Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Check out all of the posts and reviews on the This Poem Is a Nest blog tour!

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.

Find a wonderful interview with This Poem Is a Nest illustrator Johanna Wright at Irene’s blog. Scroll to the bottom to watch a cool video of Johanna’s art process!

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.


An acorn’s
air ballet

branches breathe, crispcool
clouds climb, drop down

Here: hat
Imagine into
Nest now
Of oak seasons
Sudden sunpuddle

Then tucked
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?


Wordless world
with wings up.
Turtle tucked still.

Memory moorings –
leaves ladder jauntily
into forest.

Dizzy clouds climb.
Branches breathe
ancient air.

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.

Friday 9/25

A Word Edgewise/Linda Mitchell
Monday 9/28
Tuesday 9/29
Live Your Poem/Irene Latham
Friday 10/2
Poetry for Children/Sylvia Vardell
Saturday 10/3
Monday 10/5
Friday 10/9
More Art 4 All/Michelle Kogan

4 responses to “This Poem Is a Nest Blog Tour”

  1. Irene Latham says:

    Dear Laura – thank you for joining the blog tour and sharing about NEST. I love “acorn’s air ballet” and that “ancient air.” i never thought to use the sort feature. Ha! xo

    • Laura Shovan says:

      I may have to come back and find a poem for “acorn’s air ballet” to land in. Thanks so much for this beautiful book, Irene!

  2. […] Poet Irene Latham is on my mind this week. I hosted a stop on her THIS POEM IS A NEST blog tour, and even tried writing a nestling. You can read that post here. […]

  3. Branches breathe
    ancient air
    This is a sweet nestliing within your nestling, Laura. I have found endless joy in Irene’s book. You added a new lens for me with Irene’s “nest” and “nerstling” writing method.

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Laura Shovan

Laura Shovan is the author of the award-winning middle grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. Her second book, Takedown, is a Junior Library Guild and PJ Our Way selection. Look for A Place at the Table, co-written with Saadia Faruqi, in 2020. Laura is a poet-in-the-schools Maryland.

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