Monday, March 14, 2016

Eating, Pretending, & Celebrating with Poet Irene Latham

Students - Welcome to a writing invitation from my friend, poet Irene Latham, someone who thoughtfully and joyfully spirits readers off to places near and far with just a few words.

Here she is.  Wave!  (Trust me; she is as kind and as wise as she looks.)

Learn More about Irene at her Website
Read More of Irene's Poems at her Blog, Live Your Poem

Irene has two new books out this spring.  Here is the first one you will not want to miss, published by Millbrook Press just last month.  If you have read DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST (and if you haven't yet, do), you will appreciate this second collaboration between Irene and illustrator Anna Wadham.

But today, we will sink our teeth more deeply into last week's release, published by WordSong. This book of poems about foods from the farmers' market will delight you with feast-your-eyes imagery and mouth-watering metaphors. Irene is a grand chef, and words are her ingredients.

In celebration of last week's's release, Irene has generously offered to share a writing exercise with all of us. So, take out your pencil or pen, your notebook, read, and then let Irene's voice speak to you as you write.

Welcome to Irene!

One of my favorite ways to approach any poem is to write it as a persona poem. Right away this allows me to be something I'm not, to be imaginative, and to experience empathy. It's a wonderful way to explore the world! In fact, the early drafts of FRESH DELICIOUS contained several persona poems – but in the editorial process it was determined that the “I” voice of a fruit or vegetable that's about to be eaten might be a little creepy/scary for young readers! So I rewrote or eliminated those poems. But YOU are welcome to write farmers' market persona poems. To begin, here are some questions you can ask your fruit or vegetable:

What do you look like?

What's your favorite part of the day?
Do you like it when the farmer visits?
Do you have other visitors? Who, or what?
How does it feel to be picked?
What kind of weather do you enjoy? 
What kind of weather do you dread?
Where to you live – in a row? On a vine? A bush?
Who are your neighbors and what are they like?
Do you know what's going to happen to you?
How do you feel about your purpose in life?
What are your memories?
What's your greatest desire?
What's in your heart?

And here is a poem that contains the answers I heard when I asked a muscadine (a kind of grape) some of those same questions. 

Memoirs of a Muscadine

When I was little
I was green and hard,
like a pea.

Now I'm plump
and juicy
and purple.

When I was little
I clung
close to the vine.

Now I reach
for the breeze
and tug at my stem.

When I was little
I didn't know
how to speak.

Now I pop! squish!
when I meet
your teeth.

- Irene Latham

And here is the poem that replaced the muscadine poem – and also, with just 7 words, holds the honor of being the shortest poem in the book!

(Click to enlarge this image)


a bouquet
of minty

- Irene Latham

Thank you, Amy, for inviting me to the Poem Farm – a place that is as fresh and delicious as it gets. xo, Irene

So many thank yous to Irene for joining and feeding us today.  And gratitude, too, to WordSong, the publisher of FRESH DELICIOUS. WordSong has offered to give away a copy of Irene's new book to a commenter on this post, so please leave a few words below to be entered. I will draw a winning name this Friday, March 18.

If you happened to miss last Friday's post, you will want to visit HERE to read the poems by Mrs. Minton's fifth grade poets.

Please share a comment below if you wish.


  1. Yay for kind, wise Irene. So cool to see the original poem and what it became.

  2. Thanks for helping us get to know Irene Latham! I just finished reading When the Sun Shines on Antarctica yesterday and was excited to learn more about her through your blog. Looking forward to reading poems about food!

  3. Thank you, Amy! I think kindness and wise-ness grows at The Poem Farm... rows and bushels and silos full! And lucky us, we get to graze... so grateful. xo

  4. I enjoyed hearing the changes, and the idea of writing persona poems about the fruits or vegetables. Whatever you write, Irene. it's a pleasure to read. Thanks for sharing this beautiful book, Amy.

  5. Wow! Now, that's some revising! Thank you for letting us get a peek at your process. I'm saving your persona poem exercise prompt for my daily poetry devo....and look forward to what comes of it. Keep on writing. The world needs poets more than ever. And, I can't wait to read Fresh Delicious. I think it's a perfect book for little ones to share with Grandmas and Aunties and those that go to the market with them. Wonderful concept. Beautifully done. Bravo.

  6. Are copies of your book being sold at Farmer's Markets anywhere? I hope so!

  7. Just read and loved this! I especially loved the About Corn poem. As a nature fan, I'm excited to read the Antarctica book too. Congrats, Irene & thank you, Amy :)

  8. Yay! Thanks for a great poetry activity from two of my favorite poets, you and Irene.

  9. Thanks, Amy, for posting a writing exercise and words of praise in honor of FRESH DELICIOUS and the kind wordsmith behind it, Irene Latham. I followed the writing exercise and enjoyed it!

  10. I love the writing exercise! I am teaching imagery to my third graders so this is perfect! I love Irene's poems and Amy's site!

  11. This is fabulous! I can't wait to have this book and share it with my granddaughter and the children I work with in schools. Irene is a talent and such an awesome friend. She inspires. Love The Poem Farm, always, though!!!
    Janet F.