Thursday, April 30, 2020

ArtSpeak: RED "Watermelon Time" after The Watermelons by Diego Rivera

Hello on this last day of National Poetry Month! I'm giving this poem it's own post because it was a bugger to write. You can view all the poems in the ArtSpeak: Red series (so far) on padlet
For this poem, I typed pages and pages of watermelon ideas -- only to discard them. It's hard to write about something so familiar and bring something fresh to a poem... and then I remembered one of Charles Water's poems about peanut butter that the kids adore. It uses rhyme, and so I decided I could do that, too, and at least make watermelon FUN (because it is!).

 So there you go. My only concern is: will kids know what "champagne" is? I don't know!

Here it is again, not tied to the image:

Watermelon Time

Honey, grab a watermelon.
Baby, pick a big one!
Now let's crack it open –
we'll feast on juicy sun.

Honey, is your belly full?
Baby, did you taste sweet rain?
Watermelon, o watermelon!
Summer's own champagne.

- Irene Latham

Friday, April 24, 2020

FOLLOW THE RECIPE: Poems about Imagination, Celebration, and Cake by Marilyn Singer

words by Marilyn Singer,
art by Marjorie Priceman
Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Christie at Wondering and Wandering for Roundup. Is it really the last Poetry Friday of National Poetry Month? How did this happen? Sigh.

I'm delighted today to welcome Marilyn Singer to Live Your Poem to talk about her (delicious!) new book.  As is my tradition for author interviews, I've provided Marilyn with four simple prompts. Take it away, Marilyn!

The delicious:

MS: As you might guess, a book entitled Follow the Recipe: Poems about Imagination, Celebration, and Cake (Dial, 2020) was inspired by the delicious. My husband, Steve Aronson, and I were in a restaurant in Howard Beach, NY. We’d just had a delightful time birdwatching at Jamaica Bay, and we were ready for a good meal. At an Italian restaurant, we ordered a dish we’d never had before—pasta e piselli, a simple and yummy combination of pasta and peas. While we were eating, an interesting idea struck me. I said to Steve, “Hmm, I wonder if a book of poems about recipes would work? Not just food recipes, but other kinds of recipes?” Steve knows that such ideas are dangerous—once they take hold, I can’t stop myself from doing something with them. That one took hold fast! The first poem I wrote was “recipe for patience” and it is about shelling peas.

At yet another delicious lunch, I mentioned the concept to my editor, Lucia Monfried, and she loved it. I wrote a bunch more poems and she accepted the manuscript. But she wanted more poems…which perhaps leads to the difficult…

The difficult:

MS: I’d already written a lot of poems and I wasn’t sure I had it in me to write more—and, I mean, like six or so more. But after some relaxation and refreshment (some of Steve’s good cooking—he’s the main chef in our house), I did write more. All of the poems in the book include mentions of food, sometimes metaphorically. Lucia suggested that they go from concrete to more abstract. So they start with “recipe for a good recipe” through poems such as “recipe for a poem” and end with “recipe for celebration.”
One of the poems is a reverso, a form I created for Mirror Mirror (Dutton, 2010), illustrated by Josée Masse. It’s a poem with two halves. You read the first half down, then the same lines in reverse order, with changes only in punctuation and capitalization, and each half says something different. In Follow the Recipe, my reverso is a recipe for science.

Another difficult thing was finding the right illustrator for the book. It definitely took a while. But then Lucia suggested Marjorie Priceman, and I was thrilled. I love her work and I love what she did with our book. She used collages to make it seem like an old beloved book of recipes, perhaps one passed down among generations. I think it’s fabulous!

It also took us a while to come up with the title—and it usually does. LOL!
More Marilyn responses below! But first... please enjoy this poem from the book (posted with permission from the publisher):
words by Marilyn Singer, art by Marjorie Priceman
Recipe for Endurance

Think of a time before blenders and mixers,
electric fixers.

Think of a time before microwaves, stoves,
when their wasn't sliced bread, only freshly baked loaves.

Keep stirring the pot.

Picture the chance to strengthen a limb
without going to Gym.

Think of porridge or pudding or maybe risotto
back in the day and use this as your motto.

Lots of things change. Some do not.
Think of endurance - you still need it a lot.
And keep stirring the pot.

- Marilyn Singer
The unexpected:

MS: I think pretty much any idea for a book is unexpected. It’s one of the surprises of being a writer. Some ideas don’t turn into full manuscripts. Some manuscripts don’t turn into books. When they do, it’s definitely an unexpected delight. And if they actually sell a lot of copies, that’s really unexpected. Heh.

