Friday, October 31, 2008


1. Early this morning when I was driving the kids to school, I spied a beautiful hot air balloon hovering just above the tree line. Talk about a great way to start the day!

2. For those of you who have been so sweet about my father: he is at Mayo Clinic in surgery as we speak. Keep those prayers and good thoughts coming.

3. Just in time for Halloween, I have a new favorite candy: vanilla yogurt creme Hershey kisses. Yum!

4. I am super excited about talking with the Girl Scouts about writing on Sunday. It's gonna be fun!

5. My back yard is now the home of a bunch of new oak leaf hydrangeas, Christmas cheer azaleas, Lenten roses, and a wide variety of ferns. The centerpiece is a Milky Way Kousa dogwood. Now all that's left is to empty the truck of its four giant scoops of mulch. Shovels, anyone?

"The difficult is what takes a little time; the impossible is what takes a little longer."

- Fridtjof Nansen (Nobel Prize for Peace, 1922)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


So I've just read a really sweet book: THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE by Kate DiCamillo. It about a china rabbit who goes on a very long trip and along the way discovers how to love.

Remember THE VELVETEEN RABBIT and WATERSHIP DOWN? Well, add this title to the list of great rabbit books. Oh, and let's not forget Peter Rabbit! (I still have the itty bitty Nutshell Library set I got for Christmas when I was a kid.) And RUNAWAY BUNNY. What am I forgetting?

I'll leave you with my favorite quote from the book about Edward Tulane:

"It was a singular sensation to be held so gently and yet so fiercely, to be stared down at with so much love."

- Kate DiCamillo

Monday, October 27, 2008


One of the questions I get most often about my poetry is, "Did that really happen to you?"

Or, people make the assumption that everything is true and ask me a question related to the poem, like "How old were you when your mother died?"

Do I have to tell you how awkward it is when I have to say, "Actually, my mother is alive and well feeding horses in Florida."

See, here's the thing: writers use first person to draw the reader closer to the poem. We use fictional circumstances to convey our thoughts/feelings about an actual emotion. So for the aforementioned mother poem, the feeling of loss is real. The fictional death is just the vehicle. (Actually it was written after hearing someone else's story about their mother's death... and it put me in touch with my own grief issues.)

For me, the emotion is always real. Poetry demands it. Truly it is not the genre for faking anything. But the details? Come on, folks.

Here's what a Newbery winning poet/novelist/playwright has to say about it:

"It's fiction. Meaning autobiography seen through weird, wavy glasses."

-Paul Fleischman, BREAKOUT

Sunday, October 26, 2008



We didn’t carve pumpkins
that year – we were too young
or too old, stuck somewhere
in the gutter-line of growing up.
Instead we all piled in a pick-up,
headed north on Highway 11,
bumped and jerked our way
across potholes and through 4-ways
until we spotted signs
for Springville Haunted House.

It turned out to be nothing
more than a trail stalking its way
between whistling pines and shivering oaks,
path marked by signs slashed
with red paint and kids in masks
popping from behind bushes.
At the end, someone’s father
chased us with a chainsaw,
and by that time most of us
were coupled-up, arms over shoulders,
screams shrill but edged
with laughter.

You hung back alone,
hands tucked in tattered denim,
bare arms screaming against the cold.
In the parking lot I grabbed
your hand – to warm you, I said.
You didn’t even blink, just ran
with me back to the truck,
perfect fit of our fingers a sign

we might have noticed
if not for the ghost
gripping my other hand.

- Irene Latham

So here's a teen-angst remember-when poem just in time for Halloween... I love this time of year, ghosts and all.

"That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet."

- Emily Dickinson

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Many things to Michelle for allowing me to share this pic she calls "Hanging by a Thread." Oh boy, are there days I can SO relate to that! And I love how the leaf looks like a misshapen heart. The misshapen ones are the best ones, I'm thinking.

"I hold an old-fashioned notion that a happy marriage is the crown of a woman's life."

- Beatrix Potter

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


So here's the last of the tomatoes. Aren't they gorgeous? And extra-special, as it's the last the garden will give, at least this season. It makes me think of words like red and ripe and ready. Savor and succulent and sweet. Vine and fine and climb.

Delicious. And oh so poem-worthy. (I myself have written two poems in the past week that include tomatoes.)

"We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses."

- Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, October 19, 2008


How 'bout them pumpkins?! I was so excited when my friend Lori invited me to hang out with The Girls Who Not Only Carve Pumpkins Together But Also Read Great Books. And it did not disappoint! To Phyllis, Vonda, Randee, Lisa, Martha, Michelle, Carol, Trina and of course Lori, many thanks, and I can't wait for our Twilight movie date. :)

Also, this weekend I had the opportunity to meet in the flesh one of my fellow Tenners, Lindsey Leavitt, who is just as adorable as she seems online. Don't you love when that happens?

So here I am feeling all glow-y just like the inside of one of those candle-lit pumpkins. And I'm sending it out to each and every one of you.

"Dwell as near as possible to the channel in which your life flows."

- Thoreau

Friday, October 17, 2008


1. It's raining! This is cause for much joy, as we here in Birmingham can't quite seem to pull ourselves out of last year's drought. Maybe I'll get brave and put in those new plants in the back yard??

