Friday, May 11, 2018

Identity Poem after THE CREATIVITY PROJECT, edited by Colby Sharp

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup for what's sure to be a delicious Roundup!

 I'm in this week with a look at THE CREATIVITY PROJECT, edited by Colby Sharp

If you haven't seen it yet, it's a book that's kind of like an inspiration game... one children's book writer or illustrator sending a prompt to another children's book writer or illustrator. I was particularly drawn to the illustrative parts. In fact, probably 
Lisa Brown's response
 my most favorite response is by Lisa Brown to this prompt by Laurel Snyder:
“Try to think of an abstract idea. For instance, you might choose “joy” or “hunger” or “stupidity.” Now imagine that abstraction as a character It can look like a person, an animal, or a creature of your own invention. Once you've got the character in your head, set it in motion. Make it DO something. “Joy” might ride a bicycle “Hunger” might go to the movies. “Stupidity” might dig a hole Tell me the story of what happens.

Javaka Steptoe's response
Another one I loved was also visual -- this one by Javaka Steptoe in response to this prompt by Kat Yeh:
“You have a brand new audio translation app on your phone. Just as you click on it for the first time, your dog starts barking. And words begin to appear on the screen...

The book also includes prompts in the back, though one could use any of the prompts (or responses) to generate new work. Here are a few examples of some of my favorite prompts included:

hummingbird frenzy
each whir of wings helps me feel
earthbound and dazzled

You have just met a girl named Hanrui. In Chinese, her name means “a bud just ready to bloom.”

Write a list of ten things you are NOT (not an astronaut, a perfectionist, a wool spinner, a butterfly, a name-caller). Then pick your favorite lines and develop, or embellish, them, adding metaphors, more description, whatever you like.

*Because I love "identity" writing prompts -- and am constantly looking for new ones since working with readers of CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? -- this is the one I decided to tackle right away!

Here's my quick list of nots:

not a veterinarian
not a complainer
not an athlete
not a procrastinator
not the mother of a daughter
not a party person
not a tv-watcher
not a camper
not a church-goer
not a social-media junkie
not a coffee drinker

And here's my poem:

scrapbook page from our tour
of an olive tree farm
in Napa Valley (2006)
My Name is Peace

No coffee for me;
I drink tea.

Not bubbly or bouncy;
I like to sit quietly.

No time for complaining –
I find it draining.

No procrastinating –
what's the point of waiting?

Not fragile or feathery;

more like a knotted olive tree.

- Irene Latham

Some notes about the poem: "Irene" actually means peace -- and of course the olive tree is a symbol of peace.
I struggled a while with a descriptor for the olive tree, and when I found "knotted" it felt like a miracle... another "not" for the poem!
It's interesting to me that I ended up starting my poem with the last item on my list. It makes me wonder what my poem might have been if I'd written 20 or 30 things on my list instead... how deep might I have gone into my identity? Something to try another day!

Won't you give it a try as well?


  1. You are amazing! This is fantastic!

  2. One more "not" for you: you are not one to shy away from a challenge. :) An interesting entryway into discovering who you are by exploring who you are not. I've been hoping to have a peek inside this book, so thanks for hearing my wishes, Irene. xo

  3. I have the book, need to delve into it a bit farther, Irene. You, and those examples, have inspired me. I love your "not" poem, love that it pushed into new discoveriers like the new "knot". Happy Mother's Day!

  4. I wasn't familiar with this book, thanks for sharing it Irene, looks like it's bubbling over with "Creativity!" Wonderful "not" poem, and fun to find out "Irene means peace." Have a Happy Mother's Day with perhaps a wee bit of fanfare too!

  5. What an interesting book -- hadn't heard about it. Love the responses you shared by Lisa Brown and Java Steptoe, and of course your own peace poem is just lovely. I didn't realize "Irene" means peace. Perfect!

  6. I love identity prompts too - I will have to try this one! This sounds like such a great book.

  7. Cool "not" poem, Irene! Now I'm wondering about if you had written 20-30 things! What would you have said...?

  8. Wow! So much creativity packed between the covers and in your post. I want to play! Your peace poem is just perfect.

  9. Wow! What an incredible poem....I love the Greek version of Irene ... Irini. This is such a rich post that I am going to have to dive into The Creativity Project which I just brought home from my school library. Thanks for the review and the inspiration. I love how your poem really shows but doesn't "tell" the title. I"m off to dabble. Although, my name means pretty in Spanish....and I've always had a uncomfortable relationship with that -- more so that I live in an area with a large Spanish speaking population. Maybe I can work out some of that awkwardness in a poem.

  10. Not only do I love your poem, I love how it tells me more about who you are. I can also use this whole process you have shared to inform my own writing. That's what Poetry Friday does for me, fills the well.

  11. I've been saving this book for summer - your post makes me want to reach for it now, Irene. What a wonderful poem you created!

  12. Such an amazingly rich post, Irene-- your book review, your poem and the side stories about it. And "knotted" is so perfect. Thank you for the inspiration.

  13. The Creativity Project arrived in my mailbox not long ago and now you have me even more eager to dive into it. I love your "not" poem and how it evolved. I'm going to have to try this as well. Thanks for sharing the inspiration!

  14. Love this poem!

    I've been curious about this book for a long while, but YOU are the one who sold it to me! Thanks!

    1. Well, lookie there! I had forgotten that you were my inspiration for today's poem!!

  15. Loving this post again! You inspire, again!

  16. The Creativity Project is a wonderful book of "creative" activities. I really like your not list poem and then your identity image poem. You revealed a little bit more about you that I did not know, Irene.

  17. And what a lovely person you are, Irene. Thank you for sharing from this book. I think I might find it useful as I enter my summer extra writing time season.

  18. I am so glad to learn of this book, and I want to try the NOT identity poem, too. Your poem is as lovely as you are!

  19. Fun to read through your post again Irene. I especially like the last 4 lines in "My Name is Peace:"
    "No procrastinating –
    what's the point of waiting?"
    (totally agree)

    "Not fragile or feathery;

    more like a knotted olive tree."
    (your both filled with peace)

    Thanks again, xo

  20. Must use this book this summer.

  21. I love this poem and appreciate your sharing it's beginnings. I especially appreciate your sharing this prompt here today. I have a rowdy group of grade 6 and 7's. I always looking for activities to engage them. I might try these I am not poems with them.
    I've just ordered The Creativity Project. I anticipate learning so much from it.

  22. I've got to order Colby's book. I've been meaning to. Carpe diem! xx Christie @

  23. I don't know how I missed The Creativity Project when it first arrived on the scene, but I'll be remedying that. :) Love your NOT poem.

  24. Fabulous poem...and thanks for the reminder to purchase this book, Irene!

  25. Yes! dear Irene. Peace is you. Your poem is exquisite. I love "knotted." So interesting that NSN's "not" prompt, which at first sounds like school-hall negative talk (I'm not a good speller, I'm not a good reader...) can actually be path to feeling bouyant & full of verve. As luck would have it, I'm off to listen & share at a Young Author's Conference here today & I'm going to carry all this with me. Appreciations!


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