Friday, March 26, 2021

Early Spring Rispetto

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Susan at Soul Blossom Living for Roundup.

I've been away from my desk this week, spending time with my mother. But I do have two newsy bits to share—D-39: A Robodog's Journey got its first review from Kirkus, and it's a good one! Here's an excerpt: 

"Latham uses an invented lexicon of delightfully creative and expressive hybrid words—jinglesnapboomblastsitchglitchy—to tell this... girl-meets-dog story of hope, perseverance, and survival."

And Miss Fancy is in the news! Yay for this new discovery. I look forward to being part of these celebrations!

 Yes, of course I wrote a new ArtSpeak: FOUR SEASONS poem... the first "spring" poem of the year. Yay! Since it's a new season, I decided to try a new-to-me poetry form. Ever heard of a rispetto? 

1. Rispetto is a short poetic form of Italian origin comprising of 11 syllables per line. 

2. It has 8 lines. 

3. Rispetto uses the ababccdd rhyme scheme.

Fun! I hope you'll try it. Meanwhile, here's mine, after work by new-to-me Aussie artist Elioth Gruner. Thank you for reading!

Early Spring Rispetto

Again frost blankets greening pasture
as cows wait for the warm-faced farmer.
Yesterday it seemed sun climbed faster,
but today shadows wear cold armor.

Cows pace alongside familiar fence—
O, Spring! That season of wild suspense!
Whether sun or rain or heat or breeze,
when the farmer comes, cows low, Yes, please!

- Irene Latham

Friday, March 19, 2021

Experience WILD PEACE with Il Sung Na... and a Cover Reveal!

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Linda at TeacherDance for Roundup. You can find my latest ArtSpeak: FOUR SEASONS poem "Saying Goodbye to Winter" here.

Today I am happy to welcome children's book illustrator Il Sung Na to talk about our new book WILD PEACE, which will be released Oct. 18 by Roaring Brook Press. 

WILD PEACE was inspired by a poem: "The Peace of Wild Things" by Wendell Berry, and the text is a long poem that celebrates peace, and explores what wild animals can teach us about peace.

To celebrate the cover reveal (below! keep reading!), I invited Il Sung to respond to a few prompts, specifically about WILD PEACE. 

But before we get to that, I have to share something else about Il Sung: when I contact him with my request to purchase a piece of the original art, Il Sung let me know that the work was created digitally, so there was no original art, per say. Instead he offered to send me a print of my requested spread... which was the "rabbit" spread, since we call our home the Happy Rabbit Hideaway! Only I didn't tell Il Sung that. So imagine my surprise and delight when along with the rabbit spread, he included a small original piece... of a RABBIT!! Oh, the serendipity! And the kindness of one Il Sung Na. Thank you thank you thank you!

what I got in the mail!

And now, please join me in welcoming Il Sung to Live Your Poem!

IL: What was the delicious/best/most enjoyable thing about working on WILD PEACE?

ISN: My all time favorite thing about working on this book and other books is always coloring. When I do colors, I don’t have to worry about composition and layout anymore but just enjoying.

Sometimes it takes a while to find the right colors to convey the mood, sometimes it comes once.

I typically have some color palettes in mind but it can change as I adding colors.

working on endpaper

IL: What was the most difficult thing about working on WILD PEACE?

ISN: The most difficult part was thumbnail sketches, the first idea sketches for the story. When I first got the manuscript and read it multiple times, I had two different ideas for images. The first idea was the girl finds a butterfly and follows, and steps into a wall where she drew some greens. Then all her journey starts in her imagination.

very first thumbnail sketches that the girl
goes through a wall using the gutter

The second idea was more literal. The girl begins her journey away from all noises that other kids make by simply walk out to a door.

This first one's more imaginative, and I wasn’t sure whether the publisher would agree with this concept. But luckily they did!

revised sketches

more revisions

final color spread

I wanted to bring the girl back to the real world somehow and it was a challenge for me to figure out. As I used a butterfly (red) to lead her to a forest, I used a fox (red) to be the one who guides her to come back home. I tried to show a fox stuffed toy as well as a fox drawing on her sketchpad in the beginning of the story, so all visual story connects seamlessly. 

My favorite spread is the one which all three visual elements, the girl, a butterfly and a fox, meet in one place. [below]

Il Sung's favorite spread!

IL: What was something unexpected/fresh (or something that you learned) while working on WILD PEACE?

ISN: It is the story itself. Every project/book I have worked on brings new/unexpected/fresh learning.

There are always struggles and Eureka moments. Understanding the main character’s emotions and finding visual flows is a part of struggles. Each book has a different approach and different struggles.

