Sunday, April 8, 2018

ARTSPEAK! Harlem Renaissance poem "Barbeque" and Janet's Line of Our Progressive Poem!

Welcome to day #8 of 2018 ARTSPEAK!, in which I am focusing on art and artists from the Harlem Renaissance.

Before we get to that, Janet F. is in the house with the next line of our Progressive Poem. Hi Janet!

Janet: I can’t believe how lucky I am to be able to participate for the 5th year in Irene’s Progressive Poem. I do not have my own blog but you can find me around commenting as Janet F. or Janet Clare F. and I am
Janet with a former student
Janet Clare on Facebook. I am in love with poetry and this place. I don’t do much on Twitter other than read. I have poems published in anthologies geared more for adults but am excited to have one in an upcoming Lee Bennett Hopkins anthology. (Anticipating a spring 2019 publication.) I am a retired teacher, a tireless poetry advocate, a fledgling poet and determined to keep involved in the blogosphere.

Each year I love the Progressive Poem more, even though the day I have to write my line is filled with lots of thought and writing, revision and only a little agonizing. (Probably like everyone else!) And a touch of nerves. I love the anticipation and the wonder. I worry about making my line something that adds and doesn’t subtract at all from the march of progress toward the essence of this poem for kids. But mainly, it is fun. I love being able to be part of this talented group of poets on the kidlitosphere and to contribute to this poetic feasting.

Heidi’s interview at My Juicy Universe with Liz Steinglass and Irene on March 29th was so helpful and interesting. Thanks, Heidi. So here are my predictions such as they are. Much of what I wrote were questions:

Where will this line take the Progressive Poem 2018:

Who is the she in line one? Is the seed the beginning of an idea? What is that idea?

Could the female be a writer or is she a child? Is she going to invent something? Is she a painter? Is her cozy bed a bulb beneath the ground, so a literal seed?

I foresee this seed growing and flowering...but into what? If the poem is for children, is the female a person who is going to do something remarkable for kids? Is it going to be a party? A trip? As seeds grow and they pop into being, they need nourishment. What will nourish this seed? What is its destiny?

I leaned toward the idea that it was a poet in the end. Child or adult, I wasn’t sure.

Here is the poem so far:
(Doesn’t it make you wonder still?)

Nestled in her cozy bed, a seed stretched.
Oh, what wonderful dreams she had had!
Blooming in midnight moonlight, dancing with
the pulse of a thousand stars, sweet Jasmine
invented a game.
Moon?” she called across warm, honeyed air.
I’m sad you’re alone; come join Owl and me.

And keeping in mind the nature of children here is line 8:

We’re feasting on stardrops, we’ll share them with you.”

I played with the line and thought about possibly having the moon reply or bringing in more friends, but I felt that the moon would need some encouragement before playing. And kids love tea parties especially at midnight, so that is where I headed.

Please see all the contributors in this year's edition in the sidebar. Take it away, Ramona! There are so many possibilities for our friends.
Today I'm continuing my Harlem Renaissance poetry project with a first look at artist John Archibald Motley, Jr -- who went by "Archibald Motley." He was popular in the early days of the Harlem Renaissance (1920's) and is called a "modernist." Many of his pieces feature lively music and dancing scenes. I've selected two of them to write on for this project. One of the things I learned about Motley is that he grew up in a white neighborhood in Chicago, and that often there is a sense of humor or irony in his paintings. The perspective he uses is that of observer or outsider-looking-in (which I think all of us can relate to at one time in our lives or another!). And he shows African American people with a wide variety of skin tones and physical characteristics, which helped bucked the stereotypes.

The first painting I want to share is "Barbeque." This one makes me think of a poem I often share with kids called "Knoxville, Tennessee" by Nikki Giovanni. I decided my goal would be to create a poem that engages all the senses, as Giovanni's poem does.

Here are the poems so far:

"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

And here is today's poem:


Cue winking lights,
strike up the jazz.

Let us gather
in mingling twilight

to savor smoky meat
and summerwarm tomatoes,

stickysweet peach pie
seasoned with street fumes

and guffaws across the table.
Did you know

Auntie Rosa moved two
blocks over?

Cousin Rachael graduated
nursing school?

Have you seen Pastor
Philip's new 'do?

Cue smooth saxophone,
grab a partner.

Let's dance!

- Irene Latham



  1. I'm in love with stardrops. What do they look like? How do they taste? Thank you Janet! So many special words in your poem Irene. Today will be a day of special words.

