Monday, March 30, 2009


I have lived in Birmingham for nearly 25 years now, and I am embarrassed to say that until this weekend I had never ventured into the very lovely northwest part of the state that includes Florence, Muscle Shoals, Tuscumbia and Sheffield - otherwise known as the Quad Cities. My amazing hostesses were Pat Weaver and Sheila Renfro, and among other things, we visited Helen Keller's birthplace, which is called Ivy Green. While there, I decided the next poem in the historical women series will be about Helen, from the perspective of her dog.

See? Writers simply MUST travel.

Pat welcomed me into her home AND The Barn, where I got my horse fix. It had been about five years since my last ride, so she put me on Dixie and we took off on the trail. I swear, I had forgotten what it is like to canter and feel that rush of wind through the hair. Plus it was dusk, and we walked through a creek or two... absolutely gorgeous.

On Saturday morning, Pat took me for a surprise, and what a surprise it was. Ever heard of The Wall? Well. Tom Hendrix who is an amazing storyteller has built a memorial for his Euchee ancestor Miss Mary. Mary was removed to Oklahoma (Trail of Tears) and miraculously made the journey back to Alabama, all by herself, so she could be in a place where the rivers sing. Tom's goal has been to put one stone for every one of Mary steps. It's an amazing spiritual place, and I am still completely moved by the experience.

Go. You won't regret it.

And finally there was the Schmooze, which was the whole excuse for the trip. I was delighted to serve on a panel with Rachel Hawkins and Lindsey Leavitt, and of course connect with all the wonderful writers in the room. What an excellent way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Special thanks to Pat. I'm so glad to know you.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


The Nina Remembers Columbus

Three sisters, but I was the one he loved best.

His wife? She may have borne him a son
but I taught him to swim in possibility.
I baptized him in a hundred oceans
and introduced him to the New World.

He favored me, ask anyone.
Voyage after voyage we sailed, my ropes
taut in his hands, his boots claiming my deck,
his voice a booming song to lift my sails.

For him, I conquered warring currents,
discovered Cuba and placed him upon her shore,
delivered him from the eye of a hurricane.
And when he dropped anchor

I did not cry like the open-mouthed gulls.
I counted each bruising stroke as he rowed
away in his launch, then waited for his return
with the patience of wood.

My sisters, they meant nothing to me.

- Irene Latham

Here's another poem in the historical women series -- one that also appears in the Einstein anthology. One way I've found to liven this series up is to choose to write the poems from an odd viewpoint. And since ships are always female, I figured the Nina was fair game.

I'll be back tomorrow with a report about my awesome weekend in Florence, including the names of two new victims I've chosen for the continuation of the historical women series. (See, writers simply MUST travel! It's totally inspiring.)

“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.”

- Robert Louis Stevenson

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


When I was six years old I loved Cinderella. It wasn't so much the Fairy Godmother as her beautiful transformation... and all the birds and mice and squirrels working together to sew a gorgeous blue dress. Plus she was blonde, with blue eyes. Like me.

I also loved this book, THE PRINCESS AND THE GOBLIN by George MacDonald. The princess' name was Irene. Need I say more?

My sister, on the other hand, adored Sleeping Beauty. Probably the blonde hair and green eyes had something to do with it. And the fact that she was born beautiful... as was my sister. And now her daughter, my niece, calls this princess "Sleeping Booty." Which I think is maybe the most adorable thing I have ever heard in my entire life.

When we were teenagers both my sister and I loved THE PRINCESS BRIDE. We dreamed of a Wesley all our own. And you know what? We got our Wesleys.

A decade later I gave birth to my third baby boy, and I had no idea what to name him. We settled on Eric, which happens to be the name of Ariel's prince.

Then today I took the Which Princess Are You? quiz at Facebook, and I got none of the above. I got the kind of princess who doesn't let a little thing like gender get in her way. One whose story started out as a poem. And for whom love and honor and loyalty are things worth fighting for. She doesn't look a thing like me on the outside. But on the inside...

And I can't write a post about princesses without mentioning Lindsey Leavitt, author of the forthcoming PRINCESS FOR HIRE. Lindsey is also one of my fellow panelists at Saturday's What to Expect When You're Expecting a Book in Florence, Alabama, along with cool chick Rachel Hawkins, author of HEX HALL.

