Monday, January 23, 2017

Movie Monday: THE FOUNDER

I am very excited about the 2017 Youth Media Awards coming later this morning! I considered attending the event since it is so close (Atlanta), but decided I'd rather watch the live stream in my pajamas. :)

In other exciting news, the 2017 Oscar nominations will be announced  tomorrow (Tuesday) morning! Here are some predictions.

And here is a little bit about THE FOUNDER, which is about Ray Kroc, the man responsible for bringing McDonald's nationwide and around the globe (100 countries!). I really enjoyed the movie, as it shows the good and the not so good about being ambitious. Success comes at a price, and sometimes the story gets changed along the way. Things (like marriages and integrity) are sometimes lost in the pursuit of success, and by God, when you make a deal, get it in writing. 

I was instantly able to apply some of the movie's wisdom to my writing life -- it's not about talent or education; the way to succeed is PERSISTENCE.

I know this to be true, and I kind of ached for Ray Kroc in the movie when he's pitching McDonald's as a franchise, and the bankers and investors are laughing at him, remembering all his previous schemes and great ideas. It can be SO HARD to keep going.

But. All a person needs is one great success! And Kroc is right: it's got to be different, something revolutionary. This is good advice for we artists as well! Don't just do the thing that's already been done. Be bold and innovative. Know what you're selling/creating. (For Kroc, it was "family.") And Don't. Give. Up.

Go see this one -- Michael Keaton does a great job, and it's a fascinating story.

Friday, January 20, 2017

FOOLING AROUND WITH SHAKESPEARE

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit lovely Violet at Violet Nesdoly for Roundup.

One of the things I love to do on this blog is showcase Alabama books and authors. Today it is my pleasure to welcome Glenda Slater, author of FOOLING AROUND WITH SHAKESPEARE (Negative Capability Press, 2016). These poems are FUN! They are not just for someone who knows and loves Shakespeare. They make a great introduction to him, especially as they are so easy to understand and amusing. Teachers, these poems would be great to pair with actual Shakespeare in the classroom!

First I'd like to share the Preface that begins the book:

You may be long-time lover of the Bard.
You may be youth who thinks His plays too hard.
The poems you will find within this book
Provide for you a new, irreverent, look.
They focus on the foolishness and fun,
The foibles, failings, faults of fools who run
Capriciously cavorting on His pages.
These fools may be, at times, confused with sages.
I warn those who are with His plays besot:
I'e taken liberties with place and plot.
Your entertainment is the poem's intent, so
Frame thy mind to mirth and merriment!

- Glenda Richmond Slater

Isn't that delightful?! And now I've asked Glenda to respond to a few prompts:

The Unexpected:

GS: I remember thinking, when Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns was published, how remarkable that a woman could publish her first book at the advanced age of 60! And here I am, considerably older, with my first.

Everything about Fooling Around with Shakespeare has been unexpected. When I wrote the first poem, in response to a Pensters [writing group] prompt, I didn’t even turn it in to the contest. That was “A Midsummer Night’s Scream” and I thought the judge would not take seriously a poem that rhymed, had meter, and was a bit of a parody on the play. It would be dismissed as light verse, I suspected.

The next year, the prompt was unintentionally repeated and I took the poem to my small writing group. When we had finished our session and were about to leave, I remembered it, pulled it out, asked them to listen to it and tell me if I should try to do something with it. They found it very amusing. Sue Walker, a member of the group, said, “Glenda, if you will write more of these, I will publish the book.” [note from Irene: Sue Walker is awesome like that.]

Wow, that was a surprise! A publisher! Those are hard to come by! I got to work, not knowing whether I could actually come up with enough poems for a book. I started with the plays I knew best, all of which, of course, had at least one character who behaved quite foolishly. These first poems came easily, which is what I had come to expect with my writing. The plays with which I was not as familiar were more challenging. I often found myself having to (gasp, not used to this) discard my first effort and start all over. With Anthony and Cleopatra, for example, I didn’t find the right approach until after writing three other versions. Surprisingly, it turned out that I liked the challenge, the expansion of imagination, and the growth of my bond with the characters.