This book was no different. It was a new challenge from the time I received the manuscript. I wanted to understand this girl’s emotion and how it changes throughout the story. I wanted to capture the moment to convey the right mood. But also I wanted to find the right visual language to show it.

I typically do cover sketches in the end after all inside spreads are done—because I want to know and understand the story more before I work on cover ideas.

cover sketch ideas

revised cover sketch

... and drumroll please...... here's the final cover image:

Aside from Irene: Isn't it dreamy?!!

IL: Where do you find peace?

ISN: There are a few things I do. 


ONE: I find peace while I drink a GOOD hot chocolate or eat GOOD dark chocolate. I have found one place in London where they make REAL hot chocolate. Back when I lived there. I used to visit quite often. (It is a loooooong time ago already!) 

TWO: Being alone in my studio and not working on any books but just doodling. This makes me feel calm and forget about other things.

THREE: Short walk with my wife and Pippi (a little dog, 2yrs old).

IL: Thank you, Il Sung! And thank you, readers, for celebrating WILD PEACE with us. 

Pippi says, "Goodbye! Hope your
day is as happy as mine!"

Thursday, March 18, 2021

ArtSpeak: FOUR SEASONS poem "Saying Goodbye to Winter


Hello and welcome to the latest installment of ArtSpeak: FOUR SEASONS! (Posting early because I have a special guest coming to the blog tomorrow!) 

A special welcome to  Mrs. Hahn and students!!! Did you write "Sleigh Ride" poems? I hope so!!

Today I'm excited to share with you my last winter poem of this series... until winter returns in December. :) 

Next week I'll be back with my first Spring poem of the season! And so...

Saying Goodbye to Winter

As sleigh crests
one last hill

eager sun
goldens the snow,

We grin

into the wind
as bells sing

and horses keep
the season's

one true rhythm:
let go  let go  let go

- Irene Latham

Friday, March 12, 2021

"Why River Smiles in Winter" poem

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Heidi at my juicy little universe for Roundup. I'm excited to be presenting this weekend as part of Michigan Reading Association's annual conference and look forward to sharing about the impact of nature on my life, and about dog stories! 

I've been reading a lot of marvelous middle grade novels lately: Fly Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly, Alone by Megan E. Freeman, The Sea in Winter by Christine Day, The Lion of Mars by Jennifer L. Holm, Just Like That by Gary D. Schmidt, and Gone to the Woods by Gary Paulsen.

I am a huge fan of Gary Paulsen's books, and my $2 book review (10 cents per word!) is this: Memoir about finding solace in the woods and a future in books despite a heartbreaking childhood punctuated by beautiful moments.

Unlike most first-person memoirs, this one is told in the 3rd person, about "the boy" who is seldom named—which creates an interesting distance. I realized I'd never before heard Gary's actual voice (only in my head) when I listened to The Yarn podcast featuring Gary. Colby Sharp did such a great job with this interview just hanging back and letting Gary shower us with wisdom... beautiful, and it made me misty-eyed more than once!

Today's ArtSpeak: FOUR SEASONS offering has me a little giddy, because we're getting so close to spring! Just one more winter poem to go!

Why River Smiles in Winter

snow offers itself

to leaf and limb,
post and rail.

It blows kisses
to each and every
blade of grass.

Whether it's bound
to pile up
and stay a while

or get gulped
by a hungry current

snow is fair.

- Irene Latham

Friday, March 5, 2021

A Winter Snow Haiku Poem Just for You

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit for Kat's Whiskers for an Aussie Roundup.

One fallout from the pandemic has been book reviews trickling in much much later than before. This week—five months after its release—THIS POEM IS A NEST received a starred review from Booklist! I'm delighted, of course. Anytime is a great time to get a starred review!

Earlier this week I wrote on the topic of "gratitude" at Smack Dab in the Middle.

In other news, I volunteered to help my women's group publish a cookbook. (!) And I (with some help from son Eric) put plants in the ground this week... a rhododendron, some drift roses, and a bunch of iris bulbs. Exciting!

And yet... it's still winter. So today I have another snow poem for you. It was inspired by one of my favorite haiku (below!), which sets you up for one thing in the first two lines, and then really surprises you in the last line... the "turn," for which traditional haiku is known (and what makes it so incredibly challenging to pull off)!

The snow is melting
and the village is flooded
with children

- Issa, translated by Robert Haas

Those who know me or have heard me speak about writing poetry know that I adore surprises in poetry! So... I hope my haiku effort below surprises you. Let me know. Thanks for reading!

first snowfall
and the village is bundled
in wonder

- Irene Latham

p.s. I tried so hard to use my 2021 OLW "bewilderment," which for me means "awe" and "wonder," but "wonder" seemed to work best. :)