Y'all come!

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Meet the Big Table Poets: Shannon Smith, Barry Marks, Tom Gordon, Jerri Beck, Suzanne Coker, Seth Tanner, Robert Boliek and me

Quite the eclectic group, wouldn't you say? Our work is just as varied as our appearances... our day jobs and family circumstances too. Just to dispel any misconceptions or stereotypes that might be lingering out there in the world. :)

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."

- Albert Einstein

Friday, March 20, 2009


So I'm thinking the only thing better than spring...
is fall.

But that's a ways off, so I'm really enjoying the Bradford pear trees all in bloom and the azaleas and the tiny redbuds. The weather's been gorgeous here, and so many good things are happening.

Like the poetry reading tonight at Christenberry Planetarium. It's our big release party for EINSTEIN AT THE ODEON CAFE, and I will be reading two poems. I'm especially excited because Hubby and kids will all be there. With our crazy family schedule, that just doesn't happen all that often. So, yeah, looking forward to that.

It's also the anniversary of my mother-in-law's death. It's been a difficult year in so many ways, but a year later it feels like we have moved through the transition. Our memories of her are overwhelmingly joyful -- sadness is always there but isn't crippling the way it was for a while. So today we will spend some time celebrating her life and talking about all the ways we loved her.

And despite travel and spring break and other craziness, I have managed to maintain my 1000 word a day diet. A group of us started on March 9, and we'll go through April 9. So far I haven't missed a day. What's especially great is that it feels good to me - 1000 words feels absolutely do-able without a tremendous strain on the rest of my life. I might just keep it up AFTER the thirty days.

On the reading front, I just completed THE READER by Bernhard Schlink and THE SENATOR'S WIFE by Sue Miller. The problem with THE READER is that I saw the movie. And if you've read the book, you know it is very straightforward. And the screenplay followed the book very very closely. For once, I preferred the movie version. And I gotta wonder if this is because I saw the movie first??

THE SENATOR'S WIFE was one of those books where I really wanted to see what happened to the characters, but I wasn't all that wild about it... until the end. Here are the last words in the book: "But what she would have told Delia if she had had the words then for what she has come to feel over the years, what she would have said - and she would swear that this is true- is that she did what she did with Tom that day for love. Out of love."

Happy happy spring to everyone!

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Black Shawl Remembers Crazy Horse

The old ones like to say
memory is like riding a trail
at night with a lighted torch.

And so it does not surprise me
that your face has been swallowed
by darkness, your voice black as
the wounded wings of a crow.

But sometimes the torch flares,
illuminating the way your body
folded itself against mine,
how the last time you loved me
you dipped your thumb in red paint
and covered the part in my hair,
marking me a woman greatly loved.

When the rattlesnake came into
the lodge, you could not crush it.
And you couldn’t save our daughter
from the white man’s coughing disease.
In the end, the Black Hills were lost, too -
the heart of everything that is.

I wasn’t your only wife. But I am
the one who remembers. I whisper
your name and it drifts as snow
across the prairie, then melts
and is gone.

- Irene Latham

This one is another from the new anthology. I wrote it after visiting the Crazy Horse monument, then reading a few books. I loved South Dakota so much that we are going back this summer. And my father is meeting us there. Can't wait!

Thursday, March 12, 2009


When I went out to get my mail today, I found inside an ordinary brown box this bit of loveliness:

When I unwrapped it, I found this wonderful book about poet William Stafford:

And this delicate origami butterfly:

And these wonderful hand-made fleur-de-sel caramels:

And inside the book, this:

And it all came from a beautiful person I would never have known if not for blogging. I mean who does things like this any more, such thoughtful, personal, tender things? Only the most giving of spirits. I am touched and honored and most grateful to call her "friend" -- thanks Kirie. "And all my love."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I think most readers would agree that we read first and foremost for the characters.

I know for me the best stories are the ones where I can slip into that character's skin and BE him or her. And the ones I like best are the everyman characters who are common people -- people like me -- who have been thrust into extraordinary circumstances. This is where the act of reading a book becomes a personal experience. Because I can imagine myself as Alice falling and falling down the rabbit hole. I can hear the wolves howling through the walls of the little house on the prairie. I can love Edward with the same intensity Bella does and feel her self-consciousness in the face of such beauty.

