Friday, May 17, 2024

Gee's Bend quilt poem


Irene Latham & Mama
Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Patricia at Reverie for Roundup.

I acquired some new folk art last week at Homestead Hollow. And that got me thinking that I might enjoy writing some of my ArtSpeak: FOLK ART poems after pieces I've collected over the years! So, today, my poem is written after the small quilt we commissioned Gee's Bend quilter Mary Ann Pettway to create for us. (14 years since my first middle grade novel Leaving Gee's Bend was released, and I am still quilting and collecting quilts!) It hangs in our bedroom, and I adore it. The title "Going to Town without a Pocket" is what Mary Ann named the quilt. Such a great title, I had to use it!

Aside: Gee's Bend quilts have been in the news lately thanks to Target.

Before I share the poem, today's lovely PF hostess Patricia last week left a query in comments about how I use line breaks and (sometimes) right justification. How do I make these decisions? Here are my quick answers (thank you, Patricia, for asking!):

Regarding line breaks. In my opinion, the most important word on any line of poetry is the LAST word...because that word acts as a hinge, or a page turn. (The second most important word would be the FIRST word of the line!) You want to entice your reader forward to the next line, so the last word on a line is a great place for a powerhouse word!

 I REALLY don't like conjunctions (a, and, the) or prepositions as last words in the line...which is why I am super-picky about striking lines I choose for Golden Shovel poems. 

I'm also paying attention to natural pauses when saying the poem aloud in addition to line length as I break lines. I want the poem to have clarity and to LOOK pleasing on the page. 

I also really enjoy playing with enjambment -- I get a thrill out of lines that can mean multiple things and find this is a great way to add delight and surprise to a poem.

About justification of the poem. I pretty much always start out in my word doc with left-justified lines... and then (like last week) the lines may migrate as I work in Canva to digitally marry the art image and my poem. 

Sometimes the left-justified just doesn't look good, so I'll try right-justified or center-justified. And then I'm like, wow, I really like this! I should try this more often! 

One thing I love about this weekly ArtSpeak poetry practice is how it pushes me out of my comfort zone and gets me trying new things. It's a great place to be flexible and to be reminded of how much freedom we have as poets. Fun! Thanks so much for reading.

Going to Town Without a Pocket

No pocket for feathers,
petals, or perfect-for-
thumb-rubbing stones.

No coins, no toothpick.
No poem tenderly printed
and folded to give a friend.

My heart wide, swallowing
all that is fleeting:
moon, maple, morning.

I keep the world
under my eyelids, in my ribs.
All day I carry it with me.

- Irene Latham


  1. And definitely no electronic device to distract eyes and heart from the treasures the world has to offer when we look up and listen! I love the idea of "keep(ing) the world / under my eyelids!"

  2. Oh, Irene! Thank you for including the answer to my question. I fall victim far too frequently to those nasty conjunctions ending my lines. Thank you for these nuggets and reminders. Now for a place to tuck them (no pockets)! Since they come from you, they feel right nestled "in my ribs."

    1. I'm adding my thanks for your thoughts on line breaks. It seems the more I write the more I wonder about these things. I appreciate the question and response.

  3. I love your new quilt, Irene! Your post sent me poking around the Homestead Hollow website to enjoy their homespun offerings. Quilts are one thing of which I could never have too many. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with all, Irene, and thank you for asking a great question, Patricia!

  4. I love this poem! And the quilt, too!

  5. Beautiful post, Irene! I love the picture with you and your Mama, the quilt and the poem, which honors the pocketless journey. All the day stays inside, without artifacts:
    "I keep the world
    under my eyelids, in my ribs.
    All day I carry it with me."

    So beautiful!

  6. That missing pocket! I love how it becomes a story in the quilt and in the poem...and the lovely response to no pocket is to keep all the treasure in head and heart. Just wonderful. The photo of you and your mom is great...such joy in it.

  7. Ah, no pocket needed if "under my eyelids". It's lovely, Irene, a strong, determined voice! I love the quilt and loved your book, wow, 14 years old! Thanks for the tips, too!

  8. Thanks so much for the tips about line breaks. Irene. That is something I am always thinking about and studying. I love your poem. I want to carry the world with me in my heart, too.

  9. Her title IS perfect. So glad you used it. I also love "thumb-rubbing stones." Thank you for talking about line breaks and enjambment too!

  10. Sending you something I encountered in a recent book about Gee's Bend. I can't believe the book is fourteen years old. Such a great read! And your poem is a wonder:
    " My heart wide, swallowing
    all that is fleeting:"
    Perfect way to live.

  11. What a cozy and satisfying post. (And how much do you look like your mama?!) :) My daughters and I recently went to Junkstock and had a grand time. I enjoyed wandering through this post, your thoughts on the structuring of your poems, and this line:
    "All day I carry it with me." Love!

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