Poetry Friday–THIS POEM IS A NEST by Irene Latham

Happy Poetry Friday!

Welcome, you’ve landed on the right branch! Today I’m so happy to share with you Irene Latham’s delightful new poetry book, THIS POEM IS A NEST, with lovely and fanciful art by Johanna Wright! It’s a Nest and nestling adventure that will take you to all different places… In her introduction Irene shares her experience watching a robin building her nest, and sees similarities in how “we poets spend much of our time nest building.” Irene wove together a seasonal series of “nest or source poems” and from this original grouping created what she calls “nestlings–” a mere total of 160 nestling poems took flight from her original nest. All of the words in her nestling poems come from the original words in her nest poem. The only restriction here is to keep the words in the order they came from the nest.

Part II of Irene’s book includes the “nestling” poems, and they are divided into sections including TIME, COLOR MY WORLD, ANIMALS AMONG US,  ONLY HUMAN, FOR THE LOVE OF WORDS, PLACES SEEN AND UNSEEN, and  (OUT OF) TIME.

I’ve invited Irene to fill us in on some of the how’s and choices behind her book, so let’s take a peek inside her process…

Fill us in on how you decided on your poem sections. Did the categories come first, the poems, or a little of both at the same time?

This collection started with an idea of using themed sections, like “colors” or “planets” or “continents.” Editor Rebecca Davis and I were interested in finding the whole world in this one “Nest” poem. But the collection expanded as I found more poems that begged for their own sections – and then our goal became to re-use in the nestlings every single word in the original “Nest.” So yes, it was a bit of both. I’m so grateful to Rebecca for giving me permission to grow this collection in that way!

Describe your writing process on the sections. Did any section stump you?

In general the whole book was created inside a spacious JOY bubble. It was an exhilarating experience to discover so many beautiful things in the nest… I still feel like I could write another 160 nestlings (or more!) from this one “Nest.” The section I most adored writing was the “Emotions” section. And when I saw Johanna’s illustrations… swoon! The “Alphabet Poems” were probably the most difficult, because I restricted myself to using only words that started with a specific letter.

What about the individual poems, did they take shape organically, or did you decide to use form or free verse? And was this decided as you were writing, before, or after?

The only rule I followed was the rule of found poetry: to make sure the words in the individual poems appear in the same order as they do in “Nest.” A couple of times when I was checking (and quadruple checking!) the poems, I found I’d transposed words – sometimes the poem no longer worked, which was sad! You’ll also notice I played a lot with spacing and line breaks. With poems so short and imagistic, these choices became even more important to me. I’m so grateful to Rebecca for giving me permission to simply follow my poetic instincts, wherever they may lead. My poet-self was really able to fly when given such freedom!

Did poems within sections feed off of one another?

Yes, in some sections more than others! For instance, the “Before and After” section was designed to have the poems in relationship to each other. In the “Poems to Mark the Day” section, once I thought of one “Middle of the Night Question,” I immediately wanted to try to find “Another Middle of the Night Question” — and I did!

I especially liked the section, For the Love of Words–WORDPLAY POEMS; and even more (out of) TIME–Ars Poetica Would you expand on one of these sections.

Thank you! One of the most fun things about having such a big collection of poems is hearing which poems speak most loudly to readers. The Ars Poetica section became like a love song to writing and to the poetry-writing process. I hope readers experience in these poems the joy, doubt and reward that I’m lucky enough to experience on a daily basis. Writing is a spiritual practice for me — a practice that both reveals me and also invites others to join me in a celebration of the miracle of a poetic life. Thank you so much, Michelle, for reading and for sharing about this book that’s so very special to me. Mwah!

All Poems by Irene Latham, © 2020 all rights reserved, and all art by Johanna Wright, © 2020 all rights reserved.

Thanks so much Irene for filling us all in on this scrumptious new poetry collection, I hope that I have wet a few of your appetite’s. My only regret is I would have liked to share more of Irene’s poems and Johanna’s art–But you’ll have to discover them on your own–Perhaps in a boat, cuddled up with the moon, or somewhere in a nesting spot of your imagination…

by Irene Latham
Art by Johanna Wright
An Imprint of BOYDS MILLS & KANE
© 2020

The Publisher has generously offered a free copy of THIS POEM IS A NEST. If you would like to be considered for this please leave a comment below and your email address. US addresses only.

