Friday, March 31, 2023

Summer Travels North for a Season (poem with art by Linda Mitchell)

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit marvelous Mary Lee at A(nother) Year of Reading for Roundup.

So here we are on the eve of National Poetry Month! April is always a busybusy month for poets, isn't it? I know many of you will be embarking upon daily poetry projects for the month—yay! My ArtSpeak project began in 2015 as a National Poetry Month daily project...and has since turned into a weekly every-month-of-the-year project. So. Much. Art! I may have written hundreds of poems inspired by art, but in many ways I still feel like I am just beginning! Always something new to learn, yes?

A few weeks ago Linda Mitchell oh so kindly sent me a picture of a light-inspired collage she created. 

Isn't it gorgeous?! Linda knew I'd love it for my ArtSpeak: Light project! I was planning to save it until summer...but you know how Summer can be...she just kept calling... so much gratitude to Linda!! And to you, dear reader, for sharing this space with me!

Summer Travels North for a Season

she strides
into darkness,
suitcase spilling

her sultry dress
swings warm
and wide

her smiling eyes
shake loose
every tight fist

until all that's left
is light
and more light

- Irene Latham

Friday, March 24, 2023

When All is Lost (poem)

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit radiant Rose at Imagine the Possibilities for Roundup.

This weekend I'm attending SCBWI Southern Breeze conference in Atlanta! Charles and I will be presenting a couple of sessions—on How to Write Books with Multiple Narrators and also on Collaboration (& how to keep a friendship through it all!), and I'm traveling with two long-time writing buddies. Yay!

Today's poem arrived after a few days of admiring this art (another from the daily art calendar gifted me by my eldest son!) when I heard myself say, "I feel lost." I was talking about my writing life, and not knowing where to put my energy. And then, just about as soon as I said it, a little twinkle lit up my brain—an idea, a direction, a calling. And so I wrote this poem to capture that moment. Thanks so much for reading!

When All is Lost

crumple your maps,
pocket your compass

allow yourself
to sink
into darkness

whatever river
you're sailing—

whether waves
are whipping
or still—

somewhere, a blink
a twinkle

               this way

- Irene Latham

Friday, March 17, 2023

The Clearing (poem) + a Peek at My Poetry Revision Process

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit lovely Laura at Small Reads for Brighter Days for Roundup.

This week's ArtSpeak: Light is an amalgamation, as most poems are. 

The art itself "The Clearing" by Pierre-Auguste Renoir came from an art-a-day calendar gifted to me by my eldest son for Christmas... and the striking line of the Golden Shovel I crafted comes from Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet: "But soft what light through yonder window breaks?"

(I've been on a bit of a Shakespeare kick lately and recently bought for myself a book of Shakespeare quotations. I dip into it from time to time, and it always always finds a way into my writing.) 

The Clearing

You think you can't take another step, but

you do. Brambles soon give way to soft

pine needles lining a nest of sunshine. What

else can you do but guzzle unexpected light,

praise the boots that carried you through?

Impossibly you ignore the pull of yonder—

for a moment you are both sky and window,

a map into the place where despair breaks.

- Irene Latham


Okay. Now for that peek at my revision process, as promised in the title of this post.

This poem pleases me. I love that it gave me a reason to use the word "yonder." And "the place where despair breaks" ?? That's fresh and unexpected and I love it.

But I can already see how the Golden Shovel weakens this poem. 

Or rather, I can see how I could strengthen the poem by pulling it away from the Golden Shovel form. 

Example: see that "through" on the 5th line? A stronger line would end with the word "you." But because it's a Golden Shovel, I'm stuck! Also, Golden Shovels are notorious for clunky line breaks. I would break these lines completely differently if not for the form.

In my mind, I have 3 options: 

1. Keep the Golden Shovel, which is what I've done for today, due to time constraints. 

2. Answer the question "through What?" and change the 6th line (and possibly entire rest of poem). That could be interesting...and I could keep the Golden Shovel.

3. Deconstruct completely by pulling it out of the form, and see what happens! Whenever I have time, I'm going to give it a try.

I mention all this because poems that could be strengthened by pulling away from form is something I see A LOT when considering poems for Birmingham Arts Journal. Forms a great and fun, and can lead to some wonderful poems. But sometimes they are best just used as a starting place. 

And that's my unsolicited poetic advise for today. 😊 Thanks so much for reading!

Friday, March 10, 2023

When Light and Water Meet...and Jessica Whipple!

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit blue-bungalow-Heidi at my juicy little universe for Roundup.

