People donít go to church anymore
and they donít know how to sew on buttons
So writes Irene Latham in her poem ďGhost Town.Ē Nor do many people read poetry, this enthusiast concedes, and thatís why we have National Poetry Month.
Whether youíre a regular reader of poetry or havenít touched it since you grumbled through your junior year of high school English, April is the perfect time to sample the delights of this often succinct, soulful art form. Here are three books, all published in the past six months, offering contemporary voices with ties to the South.
In her third collection of poems, The Sky Between Us (Blue Rooster Press, 2014), Alabama author Irene Latham marries her appreciation for the natural world with an examination of love, relationships, and interior lives. Inspired by images from the National Park Service Historic Photograph Collection, this slim volume of verse carries substantial weight in the questions it poses:
What tune should we choose
to soothe a galaxy
of uncharted fears?
The collection carries comparable heft in the truths it reveals:
We always arrive
we have the courage
to name it, or not.
Whether the scene is an ocean, a mountain summit, a distant planet or simply home, Latham is a bold and dedicated explorer, adeptly observing beauty, wondering at mysteries and pausing to discover emotional truths.
-- Kory Wells, The Murfreesboro Pulse
"The poems are written in short free verse stanzas often using enjambment to lead the reader through the words like a canoe on a winding river." - Margaret Simon, Reflections on the Teche
In THE SKY BETWEEN US, poet Irene Latham turns to nature, mountains, and the sea for inspiration as well as metaphors that keep the reader enthralled and wanting more. There's a constant sense of journeying and of making discoveries along the way, and one gets the sense that Latham alone could discover and express what these travels reveal. Her poems demonstrate the value and delight of compression--no word is wasted, every line focused and saying only what the poet believes must be said. In one example, "To kiss," Latham draws three compact comparisons (paddling into a barrel wave, lifting anchor in the eye of a hurricane, mapping tidepools in a plastic raft encircled by sharks) in six lines that express the risk, excitement, danger, and required fortitude of any kiss at any point in lovers' relationships. Even in such superbly crafted, tight lines, there's room for startling, refreshing imagery and eye-opening juxtapositions. Physically, the book's production values are just right: an attractive, intriguing cover image appropriate to the book's content, that content well organized, poems laid out on the page to be both readable and appealing. Latham has written and published a masterful jewel of a book, with poems that attract re-reading both for meaning and pure enjoyment.
- Judge, 22nd Annual Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards
Alabama Writers' Forum