Negative Capability Press does not have a stable of illustrators and I knew a lot of artists, but none who had illustrated a book. Sue and several people suggested names to me and I looked at their work and talked to a couple of them, but I felt a more whimsical approach was needed. I mentioned this at a meeting of my P.E.O. chapter and one of the members, Dale Goss Mozley, a gifted artist, said she had never done illustrations, but she would like to try. I told her I had a vague idea of simple, whimsical drawings, and they would need to be black and white. She set forth on this immediately, brought me sketches for two poems, said if they didn’t work for me, she would understand. They were so far beyond the vague notion I had in mind! I was delighted with them. I think her drawings add immeasurably to the effectiveness of the book. And each is her own idea; I only saw them when she finished.

Glenda Slater
The Delicious:

GS: I love rhyme and meter. I love the poems. I loved writing them, I love reading them silently, I love reading them to audiences.

Getting back in touch with Shakespeare has enriched my life. I have always enjoyed the plays, both reading them and seeing them on stage. If done well, all emotions are touched. If done poorly, perhaps hard to sit through, but such fun to critique afterwards. I acted in only one Shakespearean play (Regan, in King Lear), and found my acting ability did not measure up to my oral reading, but still it was a pleasure to be a part of what was an excellent production with a perfect King Lear and a perfect Fool.

I think the book is beautifully designed by Megan Cary. I couldn’t imagine how she would handle the various shapes and various lengths of the poems. I love that it is hardback and that she used Dale’s drawings on the cover.

I have been delighted by the reception. At my readings, the audiences have been receptive, responsive and very much with me, smiling and laughing, having fun. It’s great fun to do the readings—the poems lend themselves to oral performance.

I took great pleasure in writing them. Most often, I begin a piece when the first two lines come to mind. I usually have been mulling over the project and what I think of as the poetic section of my brain has been activated, with me thinking rhymes in my head as I go about daily activities. When those first perfect (at the moment, anyway), lines pop in, I know I’d better get them down immediately; otherwise, they’re gone. It’s best to continue the poem right then if I have time. It took me about two years to write the 20 poems.

The Difficult:

GS: It was hard waiting for the published product. Even though I knew this can take years, I did get frustrated. It took about two years from the time I turned in the manuscript to the August, 2016 launch.

The marketing process is difficult for me. I love doing the readings, but not the peripherals that are necessary.

Anything else? 

GS: It's never too late to get started. I first joined a writer’s group when in my fifties and, at that time, wrote children’s poems. I have a group of “veggie” poems that I took to elementary schools for years: “Goobers & Tubers & Pickles & Peas.” I tried to get that published with no success, but still see it as a good possibility for a poetry book with recipes for children. Just need a recipe person!

I didn’t start writing fiction until I moved to Fairhope and joined the Pensters writing group. I do well with flash fiction and have quite a few stories compiled—many of them have done well in contests. I continue to write them.

I’ve also written a middle grade novel, set in 1949 on the Gulf Coast. The first two chapters were awarded first place in Juvenile Fiction (Alabama Writers’ Conclave contest) by Watt Key three years ago. I’m looking into publishing options for it.

I’ve published a children’s play, The Junk Food King, poems. short stories, and articles on communicating with children. Not an extensive list—marketing is not my strong point.
----------------------

Thank you, Glenda, and congratulations on the fun book of poems! You are an inspiration.

Glenda Slater was born in Crosby, Mississippi, but spent most of her early life in Alabama. Currently retired, she has a B.A. (English) and M.A. (Speech and Language Pathology) from the U of Alabama, and a Ph.D. (Speech and Language Pathology) from the University of Cincinnati. She currently lives and writes in Spanish Fort, Alabama. She says, "Writing brings me joy!"


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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Books, Aging and "White House feet" According to Eleanor Roosevelt

I've just finished reading THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF ELEANOR ROOSEVELT. This was the December 2016 pick for Bas Bleu's Life Stories Book a Month club. (Now I can move on to THE SIX: THE LIVES OF THE MITFORD SISTERS by Laura Thompson... but first,
here are some words from Eleanor:

I was a shy, solemn child even at the age of two, and I am sure that even when I danced I never smiled. My earliest recollections are of being dressed up and allowed to come down to dance for a group of gentlemen who applauded and laughed as I pirouetted before them. Finally my father would pick me up and hold me high in the air. He dominated my life as long as he lived, and was the love of my life for many years after he died.

