Self-Portrait as Wildflower

IMG_6293

Late snow or early heat,
a green shoot persists.

Rising from fragrant soil,
toe-deep in reverie,

surviving drought,
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,
finds meaning.

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!

Poetry Friday Heron

Self-Portrait as Tangerine

Rain or lack of rain,
the fruit persists,

survives foraging
ants and birds,

frost and hurricane.
Bitter lodges with beauty

in this round house–
mirror meets mirror

becomes window
finds door,

each chamber
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

63 thoughts on “Self-Portrait as Wildflower

  1. Pingback: Slice of Life: “Be Astonished” – Reading to the Core
  2. Brenda, how wonderful to be inspired by Irene Latham. You did a great job interviewing her. Other pluses: the glorious photography of spring and your inspired poem. I hope you offer a poem for my spring gallery. I enjoyed your self-portrait and will play with thoughts to see if I can find my inner voice on the topic of self-portrait.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for stopping by, Carol. I’m glad you like the post.

      I sent you a monstery poem and a rosy poem at the end of April. Very different from each other, and just for you. I’ll have to make sure I tweeted them, too.

      I hope you’ll write a self-portrait, too. The hard part for me was picking the metaphor object, and once I did, the words came a little easier. Irene’s poem provides a solid foundation for finding meaning in the metaphor.

      Like

  3. Thank you for sharing these lovely poems and Irene’s inspiring responses to your questions. I’ve always loved Irene’s work, and often share it to inspire students. You’ve both sparked ideas for me today. I especially love the idea of writing as “self-care.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, I really love this post. When I read Irene’s book, I added this to my Ideas file: “‘Self-Portrait as Tangerine’ suggested other self-portraits in the guise of objects, finding points of connection between self and beautiful thing.” I really have to do this. Your wildflower poem is perfect. Irene is an inspiration, and so are you! Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love the poems you share here AND the ones you sprinkle in the comments around the PF community! So fun to follow you around the roundup!

    Great interview with Irene. Love the name of her studio! I’m thinking I should name my office based on a piece of art that hangs there….

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL I got out of the gate early this week. Some weeks I don’t get around to all the posts until Sunday. I never know if anyone responds to any of my comments anywhere but WordPress, because I’d have to go around checking all the posts again. I never seem to have time for that. I’m grateful you’ve told me you like my poems in the comments. It’s good to know someone is reading them.

      Irene is terrific. Name your studio/office, why not? I don’t have one. Perhaps I should name my arm chair. 🙂

      Like

  6. I really enjoyed the interview too, hearing about Irene’s way into writing, both her career and her daily practice. I’m so looking forward to a daily practice this summer–maybe I can find new strength
    “Rising from fragrant soil,
    toe-deep in reverie,

    surviving drought,
    negligence and starving deer.”

    Thank you both for the mirrors.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Brenda — Wonderful poem. When doing spring clean out yard work last weekend, I uncovered some new growth from a sedum that had been almost devoured by fungus from a decomposing tree trunk below. It’s catching it’s breath now and fighting to survive. “…a green shoot persists. Rising from fragrant soil, toe-deep in reverie…” reminded me of this fledgling sprout!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I adored this interview!! I remember an instructor in a Technical Writing class giving similar advice, to just wake up every morning and write SOMETHING. It didn’t have to be anything fancy or profound, it was just an exercise to get our brains into the habit of writing. She always said that a pianist has to practice everyday, and so does a basketball player, so why should we writers think we get off easy? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I always find your writing brings light into my day, Brenda. I have Irene’s The Sky Between Us, and am happy you reminded us of this lovely poem. I appreciate the interviews, and of your poem, love “Yet, in being chosen,/finds meaning.” That is the power of finding the little thing that means a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I would love to have a poster of that top photo next to my desk — gorgeous! The line “toe-deep in reverie” struck me (perhaps especially because I just came from Karen’s blog, where Emily D was talking about “revery”). I love these Poetry Friday connections. Irene is a delight, and I love hearing what she has to say and seeing the things she keeps to inspire her. Thanks for all, Brenda!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. These are two lovely poems of two creative souls.
    Brenda, I especially like being reminded about
    surviving
    drought

    And Irene, I am so fond of your chapbooks and this poem
    peel from inside your family path.

    You each deserve a halo tangerine (guaranteed sweet) and a bouquet
    as lovely as in Brenda’s opening image.
    You found each other through Poetry Friday,
    matchmaker of kindred writing spirits. BRAVA!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Brenda, I love your poem! I am enjoying thinking about those last lines, how being chosen brings meaning. What an honor, and how humbling. Kind of how I feel being “chosen” to be featured on your blog. I’m so happy to know you… and love learning all the things we have in common… cello… children’s poetry… love of nature… what a gift you are! Someday let’s have tea together, please? And a walk in the woods? We can pick wildflowers and eat tangerines! xo

    Liked by 2 people

    • What a lovely comment, Irene. I’m happy to have met all of you at PF. I owe it all to Matt, who I met at an SCBWI meet and greet. I feel I’m growing each week. I love the poetry I read, including yours. My mind is always filled with the best words, carefully chosen, and never said in anger. Who can say that?

      It’s a date. I have woods right behind my house, tea water’s always hot and we always have wildflowers and tangerines in our words.

      Thanks for being on my blog. It was a real pleasure. XOXO

      Like

  13. Such a rich post! Irene is one of my favorite people! I share her poems with my students through her books, but we’ve also become friends through our Poetry Friday community. I love your mirror poems. Both of them use my favorite subject, nature, to evoke my favorite emotion, peace. Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Margaret, I’m so glad you like our poems. Nature is a good metaphor and framework for thinking about our lives and evaluating our own choices. Irene gifted me with her book of poetry, and I loved it. Maybe you could write a Self-Portrait, too! 🙂 Have a wonderful weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. What a wonderful post, Brenda — started off with a gorgeous photo and your poem, and then Irene’s poem and a fabulous interview. You asked great questions, and I loved learning more about Irene! Thank you so much. Great start to the weekend. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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