Thursday, November 16, 2023

The Last Poem (Poetry Friday Roundup is Here!)

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Special shout-out to all our poet-friends and educators at NCTE! Welcome to Roundup. Please add your link below.

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First, be sure and check out the new weekly poetry column headed up by David Harrison! This edition of "Poetry from Daily Life" is written by guest-poet Ted Kooser, and it's a beauty that will remind you to play. (I needed that reminder this week!)

Second, I want to shout-out the latest from Geisel-Honor-Award-winning author/poet/friend Vikram Madan. It's a rhyming graphic novel. I know! Brilliant, right? Perfect for Dr. Seuss fans. It's called Zooni Tales, and it's sweet and fun and just perfect for beginning readers. 

Vikram takes us behind the scenes in this blog post. Rhyming AND illustrating...such talent! 

Also, here's a quick flip-through video of the book.  

So many thanks to Vikram for allowing me to share below the sea-spread, which I love! I just want to place this book in the hands of all the young readers in my life, and I hope you will, too. 💜


Finally: I've been thinking lately about the last poem in a collection of poems. 

Perhaps you, like me, upon picking up a collection of poems flip right to the last poem of the book. Last poems are often my favorite poems in a collection–sometimes the only poem I remember or truly care about. And, since in addition to being a reader, I am in the business of creating poetry collections (just like many of you!), that got me thinking: why? 

What should the last poem in a collection do? What purpose does it serve? What message or mood should it convey?

I want to say right up front that I'm sure there are as many answers to these questions as there are poets in the world. What we crave in collections is personal, subjective. But whatever my (and your!) personal preferences, I think we can all learn something from this discussion, yes?

So, for me, as a reader, I love last poems that are soft, tender, thoughtful. 

I like being left with a question, a wistfulness, a wonder. 

A fat moment, a place to linger.

Acceptance, hope, awe.

I don't want a conclusion, so much as a jumping-off place. 

I want a shift in my mind/heart to someplace else. 

I want a sense of mystery, yet something that also feels satisfying—like an acknowledgement of the journey we've just been on in reading the book, and some hint of what direction to go next. 

An end AND a beginning. 

What poetry collections offer this? Here are just a few from my personal shelves:

The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog: And Other How to Poems ends with "How to Pay Attention" by April Halprin Wayland.

A Maze Me: Poems for Girls by Naomi Shihab Nye ends with "Thoughts That Came in Floating—"

Cherry Moon: Little Poems for Big Ideas Mindful of Nature by Zaro Weil ends with "twilight"

Requiem: Poems of the Terazin Ghetto by Paul B. Janeczko ends with these ten words, untitled, which are embedded in my memory:

Blue sky


barbed wire.

I wish I were



Meanwhile, during my ArtSpeak: Harlem Renaissance series, I wrote a poem titled "The Last Poem," which offer a poetic way of exploring this topic.

And now, this week's ArtSpeak: LIGHT poem. I struggled a bit this week...couldn't settle on an art piece, and then when I did, I wanted to poem to accomplish SO MUCH, partly because I love this piece of art so much...and also because I mean it as a love poem to you and you and YOU! The poem gets its title from good ol' Walt Whitman. Thanks so much for reading.

Because You Contain Multitudes

I find in your face

enough space for everything—

triangles of mischief

spangles of awe

curves of questions

swerves of certainty

squares of yes

flares of no

and in your eyes

a thousand round skies, all aglow.

- Irene Latham


  1. I love this post Irene! I agree-- the last poem of a collection has a special resonance. And I'm a big fan of The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog! The line "spangles of awe" really resonates with me today-- how lovely! Thanks for sharing and hosting today. Happy Poetry Friday!

  2. Irene, I found myself so connected to your extended thoughts on end poems. I saw a lot of my own process in your engaging pondering of this issue. I am always conscious of the considerable responsibility afforded the final poem, believing every stop is a place to start. I feel I am placing considerable faith in this poem to provide both closure and possibility. So thank you for this timely reminder. It feels good to know how a fellow poet approaches this aspect of a poetry anthology. Thank you also for hosting this week.

  3. Ooo such an overflowing collection of rich poems and books this week Irene. Interesting thoughts on final poems, and I do visit that last poem before the end… 💙 your "The Last Poem" and pic-wonderful! And Janeczko's ending powerful poem–there's so much there in those few words. Glad you found Klee's art and matched it with all the "multitudes" there. Thanks for hosting and all!

  4. Oh, Irene - This post speaks to me on so many levels, as you can guess. What an amazing combination of Klee, Walt Whitman, and Irene! Love your poem, and it's so "your" voice.
    Also, lucky me - I got to meet Vikram in July out on the west coast with Janet and Sylvia! What a treat, and I'm happy to see his newest book out in the world and featured here. :0) (And, yay for the shout-out to our amazing April, among these other stars and lights.)

