Friday, August 31, 2018

The Sweetness of Summer Poem Swap

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit haiku master Robyn  at Life on the Deckle Edge for Roundup.

Also, in case you missed it: I posted a verb-y poetry challenge earlier this week!
Last week I loved seeing several Summer Poem Swap posts, and this week I'd like to share some of the sweetness I have received this year!

Huge thanks to Tabatha, The Poem Swap Queen, for giving of herself so generously and so often... the world is a better place with Tabatha in it, that's for sure! I'm so grateful. And oh what beauty arrived in my mailbox:

-- from Michelle, some horse-love! Gorgeous horse-y bookmark and notecard along with this poem:

Assateague Horses
     For Irene

Pipe dream or probability --
Assateague Island wild horses,
conjure up images of whimsy and wonder.

Their shapes first revealed themselves
in a "Boxcar" book filled with magical imagery,
drawing us mysteriously into their nature.

Mesmerized by their natural beauty,
they cast a spell over us as they move freely,
forever reminding us how precious freedom is.

Will you venture their way?
View their small Island of freedom,
as they roam, tenderly captured in a time warp.

Rekindle that long ago memory
of kindred kinship with wild horses --
Rally on Assateaugue horses -- run free forever!

- Michelle Kogan

I loved sharing with Michelle my not-so-long-ago visit to Assateague Island. :)
- from Karen, a celebration of summer reading or "Season of plenty" inspired by a page from the "A Year of Tiny Pleasures" calendar... I shared Karen's poem with someone else who was so inspired by it that they haven't returned it yet to me (so I don't have it on hand for this post), but happily I recorded in an email to Karen these words: "laugh, grow, think, love, weep, pause, breathe." YES! May books ever bring us such bounty!

We have recently named
our lake house
"Happy Rabbit Hideaway."
Yes, indeed, we "choose happy!"
- from Carol, and inspiring notebook filled with lake poems, images (including flip-flopped lake-loving me!) and lake thoughts... and an invitation to add my own! I've already started adding to it. :)

Here's just one of the poems:

Flip-flopping into morning light,
You gaze upon a tranquil sight.
Glossy ripples cross the lake,
Urging time to contemplate.
While wavy patterns quietly flow,
enjoy summer's peaceful glow.

- Carol Varsalona
opening pages...

"A lake is the landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth's eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature." - Henry David Thoreau

- from Molly, gorgeous notecards and a posey of poems (some of which were inspired by wildflower pics on my blog!) with such delights as "gossamer skirts," "dizziness of daisies," "button-brown eyes," "tendrils of moonlight"...

and this one:


Seeds packed in plump cases
Springlaoded for far-flung flight
One touch... Explosion!

...and, summer's not over yet! Iphigene let me know that she put something in the mail to me, so I have that to look forward to!
Thanks, all!!
And now I shall leave you with a revision of a poem I wrote at the end of some other Poem Swap, for Tabatha. Thanks so much for reading. xo

Summer Poem Swap
- for Tabatha

Poems flip-flop


like yellow butterflies –

swoop, turn


- Irene Latham

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Free Verbs! Pick Five.

This past weekend at the Adult Strings Weekend, I joined a couple of other players for a chamber music session -- in the Kindermusik room.

Pretty perfect for a children's book author and poet, don't you think?

Not only were the walls full of all sorts of instruments, but there was this poster on the wall listing a symphony of verbs. Can't you just see an ensemble of little Kinders moving their bodies in these ways -- to music?!

And now for a challenge:

PICK FIVE! Write a poem that includes five of the verbs on the list.

Here's mine:
slash   slither   sweep   swoop    spin

Under a Sturgeon Moon*

starlight slashes lake

canoe slithers
into silver ripples

paddles sweep

wind spins a hymn

* in case you missed the Sturgeon Moon, it happened this past Sunday night. :)

Read Molly's 5 Verbs poem about Fall!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Movie Monday: ALPHA

There's not a movie I can think of this year that I was more anticipating than ALPHA.

I was spellbound by the trailer and have been counting down to its release. And I wasn't disappointed! It's a beautiful movie. Such gorgeous cinematography! I really felt like I was living in prehistoric Europe.

The story centers on a boy who earns his place on the big hunting trip. Only he's a reluctant participant -- perhaps because even though he's the chief's son, he's more of a tenderheart than a warrior.

Which is why we root for him so hard when the most awful thing that can possibly happen to him really does happen. What follows is a survival, coming of age story. And by the end, the movie has done what you want every great story to do: it moves beyond the very personal journey of a boy in a harsh environment -- the last scene shows how this boy's adventures just may have created a new world in which humans and wolves co-exist in the same pack.

I mean, what a great thing to imagine: the beginning of man's relationship with dogs? It's brilliant really. And even though the movie felt a little expected in the last half, I still really loved it. Its beauty rivals one of my all-time favorites, which is also a survival and friendship-between-human-and-beast story: THE BLACK STALLION.

I hope you'll go see ALPHA!

