Friday, January 31, 2020

The Other Side of Red

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Jone for Roundup.

Please be on the lookout for my newest poetry book with Charles Waters, DICTIONARY FOR A BETTER WORLD: Poems, Quotes and Anecdotes, which releases next Tuesday (Feb. 4)! If you'd like a chance to win a copy, be sure to subscribe to my "Adventures in Ink" newsletter (button on the left of this post!). I'll be publishing an issue on release day that will include a giveaway opportunity. :)

So, all the "red" poems so far have been happy-red... but red isn't all roses and cherries! In fact, I just read the poem "Phobia of Red" by Sharon Olds, in her new (beautiful) book ARIAS. Check it out!

Red has a dark side, for sure. My goal for this project is to explore all the sides of red, and hopefully discover things I haven't even thought of yet. :) Today's piece is one I found on Google Arts and Culture. Enjoy!

Because a Church is Its People

still, children

even as sanctuary
mothers shiver

in streets lit
by the red-wet
              of hate

- Irene Latham

Friday, January 24, 2020

May Your Days Be Forever Red

me, Charles and Kat (at #NCTE2019)
Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit lovely Kat at Kat's Whiskers for Roundup.

It's been a wintry week here in Alabama, but we've still managed to get out for our daily walks. I've been chipping away at my wip, and it's such slow-going... but yes, some rewarding moments along the way! I (finally) got the sewing machine out and accomplished a stack of mending... and I am working a new piece on my cello. Life is good!

Today I have for you another ArtSpeak: Red poem. This one's inspired by "Miss Mary Edwards" by William Hogarth. I do have a Miss Mary in my life -- though she is nothing like the Miss Mary pictured here! Do you know anyone who enjoys a "crimson life" like the person portrayed in the poem?

Miss Mary's Crimson Life

Mornings, a field
of poppies

Noon, a crush
of cranberries

as strawberry jam

Evenings, a dream
of cherries.

- Irene Latham

... and now that I'm looking again at the poem, I think I've got an alternate title to use if I pull this poem away from the art: "May Your Days Be Forever Red." (changing the subject heading now!)

Friday, January 17, 2020

Eat this (Apple) Poem!

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit for Catherine at Reading to the Core for Roundup. In this addition of ArtSpeak: Red, I write after another piece by Vincent van Gogh. (I've written more poems after van Gogh pieces than any other single artist.) And it took me to apple harvest time, which is NOT in January! So... hello, September!


her cheeks apple-sweet,
round as morning

the world red with joy
borne of rain, dirt, sun

life perfumed, glossy –
go ahead, take a bite

- Irene Latham

Friday, January 10, 2020

Elizabeth Bishop: Poet AND Artist

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Sally Murphy for Roundup. (Shout-out to all our Aussie poet-friends... keeping you in our hearts in the face of those devastating fires.)

This has been a whirlwind of a week for me... I've been sick (Paul, too -- no fun), but a few wonderful things have been happening in my writing life, and I'm so grateful to be able to share them with you:

1. I turned in the final draft of THIS POEM IS A NEST, a collection of one big (nest) poem and 160 (!) (short) poems found inside coming from Wordsong later this year. Now it's with the copyeditor, and also with illustrator Johanna Wright, who will no doubt make it even more magical!

2. Charles Waters and I were interviewed by Time for Kids magazine for a feature they are doing that will include our book DICTIONARY FOR A BETTER WORLD with illustrations by Mehrdokht Amini (coming in just 3 1/2 weeks from Lerner!).

3. Amy Huntington, amazing illustrator for my NINE: A BOOK OF NONETS stopped by to answer some prompts and share some sneak peek illustrations from the book (coming from Charlesbridge 6-9-2020). (Yes! Nine is my favorite number!)

