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Poetry Friday: The Color of Lost Rooms by Irene Latham

Many of us know Irene Latham as the author of Leaving Gee’s Bend, a novel for middle readers about a ten-year-old’s quest in 1932 rural Alabama, which pays tribute to not just the strength of one girl but a whole a community of quilt makers. Others know Irene through her participation in Poetry Friday, where I’ve found her taste in poems is often similar to mine. Which made me excited to get my hands on her second collection of poetry. The Color of Lost Rooms didn’t disappoint. My heart beat harder at each of the first few poems I read, and then put down the book, so I could start all over again.

Many of these poems were inspired by paintings, and many of those were seen at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. So we get to discover a lot of women from the past, seen through the prism of a poet. Maria Sibylla Merian’s insects seem to flutter off the engravings. Frida Kahlo’s dress tells a story. I especially loved “Breakfast of the Birds,” "after a painting by Gabriele Munter." Many lost rooms here are colored by those mostly forgotten who stood close to what we think of as history. We have poems told from the views of Einstein’s daughter, Audubon’s Mother, and one of Picasso’s wives.

Other free verse poems, usually in couplets, tercets, or four line stanzas, have more domestic settings, and tell of a daughter’s changing relationship to her mother, an elderly gardener’s devotion to his wife, and a marriage. “Love Poem with Christmas Lights” begins, “That first Christmas/without your mother, I watched you unpack…” There are no more allusions to the loss. Instead, observation of the plastic ornaments, busted bulbs, a wrench and racket quietly broke my heart.

Most of these poems are about people who are utterly distinct, and tell short stories in vivid language. Lucky you who have yet to read these. Ordering information is on Irene’s website, where you can also learn more about her fiction. Or quilts!

For the Poetry Friday roundup, please visit Laura Purdie Salas at Writing the World for Kids


Okay, now I want this one! And by the way, I've seen a lot of nice mentions of your book lately. :)
Thanks, Kate! Book want is always a good thing!



Thanks for this review. I have to get myself a copy of this poetry collection! I love poems written about art.

Elaine Magliaro
Always happy to add to your book pile, Elaine! There is something special about poems about art, and Irene made some really interesting choices.
Thanks for this, Jeannine. What a wonderful title. And you had me for sure at Einstein's daughter and Audubon's mother. Must get my hands on this one!
Yes, I love that title, to! Nice to see you here, Amy!
Glad you're intrigued, Laura. And I will try to renogotiate with Mr. Linky. Thanks for letting me know we're having problems.
Jeannine, thank you so much for this lovely review! I knew we were kindred spirits when I read BORROWED NAMES... I look forward to sharing many poems with each other in the future. Who knows what figures from art/history/life will strike our fancies?? Fun!
Yes, it's most fun to read and write together, and there do seem to be so many people calling from the past! Can't wait to read what you write next!
Thank you, Jeannine, for sharing this book. I very much appreciate the idea of a book built on "those mostly forgotten who stood close to what we think of as history."
Thanks, Amy!


Thank you, Jeannine, for this wonderful review of Irene's book. I look forward to reading these poems! By the way, ANNE HUTCHINSON'S WAY is a happy member of my seventeenth-century bookshelf. (Well, the bookshelf isn't 17th Cent., but that's what the books are about!) Wishing you both bright new years, Robyn Hood Black
Robyn, thank you for dropping by and reading and commenting. And I'm happy to hear Anne Hutchinson's Way is part of a bookshelf I'd love to get a peek at!
Sounds fabulous. Adding it to my TBR list!
Your poetry shelves and TBR list is another place I'd like to haunt!
Another one for my list! Thanks for bringing this to the forefront.
Susan, I do think you'd find this inspiring!
Thank you for sharing this collection - it's now on my list of books to own.
Thanks for stopping by here, Tara!
Hi Jeannine---I love Irene's work, too! I'll have to grab this!

Take care,
Jame! Thank you for stopping by. I think you'll love Irene's book.