Friday, May 29, 2020

ArtSpeak: RED "The Truth Is" poem by Irene Latham

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Mary Lee at A Year of Reading for Roundup.

4 Things That Have Brought Me Joy This Week:
1. My library opened back up! I'll be heading over there later today  to pick up a nice stack of books on hold for me.
2. I made some parmesan mushroom risotto that was pretty darn awesome.
3. We walked in a warm, gentle rain several days in a row.
4. I got some unexpected happy-making mail. :)

And now here is the latest ArtSpeak: RED poem. Enjoy!

The Truth Is

a girl can wear flowers
and still know sorrow

the wind can scatter sorrow
and still push a sail

a sail can bloom crisp, white
and still harbor regret

regret can steal hours, days, years
and still the sun rises red

- Irene Latham

Friday, May 22, 2020

Getting Inside Out with Marjorie Maddox (and a summer RED poem, too)

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink for Roundup.

I'm neck-deep in revision with Charles Waters on our historical verse novel coming in 2022, but I did manage to squeak out another ArtSpeak: RED poem for you... and I'm delighted to welcome Marjorie Maddox to Live Your Poem, to share about her book Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises.

This book is full of inspiration, and fun stuff to add to your poetry arsenal... Welcome, Marjorie!

The delicious:

MM: Poetry and play, poetry and prompts—it’s all delicious, isn’t it? In Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises, we begin by stepping inside the poem and using every one of our senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. A heaping plate of ideas for tweens, teens, teachers, parents, and poets of any age, Inside Out invites you to play and ponder using poetry’s most scrumptious ingredients.

Here’s one to get both your taste buds and your thinking cap tingling!

How to Taste a Poem

The table’s well set, but please
come as you are. No need for white gloves
or black tuxedos. Pass the appetizer plate
to your left and try a lightly fried haiku
or lemon-peppered limerick. Nibble away
as you would a jumbo shrimp stuffed with oxymorons.
For an entrée, may we suggest a well-done ode
or an Italian sonnet smothered with marinara sauce?
Now, sit back and savor the syllables
until your taste buds plump with flavor,
but leave room for dessert—
aged alliteration topped with assonance and consonance:
a sugary smorgasbord of simply scrumptious sounds.

- Marjorie Maddox

Follow this up with a linked writing exercise, and get ready to create your own mouth-watering poems. Or stinky-smelling poems. Or itchy-scratchy feeling poems.

If you’re ready for sounds and more sounds, give this one a try:

Alliteration Acrostic

Always repeat the initial sound.
Listen to what the letters say, then
Let your ears do the talking.
If sound and sense dance, dance with them.
Turn up the volume,
Enter into the rhythm,
Relish the repetitions.
Answer S with S,
T with T,
Increasing your skill with patient practice.
Only avoid the often annoying avenue of
Not adding additional apt alliterative and assonant options to an acrostic.

- Marjorie Maddox

Or this one:


Bash, crash, smash—
Onomatopoeia makes his splash of sound
with each squishy step or booming pound
Margie with Gizmo
of movement. He moans, hisses, murmurs, swishes
his way across the poem.

Boisterous, he usually forgets to whisper.
Instead, he shakes, rattles, and rolls his bellowing voice
until each letter shivers with anticipation
at what soon will be darting, soaring, or swooping
noisily toward the ear.

- Marjorie Maddox

There’s plenty to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch inside Inside Out. Come on in!

The difficult:

MM: But maybe you’re someone who only feels so-so about poetry. Maybe you even HATE IT! That’s Ok. This book is ALSO for you, maybe even especially so! Why, you ask?

After more than thirty years of teaching poetry at the university, secondary, and primary levels, I’ve got a few things to say about that. In fact, that’s one of the big reasons I wrote Inside Out! For one, poetry shouldn’t be about finding some secret key to unlock some hidden meaning—especially for young or new writers. It should be fun, plain and simple.

And it should be exciting. And challenging, but in a way that motivates you to climb faster and higher, to get the best-ever possible view—or, alternatively, in a way that inspires you to slow down, stare a while longer at the world around (or within) you.

Talk about invigorating! Inside the poem, there’s a lot to see and discover. Don’t be afraid to get up close and personal. As I say in “How to Touch a Poem,” “This is a hands-on operation—/the more fingerprints, the better.”

What else? Inside Out makes easy what some might label “difficult”— iambic pentameter, sonnets, villanelles, clerihews, triolets, sestinas, and more. Don’t let these formal sounding words scare you off! Stripped of their fancy names, they’re just word puzzles and silly riddles. They’re more ways for you and your friends to have fun! Here’s what I mean.