I don't supposed that kind of shyness ever really leaves one and to this day it sweeps over me occasionally when I face a crowd, and I wish the ground would open and swallow me. Habit has a great deal to do with what one actually does on these occasions, and the next years were going to give me a very intensive education along many lines.

Once, I talking to him [FDR] about some spiritualist conversations which had been sent in to me (people were always sending e their conversations with the dead), I expressed a somewhat cynical disbelief in them. He said simply: “I think it is unwise to say you do not believe in anything when you can't prove that it si either true or untrue. There is so much in the world which is always new in the way of discoveries that it is wiser to say that there may be spiritual things which we are simply unable to fathom. Therefore, I am interested and have respect for whatever people, believe, even if I cannot understand their beliefs or share their experiences."

[after FDR's death] I had few definitely plans but there were certain things I did not want to do. I did not want to run an elaborate household again. I did not want to cease trying to be useful in some way. I did not want to feel old- I seldom have. In the years since 1945 I have known the various phases of loneliness that are bound to occur when people no longer have a busy family life. But, without particularly planning it, I have made the necessary adjustments to a different way of living, and I have enjoyed almost every minute of it and almost everything about it.

As time when on, the fact that I kept myself well occupied made my loneliness less acute. I am not sure whether this was due to my own planning or simply to circumstances. But my philosophy has been that if you have work to do and do it to the best of your ability you will not have much time to think about yourself.

Readjustments in one's inner life have to go on forever, I think...


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I do not grow weary of travel and I do not tire easily – not so easily as some younger people I know. Sometimes, it is true, my feet hurt. What I call my “White House feet” hurt largely because of a change in the bones of my instep caused by years of standing at receptions in the White House. I generally find pleasure in travel because it give me an opportunity to catch up on my reading. In fact, I do must of my reading for pleasure on airplanes since at home there seldom seems to be time to puck up the many books that interest me. Incidentally, if I have a complaint about the kind of life I lead, it is that I simply cannot find time to read as much as I wish.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Reason #627 Why I Love Librarians.

About a week ago I attended a Championship Tailgate event... at my library! It's an annual event hosted by Katie Jane Morris of Hoover Library in which she speed-book-talks her favorite titles from the previous year.

I immediately put on request about twenty titles I hadn't already read, and also shared with Katie Jane some additional titles that made my list. And then yesterday, when I opened one of the books, CATCHING A STORYFISH by Janice N. Harrington (WordSong, 2016), this is what I found:


Note says: I hope you love this one! Katie Jane

Isn't that awesome? And. I love the book! It's about a girl who loves her grandfather and talktalktalks... until she moves to a new place and kids tease her about her (Alabama) accent. It's a book of friendship and family and love and fishing and finding our power through story. And it's all poems. Yay! It reminds me of WORD WITH WINGS by Nikki Grimes and GONE FISHING:A NOVEL IN VERSE by Tamara Will Wissinger.

Here is a poem from the book I am happy to share with you:

FISHING LESSON #7
by Janice N. Harrington, from CATCHING A STORYFISH

Bait your hook with patience,
if you want to catch a fish.

Bait your hook with be still,
be quiet, be slow.

Bait your hook with mosquito-buzzing,
with dragonfly-darts and frog-plops.

Bait your hook with shadows,
with a crow's awk-awk and with sunlight.

Bait your hook with enough wind
to cool the heat but not too much.

Bait your hook with your grandpa's
steady breath and the way he smiles at you.

But mostly, bait your hook with listening, with waiting,
with low waves bumping against the bank.



Friday, January 13, 2017

#ReadYourWorld with HERE WE GO: A Poetry Friday Power Book by Sylvia Vardell & Janet Wong

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday on this fabulous Friday the 13th! (Unlucky? I think NOT.) Be sure to visit Keri at Keri Recommends for Roundup. Also, shout-out to our baby boy Eric, who turns 17 today!

For the past several years, it has been my privilege to be a participating blogger in Multicultural Children’s Book Day, now it its fourth year!