Anything else:

MS: I hope people will enjoy the book and perhaps try writing their own recipe poems on a variety of topics. I also hope everyone will enjoy some cake—as well as sharing it together, in the near future.

Thank you, Marilyn, for visiting today!

Readers, please check out this book. And maybe write a recipe poem??? That's what I did. :) It was inspired by a friend who sent me a (Montana) sunset poem earlier this week to cheer me up on after a sad day. So much thoughtfulness in the world right now... I'm so so grateful. Truly, it's been tough. We'll get through it... we will, we will!

Recipe for a Sunset

and more sky

or beach


a hand to hold
maybe a dog

all the colors

a place
to be still

to lean
into the world


- Irene Latham

Friday, April 17, 2020

"Everyday" Poem

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone for Roundup. 

Sometimes the thing that gets me through difficult times is simply sticking to the routine: writing in the morning, talking walks with husband and dog, practicing my cello. I guess that's what was on my mind when I selected this week's art and wrote my latest ArtSpeak! RED poem. Enjoy!


River sloshes
over washerwomen's feet

as they beat the clothes
to make them clean.

Meanwhile buzzards wade
pick, wait –

neither complains
on these watercolor mornings

as the river sings.

- Irene Latham

Friday, April 10, 2020

A Poem for When the Wind Blows

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Amy at The Poem Farm for Roundup.

It's been a weird week for me... some tough moments, and some good ones, too. Can you relate?? Any time we get out on the lake is what seems to be the best medicine for me right now. I'm so grateful to have that available to help see me through this time... and I wish I could ship it out to all of you!

Be sure to see my post from yesterday about some unexpected good news about NINE: A BOOK OF NONET POEMS. :)

And I have a new ArtSpeak: RED poem to share with you.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

999 Copies of NINE: A BOOK OF NONET POEMS on the Wall

Hello and happy April 9! A few months ago Amy Huntington, illustrator of NINE: A Book of Nonet Poems (and other books), suggested we celebrate NINE on the 9th of each month leading up to the book's release June 9, 2020. And so we have! And it's bee great!

Well. This week we were informed that due to issues related to COVID19, the book's on sale date was moved up... and it's already available for sale! In April! For National Poetry Month! Two months early!

Hard to complain about a book coming early, right?? So anyway, no reviews have been posted yet... and I haven't been able to execute any of the plans I envisioned for NINE's release... 

Maybe later? Maybe never? I don't know! 

Right now I'm just going to share another spread from the book so you can get to know it a bit better. Meet my new animal friend:

Nine-Banded Armadillo

This creature wears nine belts but no pants.
No socks ride its leathery legs
yet it sports an armored coat.
It dances by moonlight
and feasts on termites, 
claws click-clicking,
snout snuffling
in worm

- Irene Latham

And here is a picture of an armadillo I met last year (7-banded, not 9-banded). Check out those claws!!

Let's call her "Josephine," shall we?
(It has 9 letters. :)

Friday, April 3, 2020

A HATFUL OF DRAGONS... and a Dash of Hope

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Heidi at my juicy little universe for Roundup.

Also, check out the roundup of National Poetry Month goodness at Jama's Alphabet Soup. As always, there's a ton of creativity going on in this community of poets... take that covid-19!

Today it is my pleasure to welcome Vikram Madan to respond to three simple prompts as they relate to his brand-new book A HATFUL OF DRAGONS, from Boyds Mills and Kane, which he both wrote and illustrated. Vikram and I were to be on the Poetry Roundup panel together at Texas Library Association, and I am so sorry that didn't happen! But it makes me extra-glad to have him for a visit here, at Live Your Poem. Take it away, Vikram!

The delicious:

VM: Although ‘A Hatful of Dragons’ is primarily a book of funny poems, the illustrations accompanying the poems are vital to the humor. I am a visual person (my ‘day job’ is ‘visual artist’!) and I often conceive of poems as a visual whole - with words and images intertwining and playing off each other. When Rebecca Davis, my editor, distilled my raw manuscript into a more defined collection, she was drawn to the handful of poems that had linkages to each other. As we refined the book further, I found this a delicious area to explore: could I find ways to visually cross-connect the poems in unexpected ways, so as to enhance both the humor and the reading experience? I hope that attentive readers will have a delightful time discovering how recurring characters and visual narratives cross-connect the poems. (For example, can you find the characters from Page 56 on Page 38?)