Friday, August 24, 2018

Cello Love

Hello and happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Margaret at Reflections on the Teche for Roundup.

This weekend I am attending the annual Adult Strings Weekend at University of Alabama where me and Lady Godiva (my cello) will join other amateurs in an intense weekend of learning and rehearsals and a Sunday open-to-the-public performance.

I attended this event last year, and I learned SO MUCH! I am very excited to participate again this year. You can read more about my cello life and see some of my cello compatriots at our Birmingham Cello Project blog.

One of my ongoing writing projects is a memoir that celebrates living life as a beginner and focuses on my adventures learning to play the cello as an adult. I've been so busy lately with my work for children that I haven't given it much attention. But today I was reminded of a poem I wrote for that project called "Cello Love." It's my pleasure to share it today with all of you! (I don't think you have to be a cellist to relate to this... probably anyone who has spent quality time with a musical instrument of any kind will relate.) Thanks so much for reading!

Cello Love

Is is the way she fits
against me, how we become
a moving puzzle,
a patchwork of motion
and sound?

Is it the way walls fade
as notes – even illicit ones –
raise rafters,
                    praise sky?

Is it the way the strings
forgive my fingers,
teaching me
to forgive myself?

Is it the way the melody
saddles skin  muscle    bone
to rattle its way
into the single cell
at the center of my heart?

Or is it the way the music isn't mine
and never will be –

yet when we sit together,
all knees and hollows,
long scratches
and unmentionable scars

we sing to each other,
                      you belong.

- Irene Latham

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Getting to Know Miss Eudora

welcome to Eudora's
backyard garden!
 One of the great things (among so many!) about visiting Jackson for the Mississippi Book Festival was visiting Eudora Welty's home.

Eudora is Mississippi royalty. She's the one who donated her house to the state, and then lived in it (from age 16) until her death quite a few years later.

Eudora never married and never had any children, though I am told she did have a love interest. I must know more! I also really wanted a copy of her book ONE WRITER'S BEGINNINGS, but they were sold out in the gift shop. So.... I came home and ordered myself a copy.

I also loved the museum next door where we watched a film about Eudora, and enjoyed framed letters and such. Eudora's sense of humor really shines in this postcard sent to Charlotte Capers's dog Holly, after Holly gave birth to puppies:


Holly, you are just the berries.
You thought pet milk came from dairies.
Though eight puppies is no laugh,
what would be sad is 8 1/2.

Eudora and I have that postcard habit in common. :) We also have being superreaders in common -- when she died, there were 5,000 books in the house -- and they were piled up in all the expected places as well as some unexpected places, too... like on top of the family Steinway piano. :)

portrait by Sara Tyson
Finally, here is a painting of Eudora that depicts her as the steel magnolia I do believe she was! Thanks especially to all those great docents for sharing stories about Eudora's love of Maker's Mark and disdain for newfangled things (like coffee makers). Oh, and have you ever hear of the "cut -n- pin" revision method? Eudora cut up her first draft and rearranged passages, much like a quilter rearranged fabric pieces when working a quilt top. Fascinating!

Monday, August 20, 2018


Recently our electrician-son, who is in and out of people's houses on a regular basis, said he's been seeing the same book on nightstands and coffee tables and kitchen counters: CRAZY RICH ASIANS by Kevin Kwan. He thought for sure I'd read it, and he wanted to know what was so good about it.

Well. Not only had I not read it, I'd not even heard of it! So when I looked it up and found out it was quite a big thing, and with a movie adaptation coming very soon, well, I was like, I gotta get on that! I went to my library to put myself on the HOLD line, and found out I was number 166. (!)

Y'all probably all know this, but I didn't: the book came out in 2013. And yes, I know a movie adaptation can bring people back to a book. But. 166!! Anyhow, needless to say, I haven't yet read it, or the rest of the trilogy. But I will. Especially after seeing the delightful movie.

I loved this movie. It made me smile A LOT. And cry some. And I learned a lot about Chinese culture, and what it means to be Chinese-American, and how the crazy rich party like it's 1999! Beautiful scenes from Singapore -- there was a wedding scene so breathtakingly beautiful -- and how can you not root for Nick and Rachel? I love them and want them together forever and ever!

Here's the thing I love best about the movie: it's happy. Yes, there are struggles, but it has a happy ending. Hopeful romantic me really appreciates movies that dare to be happy! AND, I felt like I was whisked into another culture, another way of life. I saw another face of prejudice. My world widened.

And now I REALLY can't wait to read the book, so I went ahead and bought a copy. :)

Would love to hear others' thoughts about the books or the movie! xo

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Magical, Mystical MISSISSIPPI BOOK FESTIVAL, this Weekend!

Charles Waters and I are so very excited to be presenting this weekend at Mississippi Book Festival in Jackson!

It was my great fortune to present on a Picture Book panel back in 2016 for FRESH DELICIOUS. Yes it was August-muggy-HOT. But. What a grand, well organized festival!

