Posted by: jeannineatkins | August 3, 2012

Irene Latham!

One of the gifts of summer is when people travel into my small western Massachusetts orbit. I’ve felt a kindred spirit with Irene Latham after reading her blog, her beautiful novel, Leaving Gee’s Bend, and her collection of poems, The Color of Lost Rooms. I was happy she let me know that she’d be flying out of Alabama to visit the nearby Emily Dickinson homestead, while taking a literary journey with her father, who shares her passion for books.

We met at Judie’s Restaurant in Amherst, where they shared some stories from the Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mark Twain houses they’d visited in Connecticut the day before.  I also loved hearing the proud father speak of his favorite author, Irene. When I asked if he read her blog, he said, “I read everything she writes.” They told me about how when he’d travel when his five children were small, he’d bring back some small thing for Irene to write about. Most things were so common they were hard to remember, but what remains is the link to his daughter who is still inspired by things as small as the “i” she wore as a necklace with a tiny blue stone, or ordinary events that become extraordinary with deliberate attention. And that person who is waiting for whatever she writes next.

When I mentioned envying their relationship, Irene asked who encouraged me to write, giving me a chance to talk about my Grand-mère who didn’t offer exercises, the way her father did, or ask to see poems, but Grand-mère’s pleasure in art and allegiance to beauty gave me a kind of hope I didn’t get from my more practical parents. I was reminded of the different places we find the people who whisper Keep going. Even if a person never used those words, even if they’re not now among the living.

Irene and I talked about the different challenges of writing and marketing poetry and novels, and our frustration about publishing prejudices against works about real people who aren’t deemed famous enough. We talked some about what we’re writing and reading now. Her father seemed happy to listen. For more details of what they saw over a jam-packed few days, visit her blog.

I like what she has to say about how Mark Twain put Huck Finn in the pigeon holes of his desk, the photograph of Edith Wharton’s bedroom and Henry David Thoreau’s gravesite, and also how she includes who couldn’t bother to say good morning in the literary tours, which restaurant to avoid, and the weirdness that is the Massachusetts Turnpike. I only wish we could have visited longer, but I am looking forword to my next summer visitor – a weekend with my daughter!

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Responses

  1. So happy you three got together. I envy her relationship with her dad too :).

    • Yes, it was quite something to be in that father-daughter orbit for just a little bit: it was clear how wide and deep it went. We had fun at Barstow’s, but I’d like to see what you made of the big popovers at Judies!

  2. Glorious, Jeannine! I admire your orbit.

  3. What a rare relationship Irene shares with her dad. I could feel the warmth in your writing. He gave her a wonderful gift, beyond encouraging her writing – he taught appreciation for the small miracles in life.

    It’s true that getting published, especially if your work is a little out of the ordinary, is so difficult. BUT it doesn’t mean anymore that writers have to be mute. The wonderful opportunities offered on the internet through blogs and the emerging world of self-publishing makes all things possible.

    • Yes, it’s clear he gave her a lot, and it was beautiful to see he’s able to take some from her as well, to make that switch: on this trip, after many in which it was otherwise, Irene was in the driver’s seat, and they both seemed content with this.

      And you’re also right about new opportunities. Yay for all chances for words moving into the world. And friendships made through blogs!

  4. I’m so glad you two were able to meet up and share so much. And wow, how lucky Irene is to have such a supportive dad! I also enjoyed hearing about your grand-mere. It is interesting to see what or who steers us into a certain direction, and how we find our own way with it.

    I’m hoping someday I can wander in your neighborhood and have lunch with you too. Or perhaps a visit to Powell’s and Portland is in your future? :)
    Have a wonderful visit with your daughter. I’ll be camping with mine next week.

    • I’m sure we’ll have our lunch one day, Lorraine. And I really look forward to that. Meanwhile, how great to see you here. I hope to see a camping picture or two!

  5. Oh, now here I am missing you! Thank you for this lovely record. As much as I try not to take things for granted, to be grateful EVERY DAY for my good fortune (loving parents! time, sweet time! opportunities to travel and meet Jeannine!), your words here remind me to say an extra refrain of thank yous. You made our trip extra-special. Love to you and Massachusetts! Sending this link to Papa….

    • You seem to have gratitude-for-the-moments polished to an art, and you are an inspiration in so many ways. Thank you for the visit!

  6. Jeannine, it was a joy to be able to meet you and to experience the shared passion that you and Irene share for writing. I am so very grateful for your kindness and hospitality! Our visit with you was a highlight of our trip!

    • And it was a joy to meet you, too! I was very honored to spend time with you between your stops with Emily Dickinson and Daniel Webster!

  7. Ah, I am jealous. Irene is one of my favorite friends and you are one of my favorite bloggers. And the two of you got to share a meal. Sounds blissful.

    • It was blissful, Dori. Wish you could have appeared, too. We might never have gotten out of the restaurant!

  8. What a lovely talk and visit. Isn’t it wonderful when you get to actually meet the virtual friends, and it feels even better in person? Someday, Jeannine and Jama! Someday. :)


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