The difficult:

VM: I initially thought illustrating the book would be a breeze – just a matter of turning rough sketches into finished art. Boy was I wrong!
My first set of illustrations ended up ‘too tight’ – I had the art-equivalent of stage-fright (this being my first traditionally published book) and overthought everything, making the resulting artwork look rigid and lifeless. It took gentle prodding from my editors to help me loosen up and breathe life into the drawings.

Many times my art just had to ‘grow up’ to meet the ‘high expectations’. Other times I found myself iterating on possibilities trying to find the right look. For example here are eight (spot-the-differences!) layouts I created for the back cover (all of which were eventually rejected for being ‘too busy’):

In general I ended up working on the art far more than I expected to. That said, it was a fabulous learning experience and my editors were wonderfully patient as I found my way.

The unexpected:

VM: When I am writing rhyming poetry, I focus a lot on rhythm, rhyme, beat, scansion, and syllable count. What I did not expect at all was that the poems in the book would end up being copy-edited. And the copy editors would (rightly) suggest corrections to my (colloquial) punctuation, grammar, word and phrase usage, etc. Some of the requested changes threw a wrench (or more accurately, an unwanted syllable or two) into my carefully constructed stanzas and I had to go back to redo parts of some poems. In the process I had to grudgingly accept that, as writers for kids who are just learning to read, we have a responsibility to demonstrate the correct use of language, and hold ourselves to the higher standard, even if it makes our own jobs a little harder.

Anything else:

VM: I’ve been amazed at my editors’ attention to detail. For example, my illustration for a poem titled ‘Time Machine’ had a subtle reference to the movie ‘Back To The Future’. I didn’t think anyone would notice it – but sure enough my editors spotted the ‘anomaly’! With their blessing that ‘easter-egg’ is still in the book – look for it on page 48! :)

***YAY! I found the Back to The Future 'easter-egg.' :) Also, you can hear Vikram reading poems from the book in this video.
... and now for the latest installment of ArtSpeak: RED (my National Poetry Month project extended across the entire year!) ... I had hoped Vikram's book would inspire me to write something light, but that's not what happened. Sigh.

In the Midst of It All

yes, the hills
are burning

lake bleeds
into sky

birds wing away –
why? why? why?

still –
sun calls,
enfolds us
in her cloak –

no more you
no more me


- Irene Latham

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Thursday, April 2, 2020

(Choose Your Own) Progressive Poem is Here!

Hello and welcome to day 2 of this year's Progressive Poem! It's nice to continue this tradition in the midst of COVID19, isn't it?
So many thanks to Margaret for getting us organized and to Donna for getting us started!
In case you missed it, Donna surprised us all by going all Choose-Your-Own-Poem-Adventure and offering a choice of first lines:

"I feel the taste of green upon my toes, my toes"


"Sweet violets shimmy, daffodils sway"

Hmmm... I could imagine possibilities using either option, but ultimately I couldn't resist the language, color and movement in line 2! And since I enjoyed choosing so much, I decided I'd like to offer that option to Jone as well. So, here are your choices, Jone:

Sweet violets shimmy, daffodils sway

as warm rain sprinkles my face
along the wiregrass path to the lake

Can't wait to see what you decide... and where it takes us the rest of the month. Happy National Poetry Month to all! xo

1 Donna Smith at Mainely Write
2 Irene Latham at Live Your Poem
3 Jone MacCulloch, deowriter
Liz Steinglass
Buffy Silverman
6 Kay McGriff at
7 Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
8 Tara Smith at Going to Walden
9 Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link
10 Matt Forrest Esenwine at Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme
11 Janet Fagel, hosted at Reflections on the Teche
12 Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
13 Kat Apel at Kat Whiskers
14 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
15 Leigh Anne Eck at A Day in the Life
16 Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
17 Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe
18 Mary Lee Hahn at A Year of Reading
19 Tabatha at Opposite of Indifference
20 Rose Cappelli at Imagine the Possibilities
21 Janice Scully at Salt City Verse
22 Julieanne Harmatz at To Read, To Write, To Be
23 Ruth,
24 Christie Wyman at Wondering and Wandering
25 Amy at The Poem Farm
26 Dani Burtsfield at Doing the Work That Matters
27 Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge
29 Fran Haley at lit bits and pieces
30 Michelle Kogan