And this year not only will Charles and I be part of the Picture This! panel, but we'll also be presenting to 1500 school kids on Friday. 1500 kids -- who will each receive a copy of CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR: Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship.

Isn't that amazing and generous and wonderful? And talk about an author's dream! We're delighted and honored. And excited to meet these young readers as well as a slew of other authors like Jessmyn Ward and Angie Thomas and Augusta Scattergood and Rick Bragg and and and... y'all, Mississippi don't play. This is a serious-good line-up of authors and events!

Did I say, excited? Yep. Hope to see you there!

Monday, August 13, 2018

For the Love of Lighthouses

Pensacola Light
I've long enjoyed visiting lighthouses, and last week we were able to visit a the one located in Pensacola, FL, at the Naval Air Station.

Please note: if you want to visit this lighthouse, Google Maps will likely take you to the wrong entrance. They only allow visitors to the lighthouse to enter at the West gate. (Yes, we found this out the hard way!)

There's a small museum located on the grounds near the lighthouse as well as a gift shop, where I found MIND THE LIGHT, KATIE: The History of Thirty-Three Female Lighthouse Keepers by Mary Louise Clifford and J. Candace Clifford. Fascinating stories! And then I found the US Lighthouse Society webpage which features a slew of lighthouse poems. Check them out! I especially enjoyed "The Lighthouse Keeper's White-Mouse" by John Ciardi, which is imaginative, adorable kid-fare.

And now here is a tour of the lighthouse:

view of the Gulf,
inside the grounds,
just past the parking lot

climbing the stairs - all 177 of them

People coming down have
the right-of-way, and people
coming up have to wait in the center
of the staircase for them to pass.

view from a window... it was a HOT
day, so any breeze was welcome

view of my flip-flops on window
 ledge -- visitors are required to
wear shoes with backs, or else go
barefoot (for safety) -- so I carried
my shoes up with me to wear
on the sure-to-be-HOT outside

the light! (still operating -- we
had to be careful of our heads
so we didn't crash into it!)

the north view

the crew - none of my guys
are all that fond of heights!

Friday, August 3, 2018

Reinventing August

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit the irrepressible Mary Lee at A Year of Reading for Roundup.

So... it's August! How'd that happen?

Around here I've been working to reinvent August, as for me it is often the doldrums of one kind or another... But no more! I've decided this August will be AWESOME.

coming to you live, from my front porch...
If you are interested in the creative process, specifically where ideas come from -- and some words about how I spent my summer vacation -- be sure to visit my post today over at Smack Dab in the Middle, which includes a link to the announcement for one of my forthcoming books! (I love when the announcement is posted, so I can finally talk about a book that's dear to me!)

Meanwhile, I've been reading A LOT (currently FATAL THRONE by M.T. Anderson, Jennifer Donnelly, Candace Fleming, Stephanie Hemphill, Deborah Hopkinson, Linda Sue Park and Lisa Ann Sandell. What a team, right?) and writing (a new project far to damp and fluttery to talk about just yet).

Did I say, AWESOME? Yep.

Also awesome: Charles Waters and I will be presenting in August at Mississippi Book Festival! And CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? has been selected as a 2018 Book All Young Georgians Should Read. We're so honored and delighted!

Now for a pair of poems that actually appeared in Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong's THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY FOR SCIENCE, but they are on my mind today because it is raining as I type this... and many an August in Alabama has been seized by drought. So kind of on topic, at least in my mind! Thanks so much for reading.

Riddle for a Dry Day

Sun without rain
day in, day out.
Grass browns, ground frowns.
I am a...


Riddle for a Wet Day

I overwhelm and overflow
with raging waves and sheets of mud.
I leave behind disease and sludge.

I am an unexpected... 


- Irene Latham

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Return of Nakedness

July 2018 view
Hello and welcome to Spiritual Journey Thursday. Today we are gathering at Pat's place, Writer on a Horse, to talk about "returning," as Pat has returned to her blog and writing, and she's asked us to think about returning seasonal things -- what in nature do we look forward to the return of? (That sentence feels awfully awkward... sorry!)

With summer winding down, my thoughts have turned to fall. I look forward to the return of colorful leaves and pumpkin-hay bale displays and campfire evenings with a quilt around my shoulders. This will be our first fall living full-time at the lake, so we're pretty excited! I really look forward to that day (like the one I'll never forget from last year) when suddenly, all the leaves have dropped, and the lake is stark and bare and beautiful.

[pic TK --- probably around first of November!]

And that interests me, about myself, about my life -- that it's not the brilliant color I am most looking forward to, but to the bare-ness, the nakedness. Here is a poem I wrote about it a few years ago.

And isn't this such a great metaphor for the spiritual life? Sometimes the most vibrant, connected, meaningful, grace-filled moments we can experience are actually when we are most still and revealed and naked... I find that's also the place where the best poems live... so yes, much to look forward to! Meanwhile I am savoring each moment of summer. Thank you for reading, and happy day to all.