This year the celebration will be all over the blogosphere January 27. You will find my review below of HERE WE GO, a multicultural book provided by two of the most passionate and generous poetry people I know: Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell of Pomelo Books. HERE WE GO is also a Children's Book Council "Hot Off the Press” selection for January 2017. Woohoo! Win your own copy below! But first, some more information about this event!

Multicultural Children's Book Day was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. 

Our mission is to raise awareness on the ongoing need to include kid’s books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team are on a mission to change all of that.

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include Scholastic, Barefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. Roman, Audrey Press, Candlewick Press,  Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTV, Capstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle Swift, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee& Low Books, The Pack-n-Go Girls, Live Oak Media, Author Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also work tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.
MCBD Links to remember:
MCBD site: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/
Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta
Free Kindness Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teachers-classroom-kindness-kit/


Free Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents: http://bit.ly/1sZ5s8i
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Don't you love all those diverse faces on the cover?! And that's just the beginning... the art continues throughout the interior as well. It's perfect for the book!

Like its predecessor YOU JUST WAIT, this is an interactive poetry book that includes a bunch of original poems by Janet Wong as well as a selection of "anchor" poems, many of which appear in previous books in the Poetry Friday Anthology series.

Anchor poems in HERE YOU GO are courtesy of some Poetry Friday friends, and other wonderful poets, including (in order of appearance) Naomi Shihab Nye, David Bowles, Carole Boston Weatherford, Kate Coombs, Margaret Simon, Eileen Spinelli, Ibtisam Barakat, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes, Joseph Bruchac, Renee M. LaTulippe, David L. Harrison and Robyn Hood Black.

HERE WE GO focuses on activism and how we can change our world. Readers meet four characters: David, Ameera, Jack and Jenna -- who are struggling with some timely issues, like being an immigrant; practicing a minority religion (Muslim); identity; what makes a family; what can we DO to make our world better? Each PowerPack provides a complete lesson -- a way into the material, poems to share, and an invitation to create one's own poem. The book is also a writing notebook, with space for young writers to include their responses.

And now, here's Janet Wong to answer a few questions for us!

IL: Welcome Janet! How did this book come to be?

JW: When Sylvia and I met together at NCTE in mid-November, we were despondent over the election. As bad as we felt, though, we knew that there were vulnerable children who felt even worse—and we wanted to create a book that would offer comfort and inspiration to them. We hope that HERE WE GO accomplishes this. We decided not to make explicit references to the election and instead to focus broadly on empathy, unity, and social change (in this case, fighting hunger).
IL: Wow, that's a book with a BIG idea! Did you encounter any difficulties or challenges?

JW: For me, a big challenge—but something that I wanted to do—was to put a “Trump supporter” in there. Jack’s dad never is described as a Trump supporter, but—pssst! you heard it here!—he is! I wanted to do this because I believe that Trump supporters were lumped together and dismissed as being all the same—and they’re not. We all have a friend, acquaintance, or family member who voted differently than we did; now is the time to get over it. In order for this country to move forward, I think we need to stop labeling each other as much as we do, and simply to come together as people. That’s what I’d like kids to take away from this book perhaps more than anything. Part of getting over it might require stepping into that person’s shoes or, as Naomi Shihab Nye describes in her poem “Blue Bucket” (the opening poem of the book, found below -- keep reading!), to carry "someone else’s bucket a while.”

IL: What are your hopes for the book?

JW: That HERE WE GO will find its way into the hands of 3rd graders who have been confused or fearful since the election and that it will give them comfort and security to read about kids like themselves: Muslim kids like Ameera, grandkids of immigrants like David, young feminists like Jenna. I also hope that teachers will read this book aloud to classrooms that include kids from conservative families; and when they hear this book, they might start to understand that what they're hearing at home isn’t the only way of thinking. And if my poem “Fake News” gets us ALL thinking more critically, what a much better place this will be!

Thank you, Janet! I think many of us have these same hopes for our children. Congratulations on the new book... and now let's take a peek inside!

