Friday, February 23, 2024


 Hello an Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit terrific Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference for Roundup.

I've got lots of exciting poetry things coming this spring. One of them is a public poetry project. Thanks to poetry friends Jay Brazeau and Joan Riordan for helping to keep this flame alive in my heart!

some pockets that need
 This year I am in charge of the bulletin board at my local library for National Poetry Month. I've decided to focus on Poem in Your Pocket Day, and I'll be using a display of actual (mostly denim) pockets cut from thrift-store clothing. I'd like to fill those pockets with YOUR POEMS! Family-friendly poems that patrons of all ages can pull from the pockets on the bulletin board and take home to display or gift or ponder...or simply smile over! 

**If you'd like to contribute some printed poems to this project, that would be awesome! And I know that readers in Blount County, Alabama, will be enriched and entertained by your words. 

This is totally something you can hand-print or print on your at-home printer...could be bookmarks or index cards...any slip of paper that would fit in a pocket but stick out a little (for easy grabbing)! 

I'd suggest individual poems printed on paper at least 4 inches tall, but not wider than 3.5 inches. 

As for how many, I'm thinking 5-30 per poet? 

(This is my first time doing this, so I'm not sure how many patrons will snag poems. But the bulletin board will be up all month long, and there will be 15-20 pockets... I sure don't want to run out of poems! Any leftovers I will circulate at various conferences and poetry workshops I have scheduled this year.)

You can mail them to me by April 1, 2024 at PO Box 122 Oneonta, AL 35121. Alternatively, if you create a digital file and send me a PDF, I can print them for you!

... and I will certainly share pics of the completed project!

Questions? Please put them in comments or email me: irene (at) irenelatham (dot) com.

In other happy news,
Nine: A Book of Nonet Poems (Charlesbridge, illus. by Amy Huntington) was selected as a Mathical Honor Book! 

Y'all, this book came out during lockdown in 2020, and in the midst of a flurry of other releases, so I wasn't able to celebrate it properly. So this recognition feels especially sweet. So many congratulations to all the other book creators whose works were honored...and many thanks to the committee!

Also: My contribution is next-up in David Harrison's Poetry from Daily Life column. I'll post a link next week!

This week's ArtSpeak: FOLK ART poem is the third one this year about death. Earlier I posted We Bring Flowers: A Funeral Song and Mule Ringing the Doorbell in Heaven. And today I've got a memoriam poem! 

I kind of love thinking about my deceased loved ones, communing with them, bringing them into my daily father, especially.

 Recently a friend asked me, "What's your favorite memory of your father?" And wow, I had a lot of answers to that question! But what stunned me was the question itself, and how I don't think anyone has ever asked me that. So I have really enjoyed wandering that particular memory-forest. 

So here's a poem, inspired by art created by Woodie Long.  I hope my father is up there reading this poem and that he is reassured that he is not and never will be forgotten.

For You (In Memoriam)

For you we
step outside,
greet steep March

wind. For you
we unspool
string and lift

kites. For you
we dash fast
and faster,

send blazes
of red silk
into blue

their bright tails

you. We do.

- Irene Latham

p.s. This poem is a double tricube. xo

Friday, February 16, 2024

Pete the Cat!

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

Oh my goodness, I had the best time with my mother and sister exploring northeast Alabama! One of the highlights was visiting Ft. Payne, home of Pete the Cat. (Ft. Payne is the original home of illustrator James Dean.) We visited all the Pete the Cat murals and his sidewalk star and took selfies and visited the much fun!

In other news, Charles and I will be at Highlights this summer! (June 23-26 -- perfect for educator-poets!) You asked, and we listened... this time we are offering a "Working Retreat," which means less instruction and more time to WRITE! We expect this to be super-community-building, and we'd love for you to join us! *Our focus will be on poetry collections, both solo and anthologies...which is a great fit because our first anthology comes out fall 2024, our second anthology comes out spring 2025, and we hope to have an announcement for you very soon about a new one.

Today's ArtSpeak: FOLK ART poem is after a piece by Maine artist Earl Cunningham. So many thanks to Jan Annino for telling me about this artist! (Several others also offered artist suggestions in response to my latest Adventures in Writing newsletter...thank you, thank you! I'll be getting to them all eventually.)

I wrote a bunch of fragments that went in a bunch of different directions...kind of like the clouds in the art! And that thought is exactly how I landed on the poem I'm sharing below. 