So, while we as writers often want to make our characters quirky, I think it's really important to remember to not make them so quirky that people can't relate to them. They need to have faults -- faults that directly impact the story. They need to make mistakes. They need to be human.

"A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing."

- George Bernard Shaw

Monday, March 9, 2009


Fellow Tenner Christy Raedeke, who is so gracious and wonderful and has a 2 book contract with Flux, has been posting an interview series of debut authors, and today I'm up. (How's that for a super-long, excited sentence?) Check out the interview here . And while you're there, read some of Christy's off-the cuff stories. If her books are anything like her blog, they are sure to entertain. Can't wait to read 'em!

"Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one."

- Dr. Seuss

Sunday, March 8, 2009


The book is here! The book is here!

It is my pleasure to introduce the latest anthology from the Big Table Poets which includes 7 of my poems as well as poems by Jerri Beck, Robert Boliek, Suzanne Coker, Tom Gordon, Barry Marks, Shannon Smith and Seth Tanner.

For the next few weeks I will share the poems that appear in the book, starting with a revision of a poem I've shared here before. I'm telling you, a poem is never DONE.

Einstein’s Daughter

Had she been clock or apple,
compass or moving train, perhaps
Einstein wouldn’t have given her away.

Had she been mysterious, he might
have abandoned his obsession
with gravity and the speed of light,

claimed her as his most important
discovery. Had he taken her small hands,
just once, kissed each dimple and nail

perhaps he would have puzzled
over a different theory of relativity:
not E=mc2

but the riddled twist of DNA.
Perhaps he would have discovered
how shared time multiplies,

how love’s abstractions find
definition in story time and bath time
and leaving the light on, just in case.

- Irene Latham

"Half my life is an act of revision."

- John Irving

Friday, March 6, 2009


When I didn't win this book in La Belette Rouge's contest, I put it on my birthday list, and that sweet husband of mine wrapped it right up and gave it to me just before I blew out all those candles.

I've been to the top of the Eiffel Tower, and I took two years of French in high school, and I love to cook French food... but FRENCH WOMEN DON'T SLEEP ALONE by Jamie Cat Callon was still full of wonderful tidbits I knew nothing of. I love the cultural emphasis on beauty and the rejection of our American either/or "right time and place" for sensuality. Every single experience can be sensual, and the French know this. I am completely inspired to further infuse my life with sensuality, to really explore and experience every little bit of life in the most complete way possible.

So, yeah, good read. Charming, in fact. Check it out.

"I sort of have a love affair with my work. Many of us work far too hard and we don't put enough value in the epicurean, sensual part of life."

- Kim Cattrall

Wednesday, March 4, 2009



I love plays. There is something about the live performance that moves me. And I have great admiration for people who write plays, particularly ones that move me. Which is why I was absolutely thrilled to meet Alabama Shakespeare Festival's playwright-in-residence Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder.

Elyzabeth was in town promoting her latest play, The Furniture of Home. It's set in Bayou la Batre, Alabama, on the one year anniversary of Katrina. She said this play is about family, about whether to go or stay. And if it's anything like her amazing play Gee's Bend, I know it will be an emotional experience.

Also of interest: Elyzabeth has been making her living as a playwright for two years now. This particular play was commissioned by Alabama Shakespeare Festival, and it's her second take, after throwing out the first. She said the only thing that remains of that first take is the title Furniture of Home and a blue chair.

See? All writers struggle. It's all a process. Every single word.

By the way, the play's title was inspired by a line from an Auden poem entitled "September 1, 1939." I love it when writers are inspired by poetry.

"It isn't where you came from; it's where you're going that counts."

- Ella Fitzgerald

Sunday, March 1, 2009


We woke up this morning to a wonderland. The kids are beside themselves, and I wish you could hear it... the soft patter of flakes, the squeak of shoes on snow, the squeals of the four-year-old across the street.

It's especially beautiful because it happens so seldom here in Birmingham. Life is like that, you know? It's the rare-ness that gives a thing it's value.

Now, gotta go listen some more. And make some snow cream.

"A rare experience of a moment at daybreak, when something in nature seems to reveal all consciousness, cannot be explained at noon. Yet it is part of the day's unity."

- Charles Ives