Happy book birthday to Irene Latham!
Yesterday was the release date for poet and children’s author (and my dear friend) Irene’s latest collection, This Poem Is a Nest. This book of poems has an exciting concept to wrap your brain around!
“We poets spend much of our time nest-building,” Irene explains in the book’s introduction. “We gather words, ideas and dreams, and then we set about weaving, arranging, and structuring.”
This Poem Is a Nest opens with a four part/four season poem called “Nest.” Irene uses this poem as a sort of word well from which she draws 161 unique poems on a wide variety of themes including colors, animals, and emotions. She calls these subsequent poems, “nestlings.”
I love the idea that Irene set herself a poetic challenge with this book: “to find as many different kinds of nestlings as possible.” The term is perfect! The smaller poems are like baby birds. They were borne out of and fed from the larger nest, but have taken on lives of their own as stand-alone poems.
After you read let the poems settle, come back and explore them again, through the joy of re-reading or by trying your hand at Irene’s “nest” and “nestling” writing method.
Since Irene closes the book with an invitation to play along, I thought I’d try a nestling of my own.
Step 1: I started with the Autumn section of Irene’s source poem, “Nest.”
from “Nest” in This Poem Is a Nest
by Irene Latham
Won’t you breathe, reach? Grab hold and climb these branches like a ladder—
up and up—where the crispcool world turns both smaller and bigger.
From here shipwrecked nest shows moorings; settles into hull, deck, mast.
Distant woodsmoke seasons air as dizzy leaves flood forest floor.
Three deer take the stage below, sniff, then swerve in sudden ballet.
When a box turtle splashes into a sunpuddle, clouds still.
Time now to imagine another life: wings and wordless flight;
the whisperweight of faith tucked beneath an acorn’s jaunty hat;
near-naked oak hums with ancient memory as you drop down.
Step 2: I made a list of every word in this poem and used the “Sort” function to put the words in alphabetical order. This helped me to see some possibilities for alliteration.
Step 3: First try! My first attempt at an autumn nestling had some cool sounds but wasn’t quite working right.
branches breathe, crispcool
clouds climb, drop down
Of oak seasons
Where? Wordless world
Step 4: Try again. What would happen if I went from the bottom of the alphabet to the top, and chose words in order from “you” to “a” instead of going from A to Z?
with wings up.
Turtle tucked still.
Memory moorings –
leaves ladder jauntily
Dizzy clouds climb.
Step 5: Celebrate! This was so much fun.
This Poem Is a Nest is highly recommended for the joy of reading Irene’s playful poems, but also as a mentor text and prompt to try explorative writing.
Want to read more posts about This Poem Is a Nest? Here are the other stops on the book’s blog tour.