Late snow or early heat,
a green shoot persists.
Rising from fragrant soil,
toe-deep in reverie,
negligence and starving deer.
Bursting a green chrysalis,
petals open to indifferent light
to be cast as backdrop
for more showy blooms.
Yet, in being chosen,
Copyright 2017 Brenda Davis Harsham
Notes: This poem was inspired by Irene Latham‘s poem below, from her chapbook, The Sky Between Us, published by Blue Rooster Press, 2014. I mirrored her exquisite poem. If you’re moved to write your own, please share a link or leave it here in the comments. As a special bonus, I interviewed Irene below. Visit Jama for the Poetry Friday roundup. Thanks to Jone for permission to use her PF badge. Love it!
Self-Portrait as Tangerine
Rain or lack of rain,
the fruit persists,
ants and birds,
frost and hurricane.
Bitter lodges with beauty
in this round house–
mirror meets mirror
proclaiming its mystery.
By Irene Latham
Irene, what age were you when you wrote your first poem?
Family legend has it that as soon as I could write (age 4-5), I was writing love poems — to my mother.
Did you ever consider a career aside from writing poetry?
While I’ve been writing poetry my whole life, I never considered it as a career. As a child/teen/young adult, I was far too shy to share my work with others! I got my degrees in social work and didn’t take a single writing course in college. It wasn’t until I was the mom of 3 young sons that I decided to cultivate bravery and learn to share my work and also learn about craft and the publishing process.
Why did you decide to write for children?
One of the things I love about being a writer is the endless learning curve. There is always something new to learn, and each day, each project, allows us to be beginners all over again. So I had been writing poems for the adult market and also writing stories for kids — stories like the ones I grew up loving (Little House books, The Black Stallion, Charlotte’s Web…), and everything I was working on seemed to feature a 10 year old protagonist. So maybe it wasn’t a decision so much as a natural fit? 🙂 I’d sold two middle grade novels (LEAVING GEE’S BEND & DON’T FEED THE BOY) with my good friend and poet/artist Robyn Hood Black organized a children’s poetry retreat with Rebecca Kai Dotlich. At first I didn’t want to go! I thought children’s poetry was all funny, rhyming poetry, like Shel Silverstein — whose work I LOVED as child, but wasn’t the kind of beautiful, lyrical poetry I tend to write. I’m so glad I went to the retreat because that’s where I learned there is a market for beautiful, lyrical poetry for kids. The trick is to write from a place of wonder and curiosity, to listen to that child who still lives inside me (instead of the adult me).
Would you share your inspiration for the poem, Self-Portrait as Tangerine?
My father and I were estranged for nearly a dozen years. At the time of our reconciliation, I remember him peeling an orange. (I wrote a poem about this moment, too.) After that, I was flooded with poems about citrus fruit! Our reunion changed me, and poetry is one way to explore that territory. So, really, the poem is me trying to make sense of love and forgiveness and the mystery and joy of finding myself again in a relationship with my father.
Do you write every day?
Writing is a spiritual practice for me, so yes, I make time for it every day, even if just for five minutes. In my ideal world, I write about two hours a day. Sometimes that happens; often it doesn’t. It helps me to think of writing like brushing my teeth — self care, which means don’t go to bed without doing it.
Do you have a ritual that helps you start a new project?
I’ve really worked hard to train myself away from ritual when it comes to writing. That’s because ritual for me is often a way to avoid writing, or to set up road blocks (which are all related to fear — fear of writing something awful, fear of not finishing, fear of what other people will think, fear I’m not good enough,…). A book that changed my life was BECOMING A WRITER by Dorothea Brand. It’s now out of print, and was kind of a precursor to Julia Cameron’s THE ARTIST’S WAY. The book asks readers to write first thing in the morning, for six weeks. This is supposed to help you learn that the words are always there — you don’t need coffee or the right chair or silence or whatever. Just WRITE. Even if all you have is fifteen minutes, just do it. Trust the words are there, because they are. All this to say: the ritual for me is as simple as typing in the password on my computer. I still have the fears, but these days I am better at pushing past them.
Name three things that you keep in your writing space for inspiration.
Only three? 🙂 See attached pictures.
1. picture of a younger me (the “me” I want to write from when I am writing for children)
2. a note a reader gave me at a school visit
3. this piece of art by Temara Garvey, which gives my studio its name (The Purple Horse Poetry Studio & Music Room)… in my writing, I want to be the purple horse: bold, different, moving forward.
And a bonus quote from her email:
“You are a meeting place of gravitation and grace… You have something of the earth and something of the sky within you.” – Osho