Friday, January 27, 2023

Self-Portrait, Early Morning (poem)


Sunset Point
Key Colony Beach, FL

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit dear Jan at bookseedstudio for Roundup. 

Like many in our community, I'm excited for Monday's ALA Youth Media Awards, which of course is always such an inspiring opportunity to celebrate books we've loved and also to add new titles to the never-ending TBR stack! Love love love.

This week's ArtSpeak: Light poem turned into a self-portrait. It's inspired by The Artist's Sister at a Window by Berthe Morisot. 

Most poems, probably, are self-portraits, at least a little bit, because of what the words/thoughts/images reveal about the poet who wrote it. I guess self-portraits are more direct, more intentional about what they are revealing? 

For the past several years I have studied a lot about awareness and the seat of consciousness—lots of meditation and mind-training and surrender. (Michael Singer, anyone?) This poem speaks to some of that. Thanks so much for reading. 

Self-Portrait, Early Morning

no surging

no billowing

I simply

in the world
of the moment

before me—

this window,
this world

that requires

of me—
not fingers,

nor mind—

I am

I am

- Irene Latham

Friday, January 20, 2023

Called by Light (poem)

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Marcie (who is simply amazing!) for Roundup.

After a busy holiday season and working VERY HARD on a big revision of my adult novel, as well as providing virtual school visits and tending to multiple kidlit I am away from my desk, having an adventure with Paul and Rosie.

You could say today I'm living my 2023 OLW, which is "space." I'm open to experiencing many more days like this in the months to come! 

In fact, I'd like to be brave enough to claim one day a week for "doing nothing." No plans, no agenda. Just let the day unfold. No work on current (writing, household, or whatever) projects allowed. Can I give myself this kind of space on a regular basis? Can I offer myself that much kindness, to just "be" instead of always doing? 

As it is with starting pretty much anything, I think I'll begin with a smaller chunk of time (maybe an hour a week?) and grow my courage from there.

In other news, a couple of firsts: 

1. We saw a live local community theater production of CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Community theater is my favorite! These actors bring so much passion to their performances, and the venues are generally small and cozy, and there's always something fun and unexpected. This time it was a "split the pot" raffle ticket sale during intermission. Patrons could buy a raffle ticket for a dollar, and then at the end of the show a winner was drawn. The pot was split between that winner and the theater company. Pretty great, right? (No we didn't win! But I'm totally stealing that idea for other nonprofits I'm involved with!)

2. I made creme brulee at home, from scratch, and it was delicious! It only took me a year. :) Last year for my birthday one of our sons gave me one of those little kitchen torches. I did some research, and I realized that I needed all sorts of other supplies: the little dishes, for one...and also ingredients like vanilla beans and vanilla sugar. I didn't even know vanilla sugar was a thing! Well, now I do, and for Christmas I got everything else I needed. I have now made my creme brulee, and you can bet I will be making it again. I mean, I do have about fifteen vanilla beans left. :)

This week's ArtSpeak: Light poem grew out of last week's poem. 

Remember how I was saying I was enamored of that Rockwell painting title "And the Symbol of Welcome is Light"? Well, that has been in my brain for days now, and I wanted to somehow use the idea, but make it my own (of course!). And this week I did! 

ALSO: You'll notice in this poem I include something that's not actually in the art. "Outside the frame" thinking is one of my favorite ways to approach ekphrastic poetry, and I guess it was especially on my mind, as one of my most recent virtual school visits (hello Villa Madonna poets!) was on the topic of writing poems inspired by art. So there you go! Thanks so much for reading.

called by light

and the scent of tomorrow

bee crawls inside

- Irene Latham

Friday, January 13, 2023

3 Ways of Looking at a Night Party (poem)

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Susan at Chicken Spaghetti for Roundup.

Shout-out to our youngest son Eric whose birthday is today. (Ever since he was born on the 13th, I have adopted 13 as a Very Lucky Number...even when it falls on a Friday. :)

For this week's ArtSpeak poem, I kind of fell in love with the title of Norman Rockwell's "And the Symbol of Welcome is Light." I wanted to work those words into the poem, but then that felt a little like cheating! I decided to challenge myself. Here's where I landed. (I may honor Rockwell's title in a future poem!)

3 Ways of Looking
at a Night Party

Moon whispers
to her cloud-sisters—
here I am!

