Friday, October 30, 2020

A Trio of Poems to Get you: Voting / Dreaming / Listening to Owls

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Linda at TeacherDance for Roundup. I've got a trio of poems for you today:

1. Election Day / Go Vote poem (first published in Scholastic's Storyworks magazine):

 Election Day

Sift through promises,
replay interviews;

step inside the booth.
Forget scripted speeches

and candy-wrapped slogans.
Weigh again each pro

and con. Remember
the teeming world,

its people who dream
of freedom —

so many denied
the right to decide.

Read the names,
imagine a future;

make the best choice.
In the space between breaths

your voice is heard
without a word.

- Irene Latham

2. A Halloween Poem (a revision of a poem I posted in August last year... time and distance helps!)

October Dreams

Inside October
waits a field
of plump pumpkins

Inside a pumpkin
nests a clutch
of white seeds

Inside a seed
echoes a breath
of fresh hope

Inside hope
exists a world
of joined hands

Inside a hand
rests a spoon
to scoop a pumpkin

Inside a pumpkin
lives a lifetime
of Octobers

Inside October
sleeps a child
with orange dreams.

- Irene Latham

3. The latest ArtSpeak: RED poem, after a (dapper) owl by Richard Jones. This is my second Richard Jones offering... the first was last week's "Night Swimming," about writing. Today's poem a pure fun, because that's what this little owl inspires in me! Thank you so much for reading. xo

When Dapper Owl Dons a Hat

he wants you to say,
look at that!
He wants you
to point, giggle,
perhaps even clap.

And if indeed
you point, giggle, clap,
that owl might even
croon for you.
Listen —


- Irene Latham

Friday, October 23, 2020

ArtSpeak: RED poem "Night Swimming," with thanks to Richard Jones

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

I'm taking a break from Monet to spend some time with a modern-day artist Richard Jones, who illustrated THE PROPER WAY TO MEET A HEDGEHOG: And Other How-To Poems. He often posts art on Twitter, and lately some have featured the color red! With his permission, I snagged a few that called to my muse, and I'll be sharing those on coming Fridays.

Today's poem is inspired as much by the name of Richard's piece as the piece itself... I don't know about you, but most of my "night swimming" involves swimming in words... I often wake to record ideas/lines/book fixes in the Notes feature on my phone. So I wrote a poem about it. Enjoy!

Night Swimming

Poems find me
in the sigh

between red sky
and blue tide—

words swell,

a gleam
of quicksilver dreams

teeming inside
my heart.

- Irene Latham

Friday, October 16, 2020

ArtSpeak: RED poem "Monet's Haystacks"

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Janice at Salt City Verse for Roundup.

Last week I traveled with my 23 year old son across north Alabama, and we passed quite a few hay fields. He was struck by the beauty of the big mounds beneath the brilliant autumn sky... and then when I went to my art file to select a piece of art, there was Monet's "Haystacks" waiting for me! What resulted is a very simple poem. Thanks so much for reading... wishing you a little something joyful simmering today (whatever that may be!)

Monet's Haystacks


     what's left

            of summer


- Irene Latham

Friday, October 9, 2020

ArtSpeak: RED poem "A Traveling Song"

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Bridget at wee words for wee ones for Roundup.

Many thanks to Janet F. for encouraging me to make this How to Find Nestlings handout! Hopefully this will make it even easier for teachers/readers to experience the joy of found poetry. :)

Also, I invite you to visit Michelle Kogan for the final day of the THIS POEM IS A NEST blog tour. So many thanks to these fabulous bloggers! Be sure to visit Carol @ Beyond LiteracyLink to read her "gold-dust poem," too. 

Do you haiku?

Calling all haiku poets! Tuscaloosa Sister Cities International is accepting haiku (Japanese-style poetry) for our project, "Coming Together During a Global Pandemic". Haiku traditionally feature three lines of poetry, formatted in 5-7-5 syllable structure.
Shall we walk outside?
Yes, we can, but not too close.
Please maintain distance.
Haiku may be solemn, observational, experiential, or provocative in nature. What a productive way to share thoughts and experiences during these challenging days.All are welcome to participate.  Please submit your haiku by October 16, 2020, to and include your name and city.  TSCI plans to publish a booklet with the top 100 haiku at the end of the year!     

My latest ArtSpeak! RED poem is a short little love poem after a Monet I've never seen before. Be looking for more Monet in the coming weeks! 

A Traveling Song

I love you where the red road rambles,
I love you beside a sapphire sea.
Whether day brings blooms or brambles,
with you is where I want to be.
- Irene Latham

Friday, October 2, 2020

Snapshot of A World Full of Poems by Sylvia Vardell

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference for Roundup. I'm delighted today to be featuring Sylvia Vardell in celebration of her new anthology A WORLD FULL OF POEMS, brought to us by DK. 

