Friday, January 26, 2024

Florida poem


sunset at Sunset Point, Key Colony, FL
Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Susan at Chicken Spaghetti for Roundup.

So many congratulations to this year's ALA YMA winners! I was glad to see poetry represented: Mascot by Charles Waters and Traci Sorell was named an American Indian Library Association Honor book; Kin: Rooted in Hope by Carole Bostone Weatherford was named a Coretta Scott King Honor book; Nearer My Freedom by Monica Edinger and Lesley Younge was included on the shortlist for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Award. (I haven't read this one yet, but soon!)

There may be other poetry titles that got awards...please add any others in comments!

Meanwhile, we're just back from a lovely time in the Florida Keys. No wonder I decided to write a Florida poem for this week's ArtSpeak: FOLK ART series. 

The folk artist I've chosen this week is Harold Newton,  a founding member of the Florida Highwaymen, a group of mostly male, mostly African American Florida landscape artists who sold paintings from the trunks of their cars during the late 1950s and early '60s. The sole female Florida Highwaymen was Mary Ann Carroll. I will likely feature her later in the year!

A few years ago during a visit to Ft. Pierce, FL, we were lucky enough to visit the A.E. Backus Museum, which features a beautiful collection of Florida Highwaymen art, mostly by A.E. Backus. (Museums like the Backus are my favorite kind of gallery...small, intimate, with knowledgeable, passionate docents!)

I chose to write this poem as a shadorma, a Spanish 6-line syllabic poem of 3/5/3/3/7/5 syllable lines respectively. ("Florida" is a Spanish word, so of course a shadorma!) 

I hope this poem brings some sunshine to those who have been brutalized by recent winter storms. Thanks so much for reading!


morning sky a ripe


cracked open—

herons wade in the juicy

sweet shallows

- Irene Latham

Friday, January 19, 2024

Heaven Poem (with Mule!)


Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit radiant Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge for Roundup.

I don't know what's going on with me...last week I wrote a Funeral Poem...and this week I've written a poem about Heaven! 

I do believe we can continue to be in relationship with our loved ones, even after they are dead. And I often call up on my loved ones (my father in particular)...but why these poems, right now? 

Perhaps it's the ArtSpeak: FOLK ART theme? Folk art isn't afraid of things like death and funerals and heaven. I love that!

The art for today's poem is by Buddy Snipes. Buddy was born 1943 in Macon County, Alabama, and he was known for fixing things. It's no wonder he began creating art assemblage pieces out of spare parts! I love this little blurb about him here. The piece featured is available for purchase at Main Street Gallery in Clayton, GA.

Another thing about this week's poem: it's written in a new-to-me form, called an Abracadabra. Basically it uses the spelling of the word Abracadabra, but takes out the "r"s in order to create a rhyme scheme for a 9-line poem. So the rhyme scheme here is abacadaba. (Perhaps you know from my book NINE: A Book of Nonets, I kind of have a thing for 9-line poems!)

I struggled a bit with this one...but I often struggle with rhyme! I wrote about ten last lines, but couldn't decide! So I asked son Eric to pick, and this is where we landed. Now that it's done, I feel rather pleased with the experience. Maybe I'll write another one sometime...maybe you'd like to write one, too?? I hope so! Meanwhile, thanks so much for reading!

Mule Ringing the Doorbell in Heaven

Hello, Hello, Mule brays.
We're hungry. We're beat.
Are we in the right place?
Gate swings wide,
sets sky ablaze.
Welcome, the angels sing,
to a world full of sunny days!
So Mule and his friend rest, eat—
no worries now; nothing but praise.

- Irene Latham

Friday, January 12, 2024

A Funeral Poem

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit terrific Tracey at Tangles and Tails for Roundup.

Will a poetry title win the Newbery this year? Here's a post that evaluates MY HEAD HAS A BELLYACHE by Chris Harris as a contender. (We'll find out at ALA Youth Media Awards on Monday, January 22, 8 am est!)

Today's ArtSpeak: FOLK ART poem features work by Louisiana folk artist Clementine Hunter (1886-1988).  

I love Clementine's story...she didn't start painting until she was in her 50s! Before there was such a thing as a "pop up," she was doing just that kind of business by posting a sign by her front door advertising her art for sale (for 25 cents!). Now her art hangs in famous museums.

You can read more about Clementine in a picture book Art from Her Heart: Folk Artist Clementine Hunter by Kathy Whitehead, illus. by Shane W. Evans.

The poem is a variation on a triolet (one of my go-to forms...but I often like to switch up those repeating lines, at least a little bit!).

We Bring Flowers: A Funeral Song

We bring flowers to say goodbye—
Goodbye, dear one, why did you have to go?
For their beauty, for the way they perfume the sky—
we bring flowers to say goodbye.
Lilies sing when we can do nothing but cry,
roses soften the tidal wave of woe.
We bring flowers to say, Goodbye,
—O dear one, why did you have to go?

- Irene Latham

Two books on my nightstand that may have influenced this poem:

Friday, January 5, 2024

2024 One Little Word: BEAUTY

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit marvelous Marcie Flinchum Atkins for Roundup. Lucky me: I was the winner of Marcie's gorgeous haiku/poetry calendar! Here it is, happy in its new home. I love it so much!

Earlier this week I posted a quote from Joyce Sidman over at Smack Dab in the Middle about poetry's power to bring us epiphanies. Don't miss's a good one!

This is my 17th year to choose One Little Word to guide and inspire my year. It's a spiritual practice I'm quite devoted to. 

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
2023 space

Last year I created a quilt out of blocks I made for each of the first fifteen years. Now I've got a new project going: DIY garden word bricks!

I'm excited about this year's word. "Beauty" has been on my shortlist many years. It was reading the passage on beauty from Consolations: the Solace, Nourishment and Underlying meaning of Everyday Words by David Whyte that pushed it from bridesmaid to bride status. Here are some excerpts:

"Beauty is the harvest of presence"

"Beauty is an achieved state of both deep attention and self-forgetting"

"Beauty especially occurs in the meeting of time with the timeless"

"Beauty invites us, through entrancement, to that fearful frontier between what we think makes us; and what we think makes the world."

*So many thanks to joyous and wise poet-friend Jan Annino for recommending this book!

For this year's ArtSpeak theme, I've selected another many-times-contender: FOLK ART. 

I love folk art, outsider art, primitive art. Art created from everyday objects. Art created by those who create not from formal training, but from life. Art made for the sake of art, for fulfillment (not for money or fame).

And, a few years back, when my Poetic Forever Friend Charles Waters was living in New York City, he gifted me a postcard book from the American Folk Art Museum. It contains 30 postcards, so voila!, right away I've got a nice selection of art to choose from. 

Thank you, Charles!

I'll also be showcasing some southern folk artists, especially from my home state of Alabama...starting with Lois Wilson. Lois pulled items from the trash and turned them into art. I love that! (I have written a picture book manuscript about Lois. I hope to find a publisher for it someday!)

Here's a tricube for you after one of her joyous pieces created on a piece of wood. Many of her pieces are on can view her (2500!) pieces at the Fayette Museum of Art in Fayette, Alabama.

When I Ride my Bike in Spring

World spins by—
a happy
tide of green.

Wind blows me
open. I
smile so wide.

My feet pump,
my wheels whirr—
I'm alive!

- Irene Latham