Sometimes one doesn't know where one is going—in sailing or in writing—until you just... GO.

first sail of season
are those clouds sheep or wolves
too soon to tell

- Irene Latham

On the reading front, I've been catching up with ALA YMA winners that I hadn't yet read. One I want to mention and highly recommend: The Fire, The Water, and Maudie McGinn by Sally J. Pla, which won the Schneider Family Book Award (for MG). So much good stuff going on in this book! Prose, poetry, learning, adventure, healing, empowerment...I loved it. And I cried. Twice. xo

Friday, February 9, 2024

Bless Our Pets + a Tiger poem

 Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink for Roundup.

I've just gotten a sneak peek at Bless Our Pets: Poems of Gratitude for our Animal Friends edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illus. by Lita Judge (Eerdman's, coming April 16). 

I kind of love these posthumous projects, because they fill me with tenderness and make me feel connected to the deceased. In this case, that would be Lee Bennett Hopkins

I wish I could tell him in person how much I love his poem in the collection titled "My Old Dog." Here's to you, Lee! And to my old dogs: Sasha and Ruby—no longer with us on earth (hey, Lee, maybe you've met them??)—and Rosie, who, at age 5, isn't quite an old dog yet, but the sentiment still holds!

Rosie, age 5

Another favorite from the collection is "Dreaming of Savannah" by Kristine O'Connell George. As a life-long horse-lover, I often find myself dreaming of Cinnamon, Sugar, Rusty, Honey, Daisy Mae, and Starfire! Honey, most of all. Oh, sweet Honeysuckle Rose, our time together was too short, too short...

"Dreaming of Savannah" by Kristine O'Connell George,
illus. by Lita Judge; used with permission from the publisher.

Dreaming of Savannah

I dream of you in the morning—

  I hear a nicker, then a neigh.

  Apple? Carrot? Handful of hay?

I dream of you each afternoon—

  the velvet softness of your lips,

  your breath, warm upon my fingertips.

I dream of you late every night—

  glints of moonlight tangle your mane.

  We race across the star-strewn plain.

- Kristine O'Connell George

Other pets featured include: kitten, puppy, goldfish, gerbil, hamster, rabbit, guinea pig, turtle, snake, mouse. Lovely poems by lovely poets. And the art!! I'm a huge fan of Lita Judge, and her work here is so heartwarming. (A favorite: the spread for "Pet Snake?" by Charles Ghigna. The expressions on those kids' faces!!) This is a sweet book to share with kids of all ages.


Red Heart

A classic red love heart emoji, used for expressions of love and roman...

And now for today's ArtSpeak: FOLK ART poem! This one is after a piece by another Alabama folk artist: Thornton Dial. 

The piece I've selected features a tiger, which is a recurring theme in Dial's work. It's said that he meant the tiger as a symbol of survival in general, and specifically the struggle of the civil right movement in the United States. 

I of course had this in my mind while writing my poem! But what drew me most into the piece was the coexistence of an apex predator and that mad scattering of flowers. 

The piece feels dream-y to me, so I stepped (flew? grew?) into the dream. Thanks so much for reading!

What Tiger Dreams

Tiger dreams a field

Tiger dreams posies rising
from heat-bleached bones

Tiger dreams wings

Tiger speeds across bleakest night,
a garden growing in his wake

- Irene Latham

Friday, February 2, 2024

I am sky with a thousand faces (identity poem)


Florida flowers...what kind?
I don't know!
Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit marvelous Mary Lee at A(nother) Year of Reading for Roundup.

Y'all, it's February! I know many don't care for February, but it's my favorite month. And this (leap) year we get an extra day to be kind and tell people we love that we love them and give flowers and walk in the woods and eat chocolate and and and.... Woohoo!

Today's ArtSpeak: FOLK ART poem is an identity poem. I have written quite a lot of identity poems over the years! No surprise, really, as poetry is often a place for self-discovery. And how much fun is it to play with those words "I am" ??

The art is by reclusive Alabama folk artist Sybil Gibson. I was immediately drawn to all those faces, and how fragile and dreamy they appear...and to the artist's struggle between wanting to be seen and wanting to NOT be seen. Thanks so much for reading!

I am sky with a thousand faces

I am a shoal of clouds

I swirl birds
and currents

I am not hiding

I am here,

I rise   I set    I dream

I am a squall
of stars

please look up

- Irene Latham