Friday, June 29, 2012


This week I traveled with my mom alongside Tropical Storm Debby as she marched across Florida.

Here is the Gulf Coast, at Bradenton Beach. The waves were hungry lions, and the salt and sand needling as a quilter on a quiet Sunday afternoon. But I still got that soaring feeling inside my soul as I was wind-whipped on that shore.

Now, cross-state: the Atlantic at sunset, on Vero Beach. Calm and lovely as a sleeping child's cheek. I couldn't believe the bevy of shells. Yes, I brought some home. And a little sand too!

My next trip to Florida will be in September for SIBA Trade Show in Naples. Can't wait!

And now for a beach poem! This one is one of my father's all-time favorites. It's also one of my all-time favorites. Love how wave-like its rhythm... and how it makes me feel. More great poetry for Roundup with Marjorie at Paper Tigers

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The tide rises, the tide falls,
The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;
Along the sea-sands damp and brown
The traveler hastens toward the town,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.

Darkness settles on roofs and walls,
But the sea, the sea in darkness calls;
The little waves, with their soft, white hands
Efface the footprints in the sands,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.
The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls
Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;
The day returns, but nevermore
Returns the traveler to the shore.
And the tide rises, the tide falls.
Readers, do you have a favorite beach poem? Please share!

Friday, June 22, 2012


Hello, and happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit amazing, delightful Amy at the Poem Farm for lots of great Roundup links.

This weekend I'm heading to central Florida on a research mission for my work-in-progress.

Florida. Which, according to Elizabeth Bishop is the state with the prettiest name. See the poem below.

But first, here's few of my childhood memories from the years we lived in Florida:

walking to school
Ft. Meade, FL was the only place I ever lived where I was close enough to the school to walk there. My sister and I took the same route every day. Some days on the way home, we would knock on a stranger's door and ask to use the bathroom. :) I remember how sweet the people always were, how we were never frightened, not once. Some folks even fed us milk and cookies! 

playing in my grandparents' orange grove
I have such magical memories of this place -- and this weekend I'm going back! My siblings and I invented all sorts of games... we climbed and ran and cavorted. But the memory that is most vivid in my mind is stretching out on my back and looking up through the branches. I remember the sweet citrus smell combined with the earthy smell of leftover fruit rotting on the ground. It was such a delicious combination.

finding out the truth about Santa Claus
Many times in my life I've been a little too curious for my own good. This story involves a stealthy tour of our off-limits garage one late December night. If I could re-do that experience, I totally would.

Mrs. Fattig, my third grade teacher at Padgett Elementary in Lakeland, FL, whose husband was a plumber, so she had a reading bathtub in her classroom
I remember we had to learn the fifty states, and we got to sit in the bathtub to recite them. I memorized them geographically, starting with Florida and working my way across the country.

Note to students: this is NOT the best way to learn states, apparently. Everyone else in my class learned them alphabetically and didn't miss Alaska and Hawaii the way I did. (Curse my left-handness/right-brainedness)

So that's it for now. I'm sure this trip will unlock even more memories, especially as I am traveling with my mother, who grew up there and has all sorts of stories to tell!

And now for the poem by Elizabeth Bishop:


The state with the prettiest name,
the state that floats in brackish water,
held together by mangrave roots
that bear while living oysters in clusters,
and when dead strew white swamps with skeletons,
dotted as if bombarded, with green hummocks
like ancient cannon-balls sprouting grass.
The state full of long S-shaped birds, blue and white,
and unseen hysterical birds who rush up the scale
every time in a tantrum.
Tanagers embarrassed by their flashiness,
and pelicans whose delight it is to clown;
who coast for fun on the strong tidal currents
in and out among the mangrove islands
rest of poem here

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Creation Story: Gee's Bend Quilts and the Art of Thornton Dial at the Frist Museum in Nashville. TN now through September 3!

You don't want to miss this exhibit. It's powerful.

I had the opportunity this past weekend to experience it with some friends and my 15-year-old son. I gave a little informal gallery talk about the Gee's Bend quilts -- and learned along with my group about Thornton Dial.

Thanks, y'all! It was fun! Amazing, inspiring art is even MORE amazing and inspiring when shared with amazing, inspiring people.

When we visited the gift shop afterward, I told them about LEAVING GEE'S BEND, and they said they would order it. Good folks, those. Thank you!

For those of you in the area, I invite you to join me for another informal gallery talk, sometime in August -- probably a Saturday afternoon sometime before the kids go back to school Aug. 20. Let me hear from you, if you are interested! irene (at) irenelatham (dot) com.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


What a giving month June is!

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to hang out with amazing author-friend Ginger Rue, author of BRAND NEW EMILY and JUMP -- and her daughters -- at Alabama School Library Association conference.

It was so great to see familiar faces of those wonderful librarians I've already had the great fortune to work with and to meet so many new and fascinating folks too!