And, to make it even more fun: on this very same day, Sylvia is featuring *me* on her blog -- or rather, my new book THIS POEM IS A NEST.  :)

I'm so excited about Sylvia's new big book of poems. I often tell new-to-poetry people to start with an anthology, because no matter your tastes and inclinations, you will likely find something there to love! It's why I often gift anthologies, too. (I have, in fact, already ordered copies of Sylvia's book to gift this holiday season!) And what better person to curate a collection of poems than poetry-dress-wearing, poetry-expert-and-enthusiast Sylvia??! So let's get to it, shall we?

Welcome, Sylvia!

SV: Thanks so much, Irene, for inviting me to share a bit about my new poetry anthology, A World Full of Poems. It’s been such a privilege to work on this book, especially during the first months of this horrible pandemic. All that quarantining enabled me to hunker down and dive deeply into poetry for young people. I have my own substantial library of poetry for young people and pulled piles of books to search for poems, then more piles, then more poems, and so on. I was given the assignment of finding approximately 150 poems for this anthology from the editor in London who vetted all the poems (along with her staff). I think it may be the first anthology of poetry that DK Books has published, although I may be wrong about that. (Please let me know if I’ve got that wrong!) It was my task to recommend poem after poem as they sorted through what fit best for each of the eight categories they had established.

The Fresh (Unexpected):

One of the things that was particularly fresh and fun was seeking poems from poets outside the U.S., particularly from the UK. Fortunately, I have MANY anthologies and collections
and had fun reading and hunting for the “just right” poem. I only wish we could have had more time to include even MORE poems by MORE English-speaking poets outside the U.S. But I am so happy to find so many poems by so many diverse voices inside and outside the U.S.!

The Difficult:

SV: The most difficult part of this anthology building was finding perfect poems and then not being able to use them. Why? Including a poem in an anthology requires getting permission from the poet and usually from the publisher that originally included that poem in a book (unless it’s out of print and rights have reverted back to the poet). So, that means tracking down the permission source—both poet and publisher, sending inquiries, getting responses, and finding out the permission fee. DK Books had a limit to what they could pay for a poem (given that they wanted to include 150 poems). In most cases, it worked out just fine, but there were a few cases in which the fee was so high, it was beyond our budget. I shouldn’t be surprised that a poem by Langston Hughes or Pablo Neruda would cost quite a bit to include in an anthology, but I had high hopes!

The Delicious:

SV: One of my favorite things in this process is that I was able to secure permission to include two poems by one of my favorite poets: Karla Kuskin! She was one of the first contemporary poets writing for young people that I encountered as a brand new teacher in the 1970s. I had grown up on the classics (like Longfellow) and wasn’t aware that there were poets TODAY who wrote for young people—what a revelation! (This was around the same time of Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends in 1974; boy, do I feel OLD!). Although she has passed away, Kuskin’s poetry is still so relevant, engaging, and thoughtful. I hope I can help new readers fall in love with her work too. Here’s just one of her wonderful poems (and it appears in the book, too). 

Anything Else:

SV: Finally, my last task was creating some “activity” pages for the back of the book and you may know that I LOVE back matter! I went to town here and they ended up using about half of what I developed—which is fine. I made a poem “treasure hunt,” as well as providing tips on sharing and writing poems. I even had fun using Canva to create a graphic design for each page to show them how I thought these activities could be made more visually interesting and engaging for kids.

And now the book is coming out (Oct. 6) and I can’t wait to see it! I don’t have my copies yet, but I hope they arrive soon. I’m so happy to see 110 poets get their work out into the world and that DK Books has taken this chance on poetry when publishers are sometimes “shy” about doing so. Meanwhile, I just discovered that you can purchase the book on the Target website and that may be the craziest surprise of all!


Thank you, Sylvia, for sharing your book here today! And thank you for including two of my poems: "Summer Storm" and "Let's Celebrate the Elephant." YAY!!!

And now, my latest ArtSpeak: RED poem! I didn't know what to title this poem, and when I settled on "The Power of Art," I did an internet search on the same. I discovered this book that I immediately ordered! The power of art, indeed... also, you'll notice a little epigram "after Rilke." That's because of this Rilke quote which I adore, and sort of became the structure for the poem: I am circling around God, around the ancient tower, and I have been circling for a thousand years, and I still don't know if I am a falcon, or a storm, or a great song.” Thank you for reading!

The Power of Art
after Rilke

I stand in the gallery –
I stand, I sit.

I pace for a morning,
an afternoon,
all day.

And still I wonder:
am I the singing parakeet

or the artist's solemn

or something else,
dancing just outside
the frame?

- Irene Latham