The PowerPack I'd like to share with all of you today is the one that begins the book.
This spread introduces the pack!
 THEN we get this wonderfully thoughtful page to help open us up to find our poems... (including my answers to the "easy" ones. ;)
 JUST IMAGINE
Imagine if the world were a little different or you were a little different. What would that be like? Choose one of the following questions and draw or doodle your response on the opposite page.

1. If you lived in a country at war, what would your life be like?
(my answer: I just wrote a whole middle grade novel about this! And I've also just written a series of poems set in Aleppo... bombs, dust, dead bodies, blood, missing parents, demolished buildings, trash everywhere, no bread, powdered milk, no electricity... it's pretty horrifying, and my heart breaks for those actually living it.)

2. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would that be?

3. If you could stay home and play all day, what would you choose to do?
(my answer: read! quilt! write poems! play cello! take a walk! cook - and EAT- good food!)

4. If you were the leader of your country, what one thing would you like to change?

5. If you didn't have a home, what would your life be like?
(my answer: there are quite a few books out lately about refugees. See this post.)

6. If you could change one thing about your family, what would that be?

7. If the whole world were listening, what would you like to say?
(my answer: Thank you. I love you. Forgive me. I forgive you.)
from BLUE BUCKET
by Naomi Shihab Nye

What if, instead of war,
we shared our buckets
of wind and worry?
Tell me the story 
you carry there,
steeping in old pain
and future hope,
rich with fragrant
savory spices,
ginger, turmeric,
tarragon, find me
a spoon in one
of your pockets,
even if we don't
 speak the same language...

maybe
 you hold my bucket
a while, see what
the handle feels like,
and I hold yours,
and maybe both buckets
are empty and
we trade them forever...
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Isn't that lovely? And here is the RESPONSE POEM:

JENNA
IN OUR WRITING JOURNAL

In our writing journal this week
we are supposed to ask,
What if?

It can be something silly, like
What if
I could stay home and play all day?

Or something serious, like
What if 
I didn't even have a home?

Most kids are choosing a fun subject
and funny answers,
but I feel like taking a chance

and asking a hard question
even if I might not like my answer,
even if I might not have any answer at all.
- Janet Wong



 Ameera
WHAT IF

What if -
instead of
this country and that country,
this state and that state,
these people and those people,
it was just
us here and us there?

What if?
- Janet Wong
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I really love how accessible and timely this book is! I also love how it invites questions and doesn't demand answers. This is what it means to be a poet... to be open to the world, to play with words and to live in the questions. I hope you will include it in your reading and writing practice... also, toward the end of the book there are some great ideas for practical ways kids can start changing the world TODAY.

Maggie
If you would like to win a copy of this book, Pomelo Books has generously donated FIVE copies to giveaway! Simply leave a comment by 11:59 pm Tuesday, January 31, 2017 answering one of the above JUST IMAGINE questions, and our cat Maggie will select the winners!
Happy day - go forth and #ReadYourWorld!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Movie Monday: LA LA LAND

Last night while La La Land was winning a record 7 Golden Globes, we were sitting in the theater watching it.

Sunday night is not our usual date night, but this past weekend the city of Birmingham was incapacitated by snow and ice for about 48 hours, so... we missed Saturday night, and let me tell you, I was going CRAZY! I was so, so happy to get out of the house.

And you know, I loved the movie. LOVED it. I really cannot think of a movie that has made me so happy -- and broken my heart -- as this one. It's magical and beautiful and inspiring. It about dreams and hope and always, always LOVE. And did I mention it's magical and beautiful? In some ways it's old-fashioned, and it reminded me of MARY POPPINS. Plus I want all Mia's (Emma Stone) dresses. :) That whole segment at the end -- which I won't spoil for those who haven't seen it yet -- is so very perfect (even though it broke my heart). And the music! Great lyrics and melodies, throw in some jazz, and WOW. I can't think of a single thing I'd change about this movie. I can't wait to see it again. DON'T MISS.


Friday, January 6, 2017

GUESS WHO, HAIKU by Deanna Caswell

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit lovely Linda who wrote some amazing haiku during December at TeacherDance for our very first Roundup of 2017. Wow!

I am at a school visit today talking books and writing with elementary students, which is a wonderful way to spend a Friday! But I did want to share a link to a post I wrote earlier this week over at Smack Dab in the Middle entitled One Hope for Writers.