Here's me with Ginger:

Also this week I attended a meeting of a book club who had chosen LEAVING GEE'S BEND as their monthly pick. Hostess Lisa Ramsey is such a generous, creative spirit... check out this centerpiece of the books the group has read:

...and here is a close-up of the branch that Ludelphia now perches upon:

And that's not all! Book arts lovers, wait till you see the lovely I got to take home with me:

It's made from book pages! NOT from LEAVING GEE'S BEND. No, that would be hard to do to a hardcover! Lisa bought a book at the dollar store. She said it had "leaving" in the tile. HOW COOL IS THAT?!

For dessert, Lisa served a fresh-from-the-book recipe:

Then I told the group lots of behind-the-scenes stuff about writing and my experiences since the release of LEAVING GEE'S BEND. They were a wonderful audience. Here I am with some of them:

Finally, here's the sweet young person who's kind of the reason for it all: it was because of Hope that Lisa (her mom) chose LEAVING GEE'S BEND. (Hope's teacher read it to the class.) What a sweetheart! And she's a great assistant, too:

Thanks to ALL! May our paths cross again very soon. xo

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


We are back from a lovely little trip to the North Georgia mountains where art was in the air. Allow me to introduce some of my new friends:





...and here are some of my favorite humans, enjoying some natural art at Anna Ruby Falls:

Thanks, guys, for a great trip!

p.s. One of the most fun things about writing a zoo book was naming all the animals. Three of the names above actually appear in DON'T FEED THE BOY!

Friday, June 8, 2012


It seems every writer has a Ray Bradbury story. Mine includes one of my favorite people on this world, Jim Reed, who was for a time President of the Ray Bradbury fan club. Really.

Jim is also a collector of quotes. When he shared this one with me years and years ago, I felt like Ray Bradbury had written it just for me. I had it printed on the back of my business cards:

“Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.”

YES, Ray, yes! And thank you, Jim, for also introducing me to Ray Bradbury the poet:

A poem written on learning
that Shakespeare and Cervantes
both died on the same day

Ray Bradbury

Great Shakespeare lost, Cervantes gone
The sun at noon goes down. The dawn
Refuses light. Time holds its breath
At this coincidence of death
Then can it be? and is it so
That these twin gods to darkness go
All in a day! and none to stop
The harvesting of this fell crop
Each in its field, and each so bright
They, burning, hurled away the night.
Yet night returns to seize its due,
One Spirit Spout? No! Death takes two.
First one. The world goes wry from lack
Then two! tips world to balance back.
Two Comet strikes within a week,
First Spain, then dumbstruck England's cheek.
The world grinds mute in dreads and fears
Antarctica melts down to tears,
And Caesars ghosts erupted, rise
All bleeding Amazons from eyes,
An age has ended, yet must stay
As witness to a brutal day
When witless God left us alone
By deathing Will, then Spanish clone.
Who dares to try and gauge each pen
We shall not see such twins again.
Shakespeare is lost, Cervantes dead?
The conduits of God are bled
rest of poem here

And now, don't forget to visit one of the sweetest bloggers on the net, Jama Rattigan for Poetry Friday Roundup!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


TRUE LOVE: Stories told to and by Robert Fulghum
Love stories. Of all types.

 It's out of print, but well worth your effort to find a copy.

Read it, and then we'll compare favorites. :)

Monday, June 4, 2012


Yesterday I posted at Smack Dab in the Middle about vacations as inspiration.

One of the things I mentioned in that posted was the not-quite-coincidence that Whit's favorite animal in DON'T FEED THE BOY is the giraffe --- and in a letter my mother wrote to her mother, she said that my favorite animal was also the giraffe!

Here's the actual text, from a letter titled "Dear Mama & Ray" on January 18, 1975:

"After naps when we returned to the Alshaik Hotel, we went with some friends to the Riyadh zoo. Friday is the only day you can go in mixed company, and then only from 2-4 pm. It closes at 4 and we arrived around 4:30 when everyone was leaving. Our friend, who is Egyptian and speaks Arabic, was able to get us in any way. We had the whole place to ourselves and got to see all the animals being fed. The zoo was as everything else here - Dirty! Irene had wanted to go ever since we have been here so she was especially happy. The one thing she wanted to see was the giraffe."

Thank you, Mama, for writing home to your mama... and for sharing these letters with me!

Friday, June 1, 2012


Sharing today one of my favorite poems, because I have just eaten the first peach of the season...  and I am feeling grateful.

Peaches seem to have that affect on me. I wrote a poem for my husband that includes a peach called "Anniversary." (It appears in my book WHAT CAME BEFORE.)

But oh, read this one by Li-Young Lee:

From Blossoms

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.
From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.
O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.
There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.
- Li-Young Lee

And now a quote from Mr. Lee:

 "There’s eclipse, covering, and there's apocalypse, uncovering. I think poetry provides a very important service. It uncovers our deepest identity. When we read a poem, that’s what we get – our deepest identity."

 - Li-Young Lee, A GOD IN THE HOUSE:Poets Talk about Faith 

For more poetic goodness, please visit Carol at Carol's Corner for Poetry Friday Roundup!