Monday, April 30, 2018

ARTSPEAK! Harlem Renaissance poem "The Last Poem"

Welcome to day #30 of 2018 ARTSPEAK!, in which I am focusing on art and artists from the Harlem Renaissance. I cannot believe this is the final poem of the series... whew!
Before we get to today's poem, please be sure and visit Doraine at Dori Reads to read the final line of our Progressive Poem! Our little seed has sure come a long way.

Today I'm concluding my Harlem Renaissance poetry project with a look at photographer James Van Der Zee. James started fooling around with a camera at age fourteen, and he went on to become the most famous portrait photographer in Harlem. He was known for his portraits of African American New Yorkers -- both prominent people and "regular" people. Read more about James here.

Here are the poems in the series so far:
"Hazel Scott at the Piano" by James Van Der Zee
"She" after Portrait with Flowers by William Johnson
"Poems Come Lately" after Still Life with Flowers and Chair by William Johnson
"Papa with a Pipe" after Self-Portrait with Pipe by William Johnson
"A Song for Old Glory" after Lift Thy Voice and Sing by William Johnson
"Midnight Party" after Harbor Under the Midnight Sun by William Johnson
"Summersong" after Children at the Ice Cream Stand by William Johnson
"Trio" after Art Class by William Johnson
"To a Water Boy" after The Water Boy by Meta Warrick Fuller
"Storytime" after Storytime by Meta Warrick Fuller
"Sorrow" after Sorrow by Meta Warrick Fuller
"My John Henry" after When John Henry Was a Baby by Palmer Hayden
"Night Music" after Untitled by Palmer Hayden
"A (Sub)way of Looking" after The Subway, 1930 by Palmer Hayden
"Girl to Mama" after Madonna at the Stoop by Palmer Hayden
"For Love of the Game" after Checkers Game by Palmer Hayden
"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

Today's piece is Dancing Girls. I love the expressions on these girls faces -- so different from one another! I started out writing a variation of "Five Little Monkeys" but it just wasn't popping. Then I started thinking about how several of this year's poems have been ars poetica (about poetry), and I realized this was the last poem, and started thinking about how the dancers might represent the last poem, and voila!
The Last Poem

is all knees
and flat feet

it keeps forgetting
the routine

yet it wears a hat:
see me!

it lifts its arms:
love me!

it closes its eyes,
looks past lens,

dances us
across the page

- Irene Latham


  1. Sigh. I see the last poem, and I see you, my Irene. And I love you too. It's neat - and unsurprising that we both end this month of commitment with love today. xx

  2. What a fabulous project you did this month! Thank you so much for sharing it!

  3. I do love seeing those girls, each one in her own way saying "see me" and "love me" just as you wrote. It's been a wonderful month reading your beautiful poems, Irene, and learning about these extraordinary artists! Thank you!

  4. Oh, that is truly a perfect ending for this month. I have been absolutely wowed and inspired and just gobsmacked at your project. Every single poem has been a joy to read. And, the back story of the project is fascinating too. Thank you, Irene. You are a wonderful teacher.

  5. Just want to say how much I admire your tenacity with this daily poem project. It's so hard to do well every ding dang day. I love how this ending poem feels like a triumphant dance, one a child might do when cake is served. Yes!

  6. Your arrangement of words, careful placement of italics, and arrangement of lines truly makes this a poem that dances on the page. A visual delight! Thank you for sharing such extraordinary work all month. I know I'll return again and again.

  7. I am so impressed with this ars poetica, Irene, but should not be. It is splendid. Some poem. Some poet. Some person. Your Poetry Month projects are like you. Beautiful. Thoughtful. Thought-provoking. Captivating. And I love being inspired by both. They speak to me.


Your thoughts?