4. THE CAT MAN OF ALEPPO, my book with Karim Shamsi-Basha and Yuko Shimizu (coming from Penguin 4-14-2020) got its first review, and it's a STAR from Kirkus (Hooray!):  “Based on a true story, this picture book is distinctive for its engaging narrative and impeccable illustrations . . . A beautifully told and illustrated story that offers a unique perspective on both war and humanity.” –Kirkusstarred review

5. My latest book deal with Charles Waters was announced!

... and in my personal life, Paul and I have just booked a trip for next month to Phoenix-Scottsdale-Sedona-Grand Canyon. The desert, in winter! (Surely we will be feeling better by then!)

So. What does this all have to do with Poetry Friday and Elizabeth Bishop? Everything! I have long admired Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art," but I did not know until last week when I made my plea for "red" art that she was also an artist. Thank you, Jan Annino! And that got me thinking about those in our community who identify as poets AND artists, of which there are several! So this week's ARTSPEAK! Red poem is after Elizabeth Bishop's painting "Red Flowers on Black." (The flower is called "devil's paintbrush.")

Devil in the Night

Devil paints with a red paintbrush –
says, hurry hurry rush rush rush

Devil sings a shrill high note
says, give up, give in, there is no hope!

But Night knows all we have is time –
slow and steady is how the moon climbs.

Night breathes. . . hear the hush?
Night paints with a faith-filled brush.

- Irene Latham

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Brought to you by the Number NINE -- and children's book illustrator Amy Huntington

Happy January 9! What's special about today? Well, it's the first 9 of the new year... and this year 9 is my favorite favorite number!
Why, you ask? Well... because of the new book I have coming June 9, 2020 from Charlesbridge called NINE: A BOOK OF NONET POEMS with illustrations by Amy Huntington.

Friends: these illustrations are extra-special because they tell a story. Yes, Amy added a whole amazing narrative to my collection of poems! I'm so grateful to Amy and to our ultra-creative editor Karen Boss for turning my collection of poems into a 9-inch x 9-inch (yes, even the book's trim size celebrates the number 9!) Number Nine Extravaganza!

To introduce the book, I've invited Amy Huntington to respond to a few of my favorite prompts. You may know Amy's work from some of her other projects, like one of my favorites: Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Farmers Market (words by Michelle Schaub) Charlesbridge, 2017. Also coming in 2020, Monsters Like Us (Beaming Books). And more books are in the pipeline... Amy is a busy creator! Which makes me especially grateful she's here today. Friends, please welcome children's book illustrator Amy Huntington!

The difficult:

sketch of girl
that became Tisa
in NINE: A Book
of Nonets
AH: Toward the end of 2018, I received a batch of gorgeous poems from Charlesbridge Publishing. Irene’s “nonet” poems. Each one different from the next, but all connected by one thing, a numeral, a digit - the number “nine.” My job as the illustrator was to weave a story through the collection…with pictures. Whaaaat? How was I going to do this? From the poem about a cat’s nine lives, the ninth president, Apollo 9, the Little Rock Nine, to a nine-banded armadillo? Eighteen in all. But ha ha! I love a challenge!

I began as I always do…with some characters. This little girl I had developed for an earlier project but never used. She was pinned above my drawing table, asking to be considered. (It looks like she is holding a loaf of bread here. Nope, it’s supposed to be a rock, but that’s another story.)

The delicious:

AH: My girl needed a friend, and she soon had one. So then it became a game of introducing each poem through the characters day, and fiddling with the chronology of poems to reflect that passage of time. Because I love to use animals, the cat and armadillo are featured characters as well. Who doesn’t love an armadillo!

art by Amy  Huntington

And now that I have a cast of characters, what medium(s) should I use for the final art? In this case I chose gouache, colored pencil and a bit of digital. I love playing around with paints, collage, drawing etc, until I find the perfect combination for the final art. The process is always delicious! This is one of my favorite spreads. Each character was painted separately and plunked onto the field with Photoshop.

art from "Play Ball!" spread

The unexpected:

AH: There are always some spreads that I know will demand a bit more thought/research/planning. I was sort of putting off doing “Beethoven’s Ninth”. It’s not just a simple quartet. There are LOTS of musicians. But I love how this painting turned out!

art from "Beethoven's Ninth" spread

Something else unexpected? I got to do endpapers!!!

endpaper art by Amy Huntington

Thank you Irene for giving me this rich assortment of beautiful nonets to illustrate!