And click here to read about my 2017 One Little Word.

Also, other good news: FRESH DELICIOUS was selected as a Cybils finalist for poetry along with some other great titles:
Photo collage created and shared
on Twitter by Sylvia Vardell!


When I realized I'd read all but two, I logged in to put a hold on those books at my library.  Interesting thing: our library system has just over 20 libraries, and there were at least a dozen copies of GUESS WHO, HAIKU by Deanna Caswell, illus. by Bob Shea (Abrams Appleseed) in the system! Yay for poetry!

This is an adorable, accessible book, perfect for our youngest listeners. I like how it's interactive -- not just haiku, but a guess who? game. Poetry for wee ones should be fun, and this book is! And who doesn't love farm animals?

I like this one, offered up by the cow:

"flower visitors
busy buzzing in the field
black and yellow stripes

Can you guess who from her haiku?
----
A bee!"
- Deanna Caswell

Something in the author's note caught my eye: "Try covering the middle line of other haiku in this book." Hmmm... I will try this with other haiku as well.

Wishing everyone a lovely day and weekend. xo






Thursday, January 5, 2017

2017 One Little Word

Hello! Today marks our first Spiritual Journey Thursday of 2017, hosted by Carol at Beyond Literacy Link. Thank you, Carol! We'll all be posting about our One Little Word. Want to sign up to host? We still have one slot left!

This year marks my 10th year of practicing One Little Word. (!) It's been such an enriching experience that I really can't imagine NOT choosing one little word to guide and inspire my year.

Here are the words I've selected in the past:

--> 2016 delight 

For 2017, the word I've selected is ABUNDANCE.


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"Abundance is not a state of finances or wealth, it is a state of inner health. Wherever there is joy, appreciation, gratitude, giving, caring, creativity, vision, inspiration, love, patience and playfulness, there is abundance." - unknown

The word makes me think of the sky or the ocean, how there is enough for everyone. It makes me think of love and forgiveness -- also enough for everyone. It pulls me away from thoughts of comparison or feelings of lack -- I am enough. I am exactly where I am meant to be.


This year I want to love from a place of abundance, and write from a place of abundance. There are more than enough words and ideas for everyone! I want to focus on ways I can create abundance. Instead of asking, what can I get out this experience? (which has many times been the way I've decided whether to do this thing or that thing), I want to focus on what can I give?

Consider this quote from Lao Tzu:



"The sage never tries to store things up. The more he does for others, the more he has. The more he gives to others, the greater his abundance."

I think I've done a lot of "storing up" in my life. Choosing this word makes me want to let go of things -- things in my basement and closet, mementos, even photographs. Somehow I think abundance is related to simplicity. In the way that a flower only takes the water it needs. And the ant carries only the amount of food it can eat. Having more, storing up is a byproduct of fear -- fear of future loss.

And so it seems abundance is also a way to live in the present, to be fully present in one's own life. And the time to give is always, always NOW.
Visit Life & Style on Etsy!

Thank you for reading... I'm excited to see where this word takes me! Please share your thoughts below!



Monday, January 2, 2017

Movie Monday: FENCES

I love plays. I don't always love movies adaptation of plays. And I didn't love this one, but I did like it enough to blog about it.

Based on August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize winning FENCES, the movie version of FENCES stars Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. Their performances are great. But the movie felt flat? I don't know, it just didn't get me in the gut, I felt too much like an observer. The movie felt too long. The dialogue was so so powerful in places, and how powerful a metaphor is a fence? So. Many. Fences. Fences to separate, fences to trap... fences that can't be breached, and fences that are breached. Unfinished fences. Lives lived between the slats. And on and on.

Rich stuff. I just wish I'd felt more a part of it.

Wonder if either of these actors will get Oscar noms?? Denzel directed this one as well... We'll see Tuesday, January 24, 2017!

Also, coming Thursday: my 2017 One Little Word!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Letter to 2017

Dear 2017,

Soon you'll be here. The news is full of you today, and I can't drive anywhere without passing a fireworks stand flashing your name in neon lights. I do hope your final hours of travel are smooth and free of blizzards or other storms.

