Friday, July 31, 2020

On Art and Lace and Poetry

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit beautiful Catherine at Reading to the Core for Roundup.

Before I get to today's ArtSpeak: RED poem, 

Happy birthday also to my niece JuliAnna, who is a huge HP fan.

Also, I want to share this handout I created (also available as a pdf download on my website):

Finally, I'd like to address a question brought forth by Linda in comments to last week's blog post:

How do you select art for this project?

The truth is, I don't have any hard and fast method. Before I expanded this project to year-round (instead of for National Poetry Month only), I would sit down sometime before April 1 and search the internet. I'd populate a file on my computer with 31 images (allowing 1 to be a throwaway, if for some reason I couldn't find a poem in it). Some years I've written on them in the order they appear in my file. Other years I picked whichever image spoke to me that day. Still other years I've been more organized and had themes per week within my broader theme.

But now, with the expansion of this project, I really try to let my muse (and whimsy!) guide me. Sometimes I'll sit down and search for red art. Sometimes I find art on other people's websites (most recently I wrote a poem after a strawberry piece I saw on Jama's blog), and sometimes I want to explore a particular artist's work, and so I will search their works to see what might fit my theme.

One source I've found helpful this year, because I've got a color theme, is Google Arts and Culture. They have a "search art by color" feature. Most of the art I select is in the public domain (wikiart is a good source; also the National Gallery of Art online collection), but not all of it. I am careful to attribute the work and have been advised that because I am transforming the work by adding a poem, this falls into "fair use" territory.

I hope this information helps any of you who may want to write your own ekphrastic poems! And I will tell you: I have enjoyed the "red" theme so much, I am already looking ahead to 2021 (for many MANY reasons!), and I think I may write BLUE poems next year. We'll see!

And now... today's poem! I wrote several pages on this painting, trying all sorts of approaches. This is where I landed:

Lacemaker, Late Afternoon

Even as the light dies
and the needle bites,

she greets each task
with tenderness.

And when the threads
tangle into a nest of knots,

her fingers remain
devoted –

for lace is made of dreams.

- Irene Latham

Wishing you dreams and lace and a lovely day! Thank you for reading.

Friday, July 24, 2020

ArtSpeak: RED poem "Love in the Time of Long Distance"

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Margaret at Reflections on the Teche for Roundup.

When I first looked at this Mark Rothko piece I thought it looked like a face with a white mouth. Then I thought it looked like a mailbox. So, both those things found their way into today's poem.

Love in the Time of Long Distance

sometimes the mouth opens
and silence spills out

sometimes the mouth
is a slot
and silent words
riding plain envelopes
slip in

sometimes the eyes
say what the mouth can't

sometimes words
make everything worse

sometimes the mouth opens
and after the noise
what's left
is hope

- Irene Latham

Friday, July 17, 2020

ArtSpeak: RED poem "Priorities"

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to "float" on over to visit Jan at bookseedstudio for Roundup. (Sorry I didn't do anything float-y!)

I'm delighted to be back at my desk today, and I am eager to read all of your offerings! Before I get to my contribution, I've got a couple of newsy bits to share:

1. THIS POEM IS A NEST got its first review, and it's a  from Kirkus. Yay!

2. I recently picked up in a thrift store QUILTING: Poems 1987-1990 by Lucille Clifton. Here's one that speaks to me:


my grandsons
spinning in their joy

keep them turning     turning
black blurs against the window
of the world
for they are beautiful
and there is trouble coming
round and round and round

- Lucille Clifton

3. On our pilgrimage to North Dakota in memory of my father, a dear friend (who loved and worked with my father) said she didn't want to be like him in the end, because he "died in the chair." Meaning, he worked until the day of his death. And it's true: nothing was more important or gratifying to my father than his work. And while that is admirable, it's also... sad. I'm grateful for every moment he gave me over the years, and I should say he gave me maybe more than he gave anyone else (besides his work). Paul and I talked about it a lot on our (24 hour) drive home, and it inspired this week's poem.


If I say red
and you say morning
are we talking about
or strawberries?

If I say red
and you say forever
does it indicate love
or intolerance?

If I say red
and you say yes
let's think later
and dance right now!

- Irene Latham

Friday, July 10, 2020

ArtSpeak: RED "There Can Be No Sorrow"

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Ruth at There is no such thing as a Godforsaken town for Roundup. I am away from my desk, but did want to share my latest ArtSpeak: RED poem. Hope everyone is finding joy in July!

There Can Be No Sorrow

when strawberries 


on a blue 


- Irene Latham

Friday, July 3, 2020

ArtSpeak: RED "Cave Painting (Altamira)" poem

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Linda at A Word Edgewise for Roundup.

So many thanks to all who have sent in poems for mine and Charles' new poetry anthology -- we've received some wonderful poems! If you're just seeing this, there's still time. Click here for all the details.

Today I've got another ArtSpeak: RED poem for you... from one of the oldest known pieces of art ever.

...and here is my poem! Thanks so much for reading.

Cave Painting (Altamira)

A single bison rises
from cool-damp walls,

its fire-stroked hide
spirited as its eyes.

What hands grasped
pestle to grind the ochre?

What mind imagined
this bison's bold stance?

Who was first to smear-brush-daub
this bison to life?

Who was first to call it red?

- Irene Latham