Thursday, March 29, 2018

Announcing my 2018 ARTSPEAK! Theme (and Some Other Stuff, Too!)

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday on this the eve of National Poetry Month! Be sure to visit Heidi at my juicy little universe for Roundup, where you can learn some interesting things about our Progressive Poem tradition! I'm excited to read Liz's first line Sunday! (Yes, it will be a surprise to me as well!)

I know so many of you have celebratory things planned for the month... I'm so grateful for Jama's roundup post of National Poetry Month happenings!

Here I'll be continuing my ARTSPEAK! tradition of writing poems inspired by art. The fancy word for this is "ekphrasis" or "ekphrastic" poems, but I do NOT like the way that word tastes AT ALL! So 'round here, I'll just call them "art poems." :)

I mentioned in this post how I've been inspired by ONE LITTLE WORD by Nikki Grimes. No, I haven't written a single Golden Shovel poem. But reading that book totally made me want to learn about art from the Harlem Renaissance! I realized I knew something about the musicians and poets/writers from that time, but nothing about a single visual artist. And so, in order to remedy that, I give you.... ARTSPEAK! Harlem Renaissance.

The cover image is "Lift Up Thy Voice and Sing" by William H. Johnson. Don't you love it? I've selected works by Aaron Douglas, Meta Warrick Fuller, Palmer Hayden, William H. Johnson, Archibald Motley and James Van Der Zee. I'll be learning more about these artists as I go, and about art's place in the Harlem Renaissance as well. My goal is to create poems that embody the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance: creativity, reawakening, change, vitality, unity, dreams... I'm excited to find out what these pieces of art will say to me.


On the topic of art poems, I am also excited to share with you WORLD MAKE WAY: New Poems Inspired by Art from The Metropolitan Museum of Art edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, brought to us by Abrams. I am in love with this book! And not just because I have a poem in it. :) The words and art are breathtaking... I sent a note right away to Lee to tell him this is a book I will read and read again... truly the mark of a good book. It really deserves its own post, but I won't be able to during April, so I will leave you with a look at my contribution. Please do find this book! It's gorgeous!

Painted Plaster Pavement Fragment,
ca. 1390-1353 BC, Anonymous

This Is the Hour

This is the hour
the sun dreams,
and the river 
its silky song.

This is the hour
Duck wades 
into the warm,
whispery grass
to settle
onto its nest.

This is the hour
Duck asks: 
     What is yours?
     What is 

River answers:

     Look how 
     your wings 

     How my eyes 

Yes, Duck says.

     Now I see –
     this is the hour
     almighty sun 
     gives itself

     to everything.

- Irene Latham
And now, to make this the longest post EVER, allow me to share with you some of my April events! I've got a few school and Skype visits that are private, and here are the open-to-the-public happenings:
April 9 (Twitter)

April 11-12 (Hattiesburg, MS)
(presenting on diversity with Leah Henderson)

April 14 (Tallahassee, FL)

April 21 (New York City)
(with Charles Waters, Selina Alko and Sean Qualls)

April 21 (New York City)
Please let me know if you are able to join me for any of these things -- would love to see you! Wishing all the most glorious April ever! Can't wait to read everyone's offerings. xo


  1. What a lovely, lyrical poem Irene…I can hear the water lapping against the bank–I love the river answering, "How my eyes wink," and the circularity of the sun coming in at the beginning and end–I'm looking forward to reading more of this book! Your journey into the Harlem renaissance via art poems sounds wonderful, I hope to follow many. Good luck with your poem excursions this coming month, and thanks for this rich post!

  2. Read a review of this book today on FB at Fans of the ALSC Poetry Blast and was so excited to see that you have a poem in the book. And now I'm thrilled your poem. It's lovely and I can't wait to get my hands on the actual book. It may have to be my poetry month gift to self! So much poetry goodness and travel for you this month. I wish I could pop into one of your events. I would pick NY because then I could see you for two days! Enjoy every moment!

    1. And now I'm thrilled "to read" your poem! Haste makes mistakes every single time.

  3. Irene, I feel energized reading this post. I love the books you've highlighted and your April project. I get completely overstimulated in April. There's so much poetry to read and write. I would love an April sabbatical to fully participate. But alas, my day jobs are still too important right now. I look forward to playing tag this month as we all share poems and lines and the joy of poetry together. Happy Poetry Month to you!

  4. I love "This is the Hour"! Beautiful. You will really be busy in April!

  5. Such an exciting, anticipatory post! You are going to be busy this month. Congrats on the poem in Lee's beautiful anthology. I love the repetition of "this is the hour." I will be doing ekphrasis this month, too. I don't have a specific theme; although, I think many of them will be to my father's art.

  6. Your poem is lovely. I'm planning to request World Make Way this week at the library. I'm so excited that it's finally here. Wishing you all the best for everything on your busy schedule. Wish I lived closer :)

  7. Irene, that poem a)makes me think of The Story About Ping and b) is one of the moodiest, loveliest pieces I've read in a long time. Can't wait for this book, can't wait for
    your Harlem Renaissance Artspeak--and thank you so much, once again, for participating in my ProgPo explorations. <3

  8. Your contribution to the collection is stunning! Congratulations! It looks like ekphrastic poems are the THING this NPM. (I love the word "ekphrastic"--but "ekphrasis," not so much.) I'm looking forward to absorbing it all!

  9. What a month you have in store for yourself... and a poem a day besides? Are you nuts??? Of course you are. In the best possible way. :) I'm looking forward to your Harlem Renaissance art poems, Irene Your poem from WORLD MAKE WAY is enlightening, centering, soothing, and so you. Just beautiful. xo

  10. I'm so looking forward to reading your posts this year!

  11. What a glorious poem, Irene! Your words flow beautifully. I am excited to begin National Poetry month and to have the opportunity to participate in the progressive poem project!

  12. So much poetry goodness! I can't wait to see art from and read your poems from the Harlem Renaissance next month. And the new collection from LBH looks fabulous! I want to read it myself and then share it with my favorite art teacher!

  13. "This is the Hour" is simply gorgeous, Irene. I love the river singing its "silky song" and the "whispery grass." As always, I'm looking forward to your Artspeak! project. April will be full of poetic goodness!

  14. Irene, your poem opens with such a bright, visual scene and continues to build into a beautiful poem of thanksgiving to the almighty sun. I am looking forward to both the progressive poem and SPJ1stT. Thanks for offering both of those poetry happenings to the poetry community.


Your thoughts?