First, I must share the new graphic Highlights sent over, so that everyone knows Carole Boston Weatherford will be joining us at our Poetry for Kids session April 16-19! I know several Poetry Friday friends will be there, and we are so, so lucky to learn from her. Join us!

I do have a new ArtSpeak: Light poem for you. But first I'm excited to have a special guest today at Live Your Poem: Jessica Whipple, author of ENOUGH IS...(illus. by Nicole Wong, coming April 18, 2023, from Tilbury House). Preorder your signed copy here! (Readers, I've seen an ARC on Netgalley. It's wonderful!)

Jessica Whipple
(photo by Nick Gould)
Jessica and I became acquainted when she submitted a poem for mine and Charles' anthology IF I COULD CHOOSE A BEST DAY: POEMS OF POSSIBILITY. (Illus. by Olivia Sua, coming from Candlewick 2025.) 

We weren't able to publish Jessica's poem, but she did something I really admire. Upon rejection, she wrote back and asked for feedback. How could she improve the poem?

Now you know that set my poet-heart thumping! A poet going the extra mile, working to improve her of course I offered feedback, and do you know Jessica went on to publish that poem someplace else?! Yep, that's the kind of writer she is.

And now she's just welcomed her debut picture book into the world. Congratulations, Jessica! Please read on to find out more about Jessica, her life, and this book, as she responds to a few simple prompts. 

Welcome, Jessica!

The difficult?

JW: The concept is a tough one to get down to picture-book size, but that was my goal and hope from the start. I'm grateful to Tilbury House who matched me with Nicole Wong so we could each tackle the vision for the book! Kirkus and some early Goodreads and NetGalley reviewers feel we've successfully simplified the concept, so hooray! Still, the book lives beyond the page in the conversations readers have with kids to get them thinking about how much *is* enough, and what does that look like--because it's different in every situation. We also needed to speak about and depict it in a way that's relevant to kids, which, of course, is what all kidlit authors are wrestling with. 

The delicious?

JW: I'm thrilled with the reception the book has been getting from readers, reviewers, podcasters, and interviewers. It really has been wonderful to hear that Enough Is... is a book many adults, caregivers, and teachers hope to use to introduce contentment to children. 

The fresh?

JW: Throughout the process of writing, querying, pitching, and submitting this manuscript and my others, I've learned the latent power each of us has in just *asking* for things. As long as we're honest, respectful, grateful, and humble, many people want to help along the length of the book publishing timeline... and beyond. You're one of them, Irene! It's all a truly beautiful example of community.

Aww, thanks, Jessica. So happy this book is in the world!

And now for my poem. Last week, Karen Edmisten mentioned something in comments about light and water sharing some similar traits. That got me thinking...what happens when Light and Water meet? And then I've got Jessica talking about "enough"...and so my mind did leap!

When Light Meets Water

here, light whispers,
take these clouds

dance with me,
water says,
and sends up
a thousand ripples

they spark and dip,
kissing all hours

more, say the lilies,
their bellies warm,
their petals reaching,

-Irene Latham

Friday, March 3, 2023

If You Put Light in a Box (poem)

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Tanita at {fiction, instead of lies} for Roundup.

Y'all, it's MARCH! Yay! This week I was a celebrity in my own county, when Charles and I made the front page of our weekly paper, The Blount Countian. 

Friends, Paul and I love where we live! But having lived here for a mere five years, we are outsiders, and always will be. (Some can trace their lineage in this county for more than 6 generations!) It feels like an important moment for my community to embrace me in this way... so many thanks to Jim Kilgore for writing the article.

Also, I got to get a little crafty with my Master Gardener friends. We were asked to put in a display in the foyer at Oneonta Public Library. We went with a "ready to grow" theme. So much fun!

In online news, you're invited to read my post over at Smack Dab in the Middle about 7 Quotes from THE WAR OF ART that will inspire your warrior-writer...and a question from that book that can be a guiding light. 
Today's ArtSpeak: Light poem is one that came in a rush. There's a bit of "nobody puts Baby in a corner" in it. Also, these days, I've been trying not to think so much and just be in my life as it unfolds. 

Wise words I return to often are these: "You're either in your head, or you're in your life." And I want to be in my life!

What if our only purpose really is to be present? To shine? 

Like light.

If You Put Light in a Box

it doesn't beg
or complain

instead creeps
so quietly
through cracks

through seams

are swallowed,
fear dissolves

is tomorrow
is today

as light carves a path
as light unfolds

- Irene Latham

Thanks so much for reading. 💜