Please accept my regrets about the party this evening. It will certainly be full of good cheer and smiling faces! I look forward to welcoming you in the morning. We can share a cup of tea, then walk the trail together. Enjoy the quiet.

I need you to know right up front that I want nothing from you. I've made no resolutions. I have no grand plans, just the everyday ones: to love this world in the best ways that I can. I simply want to share the moments, to exist together. To laugh and know beauty and be grateful. Who knows what magic will happen? Your predecessors have taught me that miracles are everywhere, that the unexpected things are often the best things. All I need to do is to be open to them.

I look forward to our journey together. I know it will include new adventures and new words nesting on white paper. Anything can happen – and will! I'm ready.

Love,

Irene

Friday, December 30, 2016

Selected Poems from ONE MINUTE TILL BEDTIME

Hello and Happy last Poetry Friday of 2016! Be sure to visit Donna, my Winter Poem Swap partner!, at Mainely Write for Roundup.

ETA: Why/how has this posted a day early... and says "Friday" on the header when it is but Thursday?! O Mystery!

I'm in with a few poems from the delightful ONE MINUTE TILL BEDTIME, edited by Kenn Nesbitt, illus. by Christoph Niemann, brought to us by Little, Brown & Co.

I love this book. So often these big anthologies are wildly uneven -- a shining poem here, a meh poem there. And sometimes, when there are so many poems, they just kind of all run together ?? (This could be just me.)

What's great about ONE MINUTE TILL BEDTIME is that pretty much wherever you crack open the book you will find something surprising, something delightful. And many of the poems are short, which is good. And the illustrations really add to the fun of the book -- some poems are presented sideways, or upside-down. On one spread a lion turns into a bed! This is good book-making. Thank you to all involved! It reminds me of those Shel Silverstein volumes I so treasured as a child. This book, I think, will be enjoyed for many years to come.

And now for a few poems from the book that are calling to me this morning (so hard to choose! so hard to choose!):

A Hard Rain
by Greg Pincus

Tonight the rain is falling hard.
It's washed the colors from the yard.
It's scrubbed the paint right off our house.
It's rinsed the fur right off a mouse.
The rain's turned fields to huge mud pies.
It's cleaned the stars up in the skies.
Rivers run and try to hide.
Tonight I think I'll stay inside.
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I love this page in the book! The poem is presented sideways, and the page is mostly black. Delightful! Side note: my son Eric LOVES rain! He always goes OUTSIDE when it's raining to write songs and take pictures and ponder life. Fun.

Btw: Greg's newest middle grade novel THE HOMEWORK STRIKE (coming in January) is a JLG selection! Congrats, Greg!

Bedtime on 7th Avenue
by Ron Koertge

Big old dog sighs and lies down.
Spider closes her many eyes.

In the vacant lot, weeds lean against
each other.

Even graffiti opens its loud neon mouth
and yawns.
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Can't you just see those (unexpected!) weeds leaning against each other? And the "loud neon mouth" -- wonderful! (Want to know Ron's secret to a long life? Click Ron's name above.)
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Rolling down the Hill
by April Halprin Wayland

Sky,

     grass,

             sky,
 
                    grass,

                               Grandma,

                                            grass,

                                                        grass.

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This poem is so April! It's zany and fun and makes me smile every time I read it! (I suspect April wrote this poem after actually having the experience in the poem!)
---------------


Wild Flowers
by Bob Raczka

Our dandelions
are tame, but their color is
a loud yellow roar.

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Perfect example of a short, vivid poem... and the illustration is adorable! ROAR! Also check out Bob's latest WET CEMENT, which has earned a whole constellation of starred reviews!
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Sky Story
by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

Who has the keys
to the moon,
to the moon...
who has the keys
to the moon?
Not me,
said the owl,
said the owl;
no keys.
Not me,
said the mouse
as he nibbled his cheese.
Not me,
said the bee,
Nor I, said the fly.
Only I, said the sky.
Only I.
------------------
This poem is magical! I love all the animals in it, the repetition, the rhyme... and the "unexpected inevitable" at the end: of course the sky is the only one with the keys to the moon. Of course! If you haven't checked it out yet, be sure to read Rebecca's THE KNOWING BOOK, which I adore! (Look up!)
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Shelter

Such a slim space you're tucked into,
Butterfly:
feet
stuck to
the underside
of this dripping leaf,
wings shut tight like a 
flat gray purse holding
ribbons of color.

