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.


  1. Good morning! Oooooooh. This newest poem makes me think of my sister. She is a lace maker with one of those wooden contraptions and lots of threads. I must send this link to her today. And, thank you for the refresher on how you find your art. I'm absolutely intrigued by your red project and hope you will consider any copying I might do (just picking a color for next year--not plagiarism) a compliment. I love the variety of your poems that all relate to one color.

  2. A stunning ekphrastic, Irene, with many layers of red, I think (needle's bite/pain/blood, even maybe anger at the tangle; I liken it it to the tangle of one's own thoughts, to cognitive dissonance). Yet there's such patience, forbearance,"tenderness" in these lines. To me it is such a message of carrying on and having vision ("lace is made of dreams"). Dreams, like lace, are ethereal but important, requiring both a delicate touch and relentless determination and dedication to making the beautiful transpire. Art, poetry, life - all. Just so beautiful. And, I love Vermeer.

  3. The 'tenderness' within the poem and with which you wrote it is beautiful. Also, thank you for the backstory on your art selection and the nonet instructions. I am going to give writing a nonet a go! :)

  4. As always I gain so much from you. This is a lovely addition to Nine and nonnet poems! My copy is ready in a few years for my granddaughter. In the meantime I am enjoying it immensely. Also I appreciate your guidance in how you select the poems you use. I think your poems are constantly beautifully rich. And so varied, too. You surely are a poetry teacher. I hope I can attend a Highlights class with you some day!Janet Clare F.

  5. Irene: This is stunning! Thank you for sharing your poetry, and for the ideas on finding art images. I am building up some steam for this kind of work, and your poem will be one of the lights along my pathway. Thanks again.

  6. Thank you for describing some of your process. I think your ideas are brilliant and I think that the art available to you to write from must be endless. So inspiring.

  7. Oh, I love your image and poem this week. I just had to print it out for my notebook. And your handout inspired me to try a nonet. I'm inching up the queue for my turn to check out Nine! Hey, I just checked and it's in transit. Can't wait for this treat to be delivered to my library soon and safely picked up curbside by me. And then I know I'll have to think of a rising nine year old who would enjoy your latest.

  8. Thank you for sharing the terrific nonet handout! I can't wait to share it with students. Thank you, too, for explaining how you choose the art that inspires your ArtSpeak poems. I love learning how others approach their work. As for your poem itself, the lacemaker's "tenderness" and devotion toward her task are evident in her expression. Your lovely words give voice to her dreams.

  9. The ending of your beautiful, Irene! Honestly, you just breathe poetry, lady! (Not to undersell the work you put into it.)

  10. What a lovey thought, "for lace is made of dreams." I can picture them wisping off together… And I liked hearing a bit of the backstory to how your ekphrastic poems evolve, thanks, xo


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