Thursday, July 27, 2023

Welcome to the Wonder House!

Hello and happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit joyful Jan at Bookseedstudio for Roundup.

I'm excited and delighted to give you a wee tour of a gorgeous new book Welcome to the Wonder House, brought to us by WordSong/Astra Publishing, with poems by Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard, and (dreamy!) art by Deborah Freedman. I love how this book includes AND invites so many questions. Wonder, indeed!

All three creators are here at Live Your Poem today to welcome come on in, get comfy! I've asked them to each respond to a one-word prompt as it applies to their experience building this Wonder. Yay!

But first, the winner of last week's giveaway of Moonstruck! Poems About Our Moon edited by Roger Stevens, illus. by Ed Boxall is Joyce Ray! CONGRATULATIONS! Joyce, please email me with your mailing address at irene(at)irenelatham(dot)com.


And now...I want to share one of my most favorite spreads in Welcome to the Wonder House. It's called the "Room of Wishes." Thanks to the whole team for allowing me to share a couple of poems, too. 

This first one is by Rebecca Kai Dotlich. It doesn't have a title. (None of the poems in the collection are titled. And the author of each poem is identified by the poet's initials at the end of the poem):

I wrote my wish

upon a kite,

closed my eyes,

grabbed its string—

through wind

I ran,

let it fly. . . 

My wish came true,

it flew into

that wide, wide map

of sky,

and sailed my name

up high and free,

and with it sailed

a part of me.


I may have written a few wishes upon a kite, and watched it sail into sky. Lovely, yes?

And this one is by Georgia Heard:

Where do wishes go,

do they linger in the sky?

Old wishes,

Birthday wishes.

Shooting star wishes.

Wishbone wishes.

Dandelion wishes.

World wishes.

Even superhero wishes.

Clouds are crowded with wishes.

- GH

Don't you love the thought of all those wishes up there riding the clouds? So wistful (as clouds are). :)

And now to the interview portion of this post! As is tradition here at Live Your Poem, the creators are responding to simple one-word prompts. Enjoy!


Georgia Heard

Georgia Heard: 
Creating the poems for Welcome to the Wonder House involved many, many months, and even years, of writing multiple drafts with insightful guidance from our editor, Rebecca Davis. But when you're passionate about a topic like we were about Wonder, writing is not difficult and, paradoxically, writing the poems felt effortless, although it took a lot of hard work -- if that makes sense.

The idea behind Welcome to the Wonder House came easily and naturally during a car ride to Newark Airport back from a Highlights workshop. Rebecca Davis was driving, Rebecca Kai Dotlich was in the passenger seat and I was the scribe in the back seat scribbling down all of our ideas as we excitedly shared them out loud. That’s how our framework of the Rooms of Wonder was born.

One of the most difficult yet most wonderful parts of writing Welcome to the Wonder House was deciding on the particular Rooms of Wonder. Out of numerous ideas, we had to think through if any of the Rooms overlapped, which ones felt childlike, and which ones were repetitive. For example, we initially had a Room of Praise, a Room of Blessing, and a Room of Prayer, but we realized they were too similar. In the end, we decided to keep the Room of Praise. Some of the poems that we had already written, we either revised or saved for another project. It was challenging to let go of those poems that we had put so much effort into crafting.

At some point, Rebecca Kai Dotlich visited me to co-teach a poetry workshop. After teaching all day, we worked on our book, staying up late curating each Room of Wonder by cutting out our poems and placing them onto large post-it notes that we had designated different Rooms (see photo). We reviewed each poem to ensure that they covered a broad range of wonder topics, as well as poetic forms, and if a poem didn’t fit in a particular Room we went back to the drawing board and wrote a new one.

Perhaps, the hardest part of creating Welcome to the Wonder House was waiting to see Deborah Freedman’s enchanting art. When we finally saw the first sketches, we knew she would bring something extraordinary to the project.

Writing, as William Stafford poetically puts it, is like following a thread. And with Welcome to the Wonder House, the effort and the years it took all of us to create this WONDERful book, required passion and persistence and, even though we didn’t know exactly where it would lead, we had an unwavering belief that wonder was the thread we needed to follow.