I decided to try out a nestling poem myself. Mine is from Irene’s original nest poem for AUTUMN.


Where world
        woodsmoke’s air
                           as sudden
                       Time to
  wings and faith
tucked near
© 2020 Michelle Kogan

Bridget Magee at her blog, wee words for wee ones is hosting this weeks Poetry Friday Roundup, thanks Bridget! I’m looking forward to her post…

Visit Renée LaTulippe at No Water River to find out more about what Poetry Friday is.

About Michelle Kogan Art, Illustration, & Writing

Michelle Kogan is an artist, illustrator, instructor, and writer, creating colorful allegorical figure, flora and fauna paintings and children's illustrations, which have a sensitivity to endangered species, and the environment. She is an art instructor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Evanston Art Center and offers Plein Air Painting Workshops at nature venues in the Chicago area including the Lincoln Park Conservatory, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and Lurie Gardens at Millennium Park. Visit her online Etsy Shop at: http://www.MichelleKoganFineArt.etsy.com and her website: http://www.michellekogan.com
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16 Responses to Poetry Friday–THIS POEM IS A NEST by Irene Latham

  1. Holy wow, I am amazed and inspired by Irene’s latest work of genius – “160 nestling poems took flight from her original nest”! Thank you for sharing the fascinating backstory to this book in your interview with Irene, Michelle. And thank you for sharing your own Autumn nestling…” wings and faith tucked near memory” – lovely. : )

  2. Sally Murphy says:

    Wow. This book sounds fabulous – and so very clever. The poems you’ve shared are exquisite. Have added this to my ‘must have’ list.

  3. rosecappelli says:

    I was so excited to read this! I also tried out a nestling poem today. I love the shape of your poem – very clever.

  4. I’m finding so many wonderful new collections to read in this week’s round up. Thank you for sharing delicious bits from Irene’s latest and your lovely nesting poem as well.

  5. Dear Michelle, thank you so much for sharing about NEST! moon and boat and wings and breath and memory… isn’t poetry the most delicious thing ever? The shape of your poem is gorgeous, too. Thank you! xo

  6. lindabaie says:

    Well, you know I love this book by Irene, imagine it birthing so many more ‘nestlings’ from others. What a beautiful gift for all of us! And I love the way your own poem trails the breath “up and up”, Michelle, and ” Time to
    wings and faith
    tucked near
    It’s a beautiful interview to read also. Thanks for this lovely post!

  7. margaretsmn says:

    Thanks for sharing this interview. Irene’s poems, like Irene, are generous and kind. This book is full of little poems I could rest my head on.

  8. cvarsalona says:

    Michelle, your book review is full of joyful thoughts and illustrations from Irene’s powerful book of nest poems and nestlings. Thanks for the Q & A section. It provided addition inspiration and backmatter as Irene revealed thoughts on writing being a spiritual practice go her. Your poem based on the autumn source poem was visually appealing and also filled with joy! I do have my own copy of the book and cherish it.

  9. haitiruth says:

    Looks amazing! Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

  10. Fran Haley says:

    Excellent interview, Michelle – I so enjoyed learning more about Irene’s process. I was intrigued by the one rule and how sad she was when words got out of order and poems didn’t work! I love your images of woodsmoke and sunclouds and “wings and faith tucked near in memory.” So calming, reassuring, lovely.

  11. Linda KulpTrout says:

    Michelle, I enjoyed your interview with Irene. She is an amazing poet! Her book is on my “to be ordered” list. Your nestling poem is lovely. Thank you for sharing it!

  12. jama says:

    Love your nestling poem and hearing from Irene about writing this book. Sounds like it was an exhilarating project!

  13. Liz Steinglass says:

    It’s a very special book. Thank you for sharing it and your whirling poem.

  14. Linda Mitchell says:

    Bravo! Michelle. I love this book and am having a blast reading all the wonderful and unique reviews in the PF community. This review is exceptionally well done with interview questions and a poem from the nest. I love the up and up and up.

  15. Tabatha says:

    Irene could have written another 160 nestlings — wow!! What an imagination she has. I love that moon image by Johanna. Lovely. Thanks, Michelle!

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