Saturday, April 14, 2018

ARTSPEAK! Harlem Renaissance poem "For Love of the Game"

Welcome to day #14 of 2018 ARTSPEAK!, in which I am focusing on art and artists from the Harlem Renaissance. Today I am participating in the Word of the South Festival ... on stage at noon, with author-illustrator Laura Freeman.

Before we get to today's poem, please be sure and visit Heidi at my juicy little universe 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:

"The Birthday Birds of Bonaventure Island" after Birds of Isle de Bonaventure by Palmer Hayden
"Boat Dock, Early Evening" after Boats at the Dock by Palmer Hayden
"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.

Today's piece is called "Checkers Game." It totally makes me think of our middle son, who is a passionate gamer. He loves video games best, but he also enjoys cards and chess... been a while since we've played checkers.... must remedy! This one is for you, Andrew!

For Love of the Game
- for Andrew

I love to play a board game
a scored game
a make-me-a-lord game!
I love to sit across from you
and see the win unfurling.

I love to play a board game
an adored game
a can't-be-ignored game –
Happiness fills my chest
when strategies are whirling.

I love my hours at the board; 
win or lose, gaming is its own reward.

- Irene Latham


  1. Oh, Irene, this one is just exquisite! Is there a name for this strategy of internal rhyme you used?
    "...a board game
    an adored game
    a can't-be-ignored game-"
    I love to watch your poetic play,
    As you dance with words day-by-day!

  2. Our family played so many games when I was growing up, and Arvie and I played a lot of cribbage. Then time to play and teach Carter all of them, now time for the girls. Games are so much fun, and I love that you dedicated this to your son, Irene, a "make-me-a-lord" game. Happy times.

  3. Your rhythm and rhyme are so fun! Here's to gaming!

  4. Yes, I too am very fond of your series of "ord" rhymes, Irene! These paintings are very intriguing--I've just gone and read about Peyton Hedgeman and tried to understand the exaggeration of Negro features I'm seeing. Fascinating from start to finish. (And this is why I don't comment until Sunday when I have more time!)


Your thoughts?