2. My editor says we are down to line edits on THE WITCHES OF GEE'S BEND. Guess that means all the heavy lifting is done. Whew. Talk about relief. And it frees my mind for my latest project: a coffee table photo/poetry book project with those awesome photographers who so graciously contribute to Thousand Word Thursday. I am eight poems in with oh about forty-two more to go. :)

3. Read an amazing book this week: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Suzanne is also the author of the Gregor the Underlander Series, and we share the same agent! Anyhow, my fourteen year old and I agree: this book rocks. Told in first person, it has just the right amount of life/death struggle, impossible romance, and relevance to our current society. Now my almost-twelve year old is reading it. (While I dig into Alabama Moon by Watt Key.)

4. Southern Breeze's Writing and Illustrating for Kids conference is this weekend right here in Birmingham, so I'll be catching up with author-friends and meeting new ones and learning more about this whole writing biz. Southern Breeze has been instrumental in helping me get where I am today, so I am pleased and proud to once again be attending.

5. Fingers crossed I can make it to Birmingham Museum of Art's Leonardo da Vinci exhibit. They've got eleven drawings on display as well as Leo's Codex on the Flight of Birds. We're not talking reproductions here. It's the actual parchment and red chalk, all they way from Italy! And Birmingham is one of only two US cities who get to see this. (Exhibit moves to San Francisco in November.) I am so there.

Happy weekend everyone!

"A government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away."

- Barry Goldwater

Thursday, October 16, 2008


How sweet is this? Thanks, Lynn! And thanks Anna, for always sending me recommendations. Did I tell you how much I enjoyed Edgar Sawtelle? There was one chapter in the dog Almondine's voice that absolutely killed me. When she is grieving for lost Edgar? A thing of beauty, I tell you. And you knew that even before Oprah did. :)

"You can be cured in fourteen days [of depression] if you follow this prescription. Try to think every day how you can please someone."

- Alfred Adler

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


It has been said that "the North Wind made the Vikings." In other words, they were so tough because of the hardships they had endured. They survived because they had been tested. They survived because they learned to survive.

Which means, of course, that we need the tough times to determine our own strength. To build that strength. To learn.

So to all of you out there experiencing a North Wind, just remember: it will pass and you will be stronger for it.

"What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes part of us."

- Helen Keller

Sunday, October 12, 2008


What I Thought As I Watched Hurricane Ivan
Take Down the Silver Maple in Our Back Yard

about the black walnut tree my brother
rode through a thunderstorm,
Mama hollering if that lightning don’t
kill you your daddy will

the row of redbuds along the path we once walked,
always the first to purple each spring
eager arms linked in revolution

the sprawling live oak we named
Nephertiri after the Egyptian queen
its branches a womb my sister
and I would escape into,
innocence still supple and green

the tall poplar yellow and exploding
wind stealing its leaves
blustery kisses a shot of whiskey down my spine

the orange grove thick
with sweet rot and creatures feasting
fruit white in the bright light
Grandma calling me home

ancient Moroccan tree alone on a hillside
three or was it five? white goats perched in its branches
eyes stark as the darkening sky

- Irene Latham

Weather provides such great inspiration... great metaphors too! This poem can be found in my book WHAT CAME BEFORE.

Currently it's still hurricane season, but truly our biggest problem in these parts has been drought. I've got plans to put in some new plants, but I keep putting it off because of the lack of rain. (When would I water?! Just the thought stresses me out.)

Speaking of metaphors....

"What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well."

~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Thursday, October 9, 2008


This pic is courtesy of my friend Kim who currently lives in Alaska but will soon be moving back to Washington DC. She said she captured this sunset one night at about 11 pm. Crazy, huh? And somehow more beautiful for that detail.

"Caress the divine details."

- Vladimir Nabokov

Monday, October 6, 2008


Big thanks to Cheryl Moyer and all the poets at the UUC Poetry Cafe in Montgomery for the warm welcome and inspiring night of poetry! I enjoyed meeting all of you and appreciate so much your support of my work. Now send me submissions for BAJ! I will be so disappointed if you don't.

Meanwhile I am still searching for just the right word to replace "mad" in a poem not about a dog ( but ones that uses a dog as a metaphor) that I workshopped yesterday at the Big Table. I'm thinking maybe "half-starved"??

"Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary."

~Kahlil Gibran

Sunday, October 5, 2008


If Not For Starlings

We walk the trail
shaded by oak and cypress

watch as the combined
weight of a hundred birds

splits a common cedar
the way a knife sinks

into a loaf of bread,
bending but not breaking.

You've got to admire
their decisiveness,

the way the starlings lift
and turn,

choose again
the cedar,

its strength and flexibility
a certainty to them,

unknown to us
until this moment.

- Irene Latham

This poem was inspired by a video like this one . Only the one I saw was very short and showed just the part where the starlings completely rearrange a tree.

The internet is a wonderful place for inspiration. One of the poems I am taking with me to workshop this morning is straight from a news article published last week: "NASA extends Phoenix Mission." And just now I started a new poem entitled "What the Spider Sees" after visiting 3 Little Chickies. Amazing how a change of perspective can inspire all sorts of things. Thanks, Kerie!

"There are two ways of spreading the light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it."

- Edith Wharton

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


I love October. LOVE it. There's just something about the cooler air and leaves dancing that makes me feel really glad to be alive. And I'm not the only one.

Check out this oldie but goodie by U2. And this Dylan Thomas poem. My favorite line: "Though the town below lay leaved with October blood."
Also this one by Robert Frost: "Oh hushed October morning mild"

I've written a few October poems, but not lately. I'm thinking today's the day...

"Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets."

—Arthur Miller