Getting Ready with Iambic

Iambic likes to clack un-stressed, then stressed.
He taps it like a drum when he gets dressed.
He chomps it when he eats his toast and jam,
then struts to class like he’s a marching band.
To walk with him you need to keep his beat.
Five times unstressed, then stressed equals five feet.
Get ready for a marching metered day—
Pentameter’s his favorite game to play.

- Marjorie Maddox

So if marching to iambic, texting a triolet, or fishing with sestinas, sounds like fun, you’re right. They are!

The unexpected:

MM: Sometimes when you throw out that fishing line of words, you catch a whole lot of unexpected ideas! As I say in “Fishing with Sestinas”

...Let’s dream
this water together, this lake of dreams
brimming full of rainbow, rhyming fish/
that glitter as they leap...

To me, one of the greatest joys of writing is what you discover along the way. Inside Out is a way to share that joy with you. To help in the discovery process, I’ve included 9 interactive exercises that you can do on your own or with others. It’s a bag of word tricks to get you rocking, writing, and, of course, discovering the unexpected. Can’t wait to see how you’ll surprise yourself with some new-found poetic acrobatics!

Anything else:

MM: I write poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and children’s literature. My first poem was published in Campfire Girl Magazine when I was eight, and I am the great grandniece of Branch Rickey, the General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who helped break the color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson to Major League Baseball. I am a university professor, who gives workshops and readings around the country, including at elementary, middle, and high schools. I have published over seventeen books, including 4 for children or teens. 

Some additional links of interest:

Sylvia Vardell's Poetry for Children blog
Jama's Alphabet Soup

Thank you, Marjorie, for livening up this post with your enthusiasm for poetry! I know many will enjoy this new book.

And now... my latest ArtSpeak: RED poem, after "Castle and Sun" by Paul Klee. I guess I've got summer on my mind... wishing everyone a beautiful first-weekend-of-summer Memorial Day!

Geometry of Summer

each day
a red circle

each night
safe inside a square

each dream
a triangle reaching for rain

- Irene Latham

Friday, May 15, 2020

Call Me Zinnia (red) poem

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

I've had a busy week, but I do have a new ArtSpeak:RED poem to share with you. This one inspired by a Mary Cassatt painting. I just knew this girl had a story to tell... enjoy!

Call Me Zinnia

If you must
compare me
to a flower,
make it
a summer-
loving zinnia.
I may not
sport bright
but I am
I won't wilt
in the heat.
Go ahead,
call me
and watch
my smile

- Irene Latham

... and now dear Poetry Friday friends, what flower would YOU prefer to be compared to?

Me? I'd say "violet," but that's probably because I'm a February girl... but there's a lot of meaning there to love.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

A Trio of Short Haircut Poems

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Michelle at Today's Little Ditty for what's sure to be a wonderful Roundup. And to all the moms, stepmoms, grandmoms, honorary moms, fur-baby moms, garden moms, whatever-moms... thank you for the love you give the world!

Before I get to today's ArtSpeak: RED poems, I want to invite you to a Facebook Live Book Launch happening tomorrow 1:00 pm at Alabama Booksmith, a wonderful indie bookstore in Birmingham that specializes in signed first editions. Both Karim Shamsi-Basha and I will be there signing books, and we'd love to sign one for YOU! Plus you can support a great bookseller during this difficult time. Win-win!

AND... yesterday I posted a video of me reading "Cloud Nine" from NINE... and it includes a shout-out to my 3rd grade teacher Jo Ellen Fattig (Lewis Elementary, Ft. Meade, FL), whose name appears in the book, and whom I would love to locate!

So... thanks to the pandemic, folks everywhere have been experimenting with home haircuts. There's a lot of trust involved in cutting someone's hair and in allowing someone to cut your hair, isn't there? And there are quite a few haircut poems in the world, which made this a bit of a bugger to write about... but I was determined to write in response to this piece of art, which I first found on Tabatha's blog. Thanks, Tab! (As much as I love that red kerchief, it didn't make its way into any of my poems.)


Scary Haircut

Comb has teeth,
scissors have fangs --
Mama uses both
when she cuts my bangs.

Bad Haircut

A little nip here
A snip-snip there
A comb and a brush
and a shave and a shear –
wait – where's my hair?

Puppy Cut

Sometimes while Sugar is sleeping
I comb and scissor, brush and fluff –
shhhhhh... it's a secret I'm keeping.

- Irene Latham

Friday, May 1, 2020

SECRETS OF THE LOON by Laura Purdie Salas and Chuck Dayton

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Liz at Elizabeth Steinglass and visit for Roundup. 

I can't believe it's May! Be sure to see my latest ArtSpeak: RED (watermelon!) poem from yesterday.

