Thursday, April 12, 2018

ARTSPEAK! Harlem Renaissance poem "Boat Dock, Early Evening"

Welcome to day #12 of 2018 ARTSPEAK!, in which I am focusing on art and artists from the Harlem Renaissance. Today I am in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, at one of my favorite-ever events: Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival!

Before we get to today's poem, please be sure and visit Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink to see how our Progressive Poem is progressing!

Today I'm continuing my Harlem Renaissance poetry project by introducing another artist, the third so far in this series: Palmer Hayden.

Here are the poems in the series so far:

"Prayer for the Berry Pickers" after Berry Pickers by Palmer Hayden
"Sometimes Books Are the Only Playground I Need" after Among Them is a Girl Reading by Palmer Hayden
"Measurements" after Octoroon Girl by Archibald Motley
"Barbeque" after Barbecue by Archibald Motley
"American Idyll, 1934" after An Idyll of the Deep South by Aaron Douglas
"The Toiler" after The Toiler by Aaron Douglas
"Let There Be Poetry" after The Creation by Aaron Douglas
"Boy with Plane" after Boy with Plane by Aaron Douglas
"To a Dancer" after Sahdji (Tribal Women) by Aaron Douglas
"For the Builders" after Building More Stately Mansions by Aaron Douglas
"This Poem is a Dream" after Aspiration by Aaron Douglas

I learned in the book HARLEM STOMP! that Hayden was a janitor and then came to prominence as the first winner of the Harmon Foundation art competition in 1926 (an art contest created to recognize African American artists). Much of Hayden's work centered on black American life, legends and folk heroes. He was criticized for lapsing into a portrayal of blacks that seemed rooted in cultural stereotypes, a reminder that “blacks were performing for a white audience.” I also love the information about Palmer's life and work found here.

And I love this quote: "I decided to paint to support my love of art, rather than have art support me." — Palmer Hayden quoted in Nora Holt, "Painter Palmer Hayden Symbolizes John Henry," New York Times, 1 Feb. 1947. We'll be sticking with Hayden for a few more days.

One thing I learned about Palmer Hayden is that he painted a lot of boats and seascapes, both here in the U.S. and in Europe. And lately my life has included a lot of boats and lakescapes... so, today I give you boats!

Boat Dock, Early Evening

sailboats doze
with eyelids half-closed
as dreams of open sea
licklap their hulls

- Irene Latham


  1. Makes me yearn for the ocean, or a lake. I too love 'lick lap' but also 'eyelids half-closed'!

  2. Your poem affected life?! Yes, you can share your lovely poem and its great "after story" with the world... Submit now on

  3. Licklap, such a lovely word, did you make it up? I love how you connected personally with this picture.

  4. You are a queen of words, my friend. Lovely to say and to hear. xxxx


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