Paper lanterns
hung from branches
lean into breeze—
follow me!

Lamplight shatters
doors and windows,
reaches across the dark—
there you are!

—Irene Latham

A little more backstory about the poem: Once, a long time ago, someone told me (or I read in a book) that there are two kinds of people in the world—the ones who walk into a party and say, "here I am!" and the ones who walk into the same party and say, "there you are!" I know exactly which one I am. What about you?

Friday, January 6, 2023

SPACE & LIGHT for 2023

 Hello and happy first Poetry Friday of 2023! Be sure to visit the ever-inspiring Catherine at Reading to the Core for Roundup.

This is my 16th year to choose One Little Word to guide and inspire my year. It's a spiritual practice I'm quite attached to. Each year so far I have created a quilt block to commemorate the word and the year, and a few months ago I realized I had enough squares to make a "sampler" twin size, voila! 

My One Little Word list (so far)

2008 joy

2009 listen

2010 celebrate

2011 deeper

2012 fierce

2013 sky

2014 mystery

2015 wild

2016 delight

2017 abundance

2018 behold

2019 happy

2020 red

2021 bewilderment

2022 whimsy

Now I am not sure how I will commemorate this year and/or the coming years. I love cumulative projects, and I love quilts...but do I want another word quilt...or do I want to create something else?? I'd love to hear your suggestions!

The word I've selected for 2023 is a bit...odd. And open to interpretation. And it came from my dear friend Summer Laurie, who was the very first person in children's publishing who saw something in my writing and encouraged me to keep going! (We met at an SCBWI conference many moons ago, where she was presenting as an editor for now-defunct Tricycle Press. We had a one-on-one critique of a middle grade novel ms, and Summer requested the full ms! That book never got published, but Summer and I have kept in touch over the years, and she continues to be a huge supporter and person I'm proud to call friend!)

Aside: Summer edited a gorgeous verse novel that came out last year: WAVE by Diana Farid. It was recently recognized (along with AFRICAN TOWN! Thank you, committee!) as a Cybils Verse Novel Finalist. Don't miss it! (These other titles are wonderful, too. I've read and loved all of them!)

Back to my 2023 OLW. 

In my lastest Adventures in Ink e-newsletter, I asked for suggestions regarding my ArtSpeak theme, and Summer wrote back with "Space." 

Space, as in the moon, Mars, constellations, black holes...and perhaps also because I have a moon book of poems coming this year, called THE MUSEUM ON THE MOON: CURIOUS OBJECTS ON THE LUNAR SURFACE. 

More on this soon! Some of you know I am a NASA/Space junkie, and I'm super-excited about the Artemis fun to be able to bring this passion to a book of poems for kids!

Anyway...I instantly latched onto this words not for ArtSpeak, but for my One Little Word. It's got me thinking about space in the celestial sense obviously. 

Space in the physical sense, as in my writing space, my space in the world, and natural spaces, like caves, forests, meadows, lakes... 

Space in relationships. 

The space between us.

 Negative space. Space in poetry. Space in music.

 Empty space. Peaceful space. 

I'm a person who needs a lot of space, privacy, distance...and then there is nothing that means more to me than closing those distances to be with the ones I space! 

With all those things in mind, I'm excited to explore and discover more about my own personal relationship to Space in the coming year.

About my annual ArtSpeak project: this year I have decided to focus on LIGHT. 

I know! It's another vague/open word! This is what I need in my life right now, apparently. And when I think about the art that moves me most, it often has to do with light. 

I'm fascinated by how artists use light as a tool, how it guides the eye and the composition. 

There are so many kinds of light: moonlight, starlight, lighthouse, candlelight, sunlight, a certain slant of light, light at the end of the tunnel, and so many more!

Light is such a great metaphor for so many things, and when I think about what I crave and enjoy on a daily basis, it's light, lightness, illumination... 

When I think about the best gift we can give the world, it's us, ourselves, shining our own special kind of light....

So lots of poetic potential, yes? 

And also some challenges: what fresh/new can I bring to poems inspired by/related to light? 

I'm trusting the universe (light!) here and just going with it. We'll see what happens! 

For today's offering, I've got Edvard Munch's Moon Light...and obviously had the hinge of the new year on my mind. Thanks for reading!

moon extends its knife

slices night-rumpled waters—

what was, what's to come

-Irene Latham