Thank you, Amy, for making this book a beautiful love song to the number 9, and the age 9 and all the many (many!) fun sets of nine found on every spread. Mwah!

Monday, January 6, 2020

3 Words for #CYBILS Elementary Nonfiction Finalists

I'm delighted to be serving this year as a CYBILS judge in the Elementary and Middle Grade Nonfiction categories... and oh what lovely finalists the panel has selected! Today I offer you 3 words (that are not included in the book's title) that come to my mind after reading most of the Elementary category finalists. (One title I haven't yet received... more on this one as soon as I've seen it!) Meanwhile, read these titles! You'll be glad you did.

Don't know yet. :)

Ice. Journey. Hope.

Accurate. Accessible. Birth.

Change. Light. Hope.

Surprises. Analogies. Variety.

Danger. Heroes. Bravery.

Sax. Bebop. Passion.

Friday, January 3, 2020

A Red Poem to Start the New Year

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Carol's Corner for Roundup.

This year I am showering myself with compassion. One concrete way I am doing this is by transforming my annual National Poetry Month  ARTSPEAK! project from a poem-a-day activity during April to a weekly installment on the blog. Today mark's the first poem! As you can see, I selected "red" as my theme. That evolved out of my choice of "red" as my One Little Word for 2020. Read more about why I chose "red" in this post. I'm curious to know your thoughts and impressions about the color red, and also if you have any favorite art pieces that feature red (and after which I might possible write poems!). Please share in comments!

And now, here's a red poem, inspired by the badge art for the series: "L'Atelier"(the studio) by Henri Matisse. I immediately thought: that's what it must look like inside my brain!

A Dream of Red

Inside my head
the walls are red –

paint drips, slips.

Projects unravel
for lack of thread.

Much remains

Yet poems float
in this sea of red –

here I do what I want.

I build a boat,
mend a coat.

I spread red on toast
and eat it in bed.

(Strawberry dreams

The walls are red
inside my head.

- Irene Latham

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

One Little Word for 2020

Happy 2020! For the past dozen years, I have selected One Little Word to serve as my guide and inspiration for the year. Here's a list of words so far:

2008 joy
2016 delight 
2017 abundance
2018 behold
2019 happy

... and for 2020 I've selected

Why red?

I'm not entirely sure! (I've always been a "purple" girl.) I hope to discover the whys during this year of "red."

Here's what I've learned so far:

Red is an emotionally intense color, and it has many broad, contradictory meanings --- anger, fear, birth, passion, energy, love, danger, violence, aggression, ambition, determination, confidence, humanity, death... it's complicated!

Red is attention-getting, which is why it's the color of fire trucks and stop signs.

Hester Prynne wore a red letter A on her chest.

Editors use red pencils/ink.

Tiger Woods always wears a red shirt on Sundays.

Red fruits like strawberry, watermelon, tomato are favorites of mine. Here's a list of 273 things in nature that are red.

Ryan Hodnett [CC BY-SA 4.0
Who doesn't love a (male) cardinal? (I love the females, too, of course -- see this mama cardinal poem!)

Red letter days are the best days.

When we were expecting our second child, we painted his room red on the bottom and yellow on the top with a cute transportation-themed wallpaper border in between. A few months into his life I read an article that suggested red bedroom walls might increase violence and anger in children, so we promptly repainted his room blue!

January's birthstone garnet is red.

An introvert, I generally stay away from red in clothing, but I've noticed it creeping into my wardrobe more often in recent years.

In Russia, the word "red" means "beautiful."

In Asia, red symbolizes good luck.

In North American stock markets, red means a drop in value.

... so who knows where red will take me this year??

To read about others' selections for their One Little Word, be sure to visit Margaret at Reflections on the Teche for Spiritual Journey Thursday roundup!