Today I'm excited to share with you the latest by Laura Purdie Salas... and to welcome her to Live Your Poem to respond to a few prompts below. 

You just never know what Laura's going to come up with next, and I love this new book so much. Laura accomplishes A LOT with this text... you will be inspired by the joyful, informative wordsmithery, and the photographs by Chuck Dayton are lovely. And lucky us: we're all invited to the Launch Party! It will be on Facebook, May 4 at 3 pm CST and will feature Laura doing a readaloud, backstory from Chuck, Q and A, and giveaways of 3 signed copies. I totally plan to be there! Click here for more information. 

Meanwhile, here's the description from the publisher: 

Vivid depictions in words and photos illuminate the mysterious world of loons, viewed through the lens of a chick learning how to survive— and thrive—in her first year.

Below white pines, at water’s edge, in guarded nest of mud and sedge, squeezed inside an olive egg, bill meets wing meets folded leg.
With these few words, the scene is set for the hatching of Moon Loon. During her first summer with her parents and brother in the northland, Moon Loon has a lot to learn. Mom and Dad teach essential lessons, like how to catch and eat fish, how to avoid becoming a snack for snapping turtles, and what songs to sing and when. Moon Loon also discovers her secret skills, like how to float, how to dive, and— eventually—how to fly.

Laura with editor Shannon Pennefeather
Laura Purdie Salas’s poetic recounting of a loon’s adventurous first summer celebrates the piney northern landscape and features the gradual development and occasional drama that fills Moon Loon’s days. Supplementary back matter by Chuck Dayton highlights fascinating details of loon biology and ecology, gleaned from expert sources as well as observation. Dayton spent five summers photographing loons from his kayak on a northern Minnesota lake, capturing key moments in the lives of these iconic birds.

Combining imaginative language and striking photography, Secrets of the Loon introduces readers to the sights, sounds, and survival strategies of Minnesota’s state bird.

Laura Purdie Salas
 has written more than 130 books for kids, including Animal Babies and Their FamiliesWater Can Be . . . ; and Snowman – Cold = Puddle: Spring Equations.

As an environmental lawyer, Chuck Dayton protected the landscapes and animals he now observes, camera in hand.

Available May 2020 from the Minnesota Historical Society Press

And now, please welcome Laura!

The delicious: Listening to loon calls as I worked on the book. I would periodically pop over to the Loon Preservation Committee for a quick audio of loon calls. Other times I would play YouTube videos of loon calls softly in the background on a loop. That wild, eerie cry just instantly takes me to the Northwoods.

The difficult: I was invited into this book collaboration in February of 2019, and because of the fast timeline to publication, I did most of my drafting in the spring. There were no loons yet in Minnesota, as they don’t usually arrive until May, so I didn’t get to go see loons in person while I was writing.
an interior spread from SECRETS OF THE LOON

The unexpected: This was hard! I’ve written lots of books that are a publisher’s idea and that I write to their specific guidelines. Those are for educational publishers. This project was sort of similar. Shannon Pennefeather, the wonderful Minnesota Historical Society Press Managing Editor, came to me with the photos and idea from Chuck Dayton (he also wrote the backmatter). I had freedom to choose the tone and style (prose, rhyming, poetry collection?) I thought would work best. I was surprised at the unexpected pressure I felt. It was oddly smack-dab between the “assignment” of writing for educational publishers, where I know exactly what is expected of me, and the freedom of my passion writing, where I write the books I love and hope a publisher will publish them. With Secrets of the Loon, I was hoping to please the eventual reader, of course, but also Shannon and Chuck. Talk about nerve-wracking! (I tried four different approaches: straight prose, rhyming, a haiku collection, and diary entries.) Also, writing a narrative to fit both existing photographs AND the scientific timeline of loon development was much more challenging than I expected. A real jigsaw puzzle!

Laura on Burntside Lake
A connection: The Common Loon is Minnesota’s state bird, but I haven’t seen loons in the wild very many times. When our daughters were little, we used to go to Camp du Nord up near Ely, Minnesota. (This is also near where Chuck took the photos for this book.) I remember our very first year at Camp du Nord, we all went on a night-time family hike listening for wolf calls. I thought I heard one, and I was so excited! It turned out to be a loon wail, which I had never heard before. So haunting. (And a little embarrassing.) Each year we went to camp, we would canoe and kayak in clear, cold Burntside Lake, and a few of the years there was a loon pair raising chicks on the lake. Great memories!
So there you have it. I wanted to write a "secrets of" poem to go with this post, but it just didn't come together. Maybe later. Meanwhile, congratulations, Laura, on another beautiful book!

For more info, including book trailer and downloadable activity sheets on this page of Laura's website.