Rebecca Kai Dotlich: In writing the poems for Welcome To The Wonder House I was often transported to my own childhood places full of wonder, like the creek that ran behind our house and beyond, meandering over rocks and roots, under branches and sky, and in and out of corrugated culverts that became small, dark, silver 'caves," as we walked, bent over, to the light on the other side. The scents of those days, and that place especially, was familiar and delicious as I went bumping along on my bike over tangled roots, umbrellaed by a cool, damp world of green and open air.  

Rebecca's creek (referenced in the poem
 that lives in the "Room of Wishes")
The creek water itself had a unique earthy and even fishy scent of moss and sunlight that became a place of discovery during those marvelous, aimless hours of exploring.  I went back there (with my mother) to see it again, while writing our wonder poems. It amazed me then, and it amazes me today. If we dig deep, we can tap into those feelings of wonder and go back long enough to write a poem or tell a story or share a moment in time with the world, and especially with young readers who I hope are experiencing their own feelings of wonder, however and wherever that may be for them.


Deborah Freedman

Deborah Freedman: 
Every new book is a fresh start for me, a new challenge to relish. Though until now, I have had to create these challenges for myself! So when Welcome to the Wonder House landed on my desk, it was a wonderfully welcome surprise.

I immediately fell in love with the concept — an allegorical house, organized into “rooms”. Georgia’s and Rebecca’s poems would fill those rooms, inspiring wonder, curiosity, imagination, and my job would be to create environments for them. I aspired to honor and enhance each poem’s spirit by, somehow, creating the visual equivalent of a poem.

"Room of Creatures" spread

I began with the end, the last line of the book:
the Wonder House is our Whole World. Clearly, the authors were not thinking of this as a literal house; pages would be the only walls, acting at the same time as doors to open one room to the next. The physical book itself would form spaces for readers to inhabit, sprinkled with touches of domesticity sparked by vivid imagery in the poems. The question, “How bubbling hot does it get on the sun?” in the Room of Curiosity prompted a lightbulb. “Where is everyone? Can you hear us?” in the Room of Mystery led to a telephone to the universe. In the Room of Creatures Poems, sea animals swim in an underwater scene… but is that the ocean, or your bathtub?

We would like to invite children to drift dreamily from room to room—to read a poem here, another there, and read the pictures. But most of all, we hope children will leave with lots of their own questions, and encouraged to move through their own worlds with a fresh sense wonder.


Thank you so much, ladies, for sharing your HOUSE with us! Special shout-out to editor Rebecca Davis, who is a poet's dream! And to Kerry McManus, who does such great work getting poetry books out into the world. Mwah!

And now, this week's ArtSpeak: LIGHT poem. I was inspired by Rebecca and Georgia to include some questions. Thanks so much for reading!

In A World That is Burning

What is the reason
for heat, for light?

Is there more
to a candle's flicker
than brightening

What if the flame
is meant to soften us,
to make us willing
to melt?

Why then do we rush
to snuff
and smother?

Perhaps that puddle
of wax
is the place
where we'll learn
to love one another.

- Irene Latham

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Moonstruck! Poems + Giveaway!

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit magical Margaret at Refections on the Teche for Roundup.

I've been at cello camp all week, learning and playing lots of beautiful music with new friends!

Meanwhile, Publisher's Weekly included the notice for my new project with Charles Waters, an anthology coming from Lerner entitled The Mistakes That Made Us: Confessions from Twenty Poets. Congratulations to all the contributors, including Poetry Friday friends Tabatha Yeatts, Matt Forrest Esenwine, and April Halprin Wayland!

And now, I'm super excited to share with you a new favorite anthology I discovered on my quest to find "moon" poems to share in conjunction with my new book The Museum on the Moon: The Curious Objects on the Lunar Surface...which releases in just over two weeks!

Moonstruck! Poems About Our Moon edited by Roger Stevens, illustrated by Ed Boxall, brought to us by Otter-Barry books contains nearly 60 poems for young readers that "capture all the mystery and magic of the Moon in an exuberant mix of humor, wonder, and sharp observation."

I love this book! And thanks to Roger Stevens, James Carter, Cynthia Grady, and the good folks at Otter-Barry, I've a three poems to share with you today. 

AND...we have a GIVEAWAY!

Roger Stevens in lovely generosity quite reminiscent of the Moon herself sent along (all the way from the UK) a copy of the book that you can win! Thanks, Roger!

