Thursday, April 19, 2018

ARTSPEAK! Harlem Renaissance poem "Sorrow"

Welcome to day #19 of 2018 ARTSPEAK!, in which I am focusing on art and artists from the Harlem Renaissance. Today I am still enjoying events with Charles Waters in New York City!

Before we get to today's poem, please be sure and visit Michelle Kogan to see how our Progressive Poem is progressing!

Today I'm continuing my Harlem Renaissance poetry project with a look at sculptor Meta Warrick Fuller.

Talk about a woman ahead of her time! Fuller was a poet, artist and sculptor -- the first African American woman sculptor to rise to any sort of prominence. She was also a feminist and activist. Her works celebrated African American heritage and focus mostly on themes of identity -- never shying away from the horrible (see A Silent Protest Against Mob Violence). Even Auguste Rodin admired her work. And here is a favorite quote from Fuller herself:

“Let us train ourselves to see beauty in 'black.'”

Here are the poems in the series so far:
"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 called Sorrow. It shows a mother's anguish upon the death of a child. What a tough thing to write about... and the thing that immediately leapt to my mind was "My Lover's Gone" by Dido. I decided to use it as sort-of a mentor text. Also, I was thinking of "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen. I love the lines: "Love is not a victory march, it's a broken Hallelujah." I wanted to see what I might say about sorrow. I'm not sure I've found "it" yet, but here is my start! I love when my mind turns to music for inspiration.


my baby's gone
her breath no longer
warms my breast

she left at dawn
as I slept I felt her slip
so cold so cold

sorrow's not a well run dry
it's a mountain stream
gushing down

my baby's gone
no lullaby will ever
bring her back to me

bring her back to me

- Irene Latham


  1. I just read The Librarian at Auschwitz the terrible place where so many mothers saw their children die. That line "no lullaby will ever/bring her back to me" is heartbreaking, Irene. Beautifully poignant feelings shown in your poem, and the sculpture.

  2. Irene, such a powerful poem–feelings and emotions we can't put into words, your poem and the sculpture are both crying from this loss.


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