    1. Thank you, Liz. I hope that the stardrops will appeal to Moon so he will join in with whatever or wherever the poem wants to go. It is always a struggle to decide on the direction while weighing the lines I have tried. Stardrops just popped in my head and after a little tinkering, voila....I said, "this is the one." So glad you like it. I loved your opening!

  2. I, too, am in love with "stardrops." Delicious! Thank you Janet for joining us, even without a blog! xo

    1. Thank you so much, Irene for everything. I am eager to figure out what stardrops will be like or perhaps used for! Again, you are just lovely for being my smiling hostess.

  3. Janet, I'm glad you let them have some snacks before they jump (slide? shine?) into the game!

    Love "summerwarm" and "stickysweet" -- your poem put me right there in the crowd, ready to dance!

  4. "Stardrops" is just what will lure that moon, Janet. It's a terrific line. Irene, your imagined party mirrors that happy scene in the painting, that gathering to talk and dance in a 'summerwarm' evening.

  5. How lovely to hear a little about you, Janet, before also hearing your thoughts about the poem. Thank-you for offering a home, Irene - and for you jazzy little poem, which just swings us along. (Loved the wordplay and fun of Aunt Rosa two blocks over.)

    Janet, this poem has surprised and delighted at every turn - and you didn't disappoint. A shared feast of stardrops sounds magical.

    1. Thank you very much, Kat. So glad you like the line and the possibly magical stardrops. I forgot to include that another computer name of mine is Skanny17. I have to remember to sign these correctly. Irene's poetry inspires and delights and makes one thoughtful. She is so sweet to invite me to play!
      Janet F.

  6. What a delightful setting for our little Jasmine who is enjoying her expected playtime with friends. Having stardrops at the slumber party is a delicious choice, Janet. I enjoyed your backstory that led up to your word choice and truly understand the worry of what shall I write-mine nervousness is happening now as I anticipate my line 12. I can't even imagine what comes next.
    Irene, you created a wonderful, playful accompaniemement today with your barbecue theme. Everyone loves a great party at twilight. I love that word that connotes a dreamy time of the soon to be eveningtide.

  7. Janet, it's so very nice to meet you. I really enjoyed your comments on the poem and your contribution. I've been in a slump of frustration of not having enough writing time with my job as a school librarian. I'll bet we could swap some stories. I hope you are enjoying some time to really write!
    And, Irene, I adore this poem....I want to make a meal of the peach pie. Skip the meat for me. But, oh the gossip and closeness of a BBQ in summer. Makes me nostalgic.

    1. Thank you, Linda. I love librarians! I had poetry joy yesterday in my friend's 4th grade classroom sharing poetry. I inspired my friend to let the students write poems on the fly. What results. I am going to post on FB. Are we friends? I will check. I know you'd like the poems. I only have about 300 friends. I have used FB as a way to connect with literacy people, poets for kids, teachers etc who have become real friends and I love that. Janet Clare F.

  8. Stardrops! I hope they don't eat so many that they're too full for the game...
    Irene, you are brave to choose this painting which makes me confused about its setting...or maybe it hangs somewhere between down home porch and big city smokestack. I'm learning a lot about Harlem Renaissance art.

  9. I love Jasmine's sense of camaraderie; and what fun Janet, that Jasmine and friends are having a party!

    Irene I like the easy feeling of causul-catch-up conversation rolling back and forth in your poem. I knew and worked with Archibold Motley's son for a few years, when I was at the Chicago History Museum–his son Archie was an archivist there. Thanks!

  10. Hi Janet C/skanny17! I am delighted to see & taste your word creation *stardrops* & for the playful tea party idea as a way of inviting Moon over (down?) for fun & games. Also your process notes are groovy to follow.

    Irene & Michelle - connections with P.F. are cosmic. How neat that Michelle worked with Archibald Motley's son at the Chicago History Museum. And appreciations for this introduction to his art. And for your party poem. I love going from the Progressive Poem's stardrop party to this jazz street bash.

    Irene, it's just a hop & skip to Word of South, Saturday. I'll see you swinging there - can't wait!

  11. Glad you are ever a part of the Progressive Poem, Janet, and thanks for your fun line! (Midnight tea parties? Magic!)

    Irene, your "stickysweet peach pie/seasoned with street fumes" makes the perfect sultry summer dessert. I'll think of it as we're still in a bit of a cold snap over here!

  12. "feasting on stardrops" -- so much beauty! Lovelovelove!

  13. I want to dance now....and then to feast on a stardrop or two with an Owl and Jasmine and Moon. Just gorgeous. xx

  14. Stardrops... what a lovely, evocative word. Thank you Janet!


Your thoughts?