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where shortly Charles Waters and I will share with students about our book CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR?, thanks to amazing educator Kim Doele. I'm excited! But first, let me fill you in on some of my airplane reading:

I've shared before about The Artists Magazine, which I currently subscribe to -- even though I am not really a painter. I'm more of an art appreciator who dabbles occasionally in one medium or another. The most recent issue has some great quotes from the magazine's contest winners -- and they completely apply to writers!

"Let go of fear, and be persistent. Listen to your soul and paint with true emotion. Find a subject that makes your heart sing so that your enthusiasm will shine through in your work." - Dale Marie Muller

"My advice to artists is to fail frequently. This is so very important in painting. I've learned more from failure in every aspect of life than success." - Ron Stocke

Family Grace (Pray) by Norman Rockwell
Also, in an article providing prompts for paintings, I found this one that sounds like a poem waiting to happen:

"The kitchen is the center of the home; the table is its gathering place. Create a kitchen or table scene that includes family or friends. Give attention to lighting viewing angle and gestures."

Finally, in the "What the last great book about art you've read?" section, I found this:

"Two books I reread recently were Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke, and My Life in Art, by Konstantin Stanislavsky.  Rile speaks to the artist's need of isolation, and Stanislavsky speaks of the artist's need for community." - Costa Vavagiakis, artist

Friday, February 2, 2018

The Poetry of Hawks and Falcons

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Donna at Mainely Write for Roundup.

I've spent part of this week preparing for mine and Charles Waters' week-long visit to schools in Grand Rapids, Michigan, thanks to amazing poet/educator/"cool teacher" Kim Doele. More on this later!

I've also been reading, of course, and the book I want to share today is THE HAWK OF THE CASTLE: A Story of Medieval Falconry by Danna Smith, illus. By Bagram Ibatoulline (Candlewick). It's a combination of verse and nonfiction text boxes and gorgeous art to educate about raptors and also to celebrate a father-daughter relationship. (As one who shared a hobby/obsession with my father, I could so relate!)

Nearly every verse begins "This is..." and ends with "castle." Kind of like the House That Jack Built, except not cumulative.

Here's an early example:

"This is our hawk: a sight to behold,
a master of flight, graceful and bold.
My father trains this bird of prey
who lives with us at the castle."

Right away I learned the difference between hawks and falcons:

"Hawks have a rounded tail and short or broad wings, which allow them to fly more slowly and glide more often than falcons. Falcons, on the other hand, are built for speed, with a streamlined body, long tail, and long, pointed wings."

I did not know that! Readers also learn about equipment like glove and hood, bells attached to the bird's legs, and how to signal a hawk to flight. It's fascinating. And reminds me of FALCON WILD by Terry Lynn Johnson, about a current day falconer who must survive after a car wreck leaves her lost. (I love all of Terry's books!)

This led me to find other birds-of-prey poems:

Evening Hawk by Robert Penn Warren (gorgeous language, including "scythes" as a verb!)

And here is a gorgeous choral piece called "The Falcon."

Readers, if you know of other hawk/falcon poems, please leave them in comments, and I will add them to the post. Thank you! Wishing everyone a beautiful beginning of this, our shortest month. xo

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Moon Inside Us All

Hello and Happy Spiritual Journey Thursday! (It's February. How can that be?) We're gathering over at Donna's Mainely Write to discuss the moon. That's right: the moon! Won't you join us?

As I was casting around for something to share, the first thing that came to mind was a favorite poem by Hafiz called "With That Moon Language." But I already blogged about that for a Spiritual Journey Thursday last March.

And then I remembered a favorite scene from one of my all-time
favorite movies: IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE

George Bailey: What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey. That's a pretty good idea. I'll give you the moon, Mary.

Mary: I'll take it. Then what?

George Bailey: Well, then you can swallow it, and it'll all dissolve, see... and the moonbeams would shoot out of your fingers and your toes and the ends of your hair... am I talking too much?

That's what the moon inspires, isn't it? Bigness and wonder and magic and connection... I want a life full of love and moonbeams shooting out of my fingers!

AND I have long been comforted by the idea of "same moon." As in, no matter how far apart we are geographically or historically or emotionally, we share the same moon. What peace that thought brings me! And I need peace right now, during this season of so many changes...

And THAT makes me think of a poem I adore by a local poet Joe Whitten... he wrote it for his wife, and in the poem he refers to her as "constant sun" and himself as "fickle moon." I think we poets by nature are most often fickle moons... and we need that constant sun, don't we?

So today and all days I am grateful for the moon -- for its constancy and its changeability. And my suns, too! I enjoy both: the dark and light, the day and night.

Thank you for reading!