  5. Love your post, Irene - from our friend Vikram's new book to your ArtSpeak poem (with those curves and swerves and angles) to those wonderful "last" poems. Thanks for hosting!

  6. Zooni Tales looks like so much fun! Thank you for the quick flip-through to get a peek. Wonderful thoughts on the last poem in a collection. Left me with much to ponder! Your artspeak definitely speaks to me. I wish they posted your poems next to the artworks in museums! How fortunate museum visitors would be to get the double treat of your poetry with the art.

  7. What a wonder of a post, Irene, so full of goodness. I am "grateful" for each part, and know about David's new idea, love Ted Kooser's words always. 'Amaze Me' was a favorite in my classroom & Vikram's book looks very cute. I know only from personal preference in reading about the collections but my idea for endings would be the way one feels when an event one has looked forward to has its final moments, and one is full of joy for its wonder. Thanks for the Artspeak poem, this time, all full of geometry, and for hosting!

  8. Thanks for the discussion question about the last poem. I now want to go read some collections to see examples. For me, I like the feeling of being let go to do something...not pick up a new book but to "stay" in the book or collection in my mind for a while. I do love a good rumination session. LOL. The title of your light poem this week is perfect...such a great line and tile bundle. Thanks so much for hosting! I've been playing in folk and fairy tales this week. A delight.

  9. This post is so stuffed with generosity and wonder, Irene. Thank you for a column and book to celebrate and your thoughtful-wise words about the last poem. I am going to copy them into my notebook and do a little last-poem-reading of my own. Hugs to your soul from mine. xo, a.

  10. Triangles, spangles, curves, swerves - I love how my tongue feels with these words playing about on it, Irene. And thank you for such a thought-filled question to consider, especially as so many of us labor with love on our poetry collections. Can't wait to dive into some of the recommendations in your post.

  11. Thanks for hosting, Irene. Your lovely discussion of ending poems made me think of the final poem in my BookSpeak, where the ending of the book talks about how it is not so much an ending as a beginning. I love all of your thoughts about final poems, and now I'm going to flip through some of the favorite collections on my own bookshelves and see how other poets ended their books. Thanks for all you shared today, and thanks for hosting. I'm at NCTE and probably won't be able to visit other posts, but I'm glad I at least got to read yours! Oh, and thanks for sharing Vikram's newest!

  12. This post is chock full of goodness -- love your discussion of last poems and the examples you shared. "and in your eyes a thousand round skies" -- gorgeous! Thanks for the heads up about Vikram's book and for hosting this week!

  13. Irene, your post is full of thoughts that will make me wonder all week long. "What should the last poem in a collection do? What purpose does it serve? What message or mood should it convey?"
    Your poem fills in the gaps for me. Words like "question, wistfulness, wonder, hope" stand out. Thank you for hosting and the endless well of thoughts you always bring to the printed page. My post will be added this morning.

    A fat moment, a place to linger.

  14. "squares of yes / flares of no" I love this stanza and how it represents all of our human contradictions! Thanks for hosting -- and asking such great questions, Irene.

  15. Irene, You've made me want to take a new look at Last Poems - especially now that I'm publishing an anthology and might do a collection in the future. Thank you! I will check out the books you've listed for that. Thanks for hosting! Your posts are always chock full of information and goodness! ~ Carol ~ The Apples in My Orchard

  16. Irene, wow. Thanks for hosting, but also thanks for the beauty of this post. All the great ideas about the last poem in a collection. I haven't really given that a thought yet, but I guess I will now be going to the end and seeing what's there. Your art poem is lovely--a love poem for me -- "a thousand round skies, all aglow." So gorgeous.

  17. ah, Irene: "spangles of awe. . ."

    Appreciations for your WW-afinity poem, the suggested collections with satisfying end poems, the David Harrison column [news to way-behind me], the groovy looking graphic novel & for hosting.
    The poetry collection MY THOUGHTS ARE CLOUDS by Georgia Heard holds the end poem "Your Heart is Like a Flower" that always makes me feel blooming . . .
    I love this post of yours!

  18. Thank you for hosting and for pointing me toward David Harrison's column. What a gem! I've been thinking a lot about the order of poems and the placement in general and how the poems feed off each other. Thanks for making me consider the ending in a different way.

  19. Thanks for the shout out Irene! I love the 'multitudes' poem and am not getting tired of reading it over and over!

  20. A shout to a book you loved, a teaching thought to pass onto readers thirsting for poetic knowledge, and an Irene poem with a behind the scenes look at what you were aiming for when writing it. That, my friends, is an enriching blog post!


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