Simply leave a comment by midnight CST July 23, and our cat Maggie will select a winner. :)

Trust me, you want this book. Here are three poems to enjoy. 

The first one comes from James Carter, and it's a shape (concrete) poem. In order to honor his request and present it exactly right, I am relying on a photograph. I know you'll be able to see its gorgeous presentation, and I hope you can read all the words! 

Oh, lonely Moon! Bless her.

The second poem I'd like to share comes to us on the facing page, and it's written by Cynthia Grady, whom I adore! The poem offers a horse metaphor (for which I am a complete sucker!) and also a kind of an unexpected take on the Moon. 

Having worked as an anthologist, I can tell you how welcome this is! Anthologies need variety, and if you are submitting work for inclusion, it helps to follow Emily Dickinson's advice to "tell all the truth but tell it slant." Give us an unusual, unexpected angle, and your poem is more likely to be selected! Here's Cynthia:

Winter Night on a Rocky Coast

Like galloping horses across the headlands,

               waters rage and roar.

Reign in your tides, Moon! Tame those wild


               beating up the shore.

- Cynthia Grady

Finally, I'm delighted to share the titular poem, Roger Stevens' "Moonstruck." It's so full of whimsy and imagination -- perfect for a "Moon" poem! 



A brilliant idea that arrive after midnight


When you live in the city and yo long to catch



A branch cut for walking across moonlit fields


A bag made of memories for storing your dreams

-Roger Stevens

And now for this week's ArtSpeak: LIGHT poem! A poem about fog that breaks the rules and intentionally includes two adverbs. (Poetry is totally for rule breakers! I love that.) Thanks so much for reading!


Sky bundles mountain
in a bulky quilt
until sun comes along
with her needles of light
to quickly, quietly
hem the edges of night.

—Irene Latham

Friday, July 14, 2023

Poem for a Blue Afternoon

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit lovely Linda at A Word Edgewise for Roundup.

First, I want to send up a little prayer of thanksgiving for Mary Ann Hoberman who died earlier this month at the age of 92. She gave us so many beautiful poems and books! Recently I read this short one, which to me is a celebration of introversion and solitude. Being alone doesn't necessarily mean being lonely! I'm grateful for this message for myself and for kids everywhere:


Sometimes I like to be alone

And look up at the sky

And think my thoughts inside my head—

Just me, myself, and I.

- Mary Ann Hoberman

Next, please allow me to share some inspiration and direction for those in our community working this summer on solo poetry collections! I love the following advice from one of our UK poetry peeps/editor Janetta Otter-Barry. Plus, it uses the word "light," not once, but twice! 

"If you’re writing poetry for a solo collection make sure there’s a wide range of moods and tones. Light and shade. Poetry is a great way to address important issues but it needs to be done with a light touch. Experiment with different forms. Mix rhyming verse and free verse. The more variety the better."

Finally: Today's ArtSpeak: Light poem combines a few of my favorite things: blue & water & mystery & light...and perhaps a whispering to a touchstone poem for me and many others: Mary Oliver's "Wild Geese." Thanks so much for reading!

On a Blue Afternoon

throw open a window

grab sky by the eyeful

you don't have to think

you don't have to choose

ocean is a blanket of light

let it unfold you

-Irene Latham

Friday, July 7, 2023

Wild is a Place that Changes Us.

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit marvelous Marcie Flinchum Atkins for Roundup.

I've been reading Brave the Wild River: The Untold Story of Two Women Who Mapped the Botany of The Grand Canyon by Melissa L. Sevigny. 

Here's a quote I love:

What does “wild” mean anyway? Not untouched by human presence, for even the plants—especially the plants—show how the canyonland's first inhabitants tended agave and prickly pear, coaxing them into new shapes. A wild place isn't one unchanged by humans. It's a place that changes us.

So, my question for you today—and because I've been thinking about it all week—what is a place that has changed you? Would you call it "wild?"

In the midst of these musings I wrote a small ArtSpeak: LIGHT poem, which is also about being changed somehow. The art at first glance doesn't seem to be of a "wild" place, but by Sevigny's definition, I think, YES, this IS a wild place! We are changed by light, by wonder, by simply sitting in communion with one another. Thanks so much for reading!

late afternoon

we are all glass windows

stained by light

- Irene Latham