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Can you see the cocoon?? Beautiful example of how language need not be compromised in a shape poem. (Shape is just one tool -- don't forget language!) The cocoon does look like a gray purse, doesn't it? And speaking of stars... weren't we? Joyce's new BEFORE MORNING has also received a lot of shiny!
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November Volcano

November volcano
exploding 
a lava of leaves

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Another short, powerful poem! I am completely enamored of "lava" in this poem. And the illustration! Joy! For more poetic goodness, check out #haikuforhealing on Twitter, which features many wonderful poems, including a slew of them by Heidi!
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and finally.....

Good-Night Poem

Now the long day
feels complete.

Tuck your feet
between clean sheets.

Tuck your body
into bed.

Tuck sweet dreams
into your head.

Tuck your covers
snug and tight.

Tuck the good
into the night.

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I love how the poem and illustration work together on this page... the poem is tucked into the curve of the moon! And how delightful is that last stanza?!

Thanks so much for reading... support poetry and poets and have fun doing it: get this book!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Winter Poem Swap "DELIGHT" by Donna Smith

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Buffy's Blog for Roundup.

Wow, can it really be Christmas Eve tomorrow? I feel like I have been Christmas-ing for a good month, maybe more. My mailbox has indeed been a happy place! I was thrilled to receive a penguin-y package from Donna Smith. Among other things, it included a handmade quilted penguin ornament! Donna is a true Renaissance woman. She does everything! And of course there was a poem -- titled after my 2016 One Little Word.


Can you see the penguins
hiding in this graphic?? Love!
DELIGHT
by Donna Smith

Delight greeting daybreak,
Delight meeting noon;
Delight in the evening
With barred owl's croon.

Delight in the heavens,
Delight in each star,
Delight in the twinkling
Winks from afar.

Delight in the quiet,
Delight in the noise;
Delight may be found in
The humblest of joys.

Round pebbles to ponder,
Sweet laughter, warm breeze,
Tall mouuntains to wander
Each day that you seize.

Delight in each moment
Dissolving in air,
But hold some as memories
When moments are rare.

Though we may not see as
Delight moves along;
It whispers to others
Who hear your heart's song.

Delight taken in is
A gift to bestow.
Precious seeds of delight
Delightedly sow!

If ever you feel that
There's no more Delight,
Remember that morning
Still dawns with new light.

Delights's the beginning,
Don't look for its end,
For all who delight have
Embraced the soul's friend.

May delight in your heart
Flow freely and sweet
So others will see it
And bless all you meet.
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Thank you, Donna! And thank you Tabatha, who facilitates such wonder and joy in our lives. I'm so grateful!

And now, a few links for you:

On Twitter -- #haikuforhealing and #commonplacemarvels - Wow! Some amazing poems from some amazing poets. JOY.

an original poem for the Winter Solstice

Reflections on my 2016 One Little Word "Delight" + a sign up for Spiritual Journey FIRST Thursday (just two slots left!)

A post about why bookmarks are important.

My Secret Santa mystery: solved!

My son Eric has a magical, new instrumental song called "Four Years," about his four years of school at Alabama School of Fine Arts. Give yourself a gift and listen!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Poem for the Winter Solstice

Tonight's the night! Birmingham friends, I hope you'll join me for SHINE BRIGHT, a poetry reading and open mic in celebration of the winter solstice.

Here is the poem I will be reading:


Winter Solstice

No more hurry
hurry.

Time now for firelight
and dreaming,

for church bells
mingling

with the cold,
quiet sunlight.

And somewhere
deep

inside of you

a kernel of courage
unfurling --

each day, more light.

- Irene Latham
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I can't wait to hear what others will be sharing! What poem would YOU share on the topic of "winter" or "light" ?

And, here, just for fun, is the Little Bear "Winter Solstice" episode.  Lanterns and snow angels... and a song! (The night is cold, the snow is cold, Grandmother loves winter, and I do, too!) We loved watching this when the kids were small. :)