Daniel Leach takes us on a journey of souls …
If you’ve ever wondered about the places the soul might go, poet Daniel Leach has some possible, and possibly suggested, answers.
Old houses. A church in Fredericksburg, Texas. Canyons in the American West. Devil’s Hole in the Niagara River. Windows peered through in dreams. A woodland pond. Forests of night. The Pergamon altar in modern-day Turkey (or the Pergamon Museum in Germany). The air full of history in Berlin. Woodstock in 1969. The realm of fairies.
Leach’s latest collection of poems, Places the Soul Goes, is an interior travelogue of thought, belief, exploration, and imagination. Its 32 poems serve as signposts, pointing the way while opening up a world of possibilities. While there are no direct, or even indirect, references to Dante, images of The Divine Comedy keep pushing their way to the surface. The soul is on a journey here, a journey that transcends time and space.
The soul can even attend a party and find its way, like others, to the building’s rooftop.
Down below, among the dark and steamy streets,
Through soft-lit backyard trees, the people mill,
And music floats upon the treetop breeze,
Up here, where we look out on the sparkling city.
No one knows one another, but seem they do,
As the beauty of the moment is felt by all—
They linger for a while and sip their wine,
Oh, delicious wine of midsummer night!
A heartfelt smile and they go back downstairs,
Another comes and drinks the air and sky
And waving treetops and bright city lights
And smiles and leaves, until at last it’s time
For fireworks, for it is July the fourth.
They burst, then disappear, our brief joys,
But beautiful as they and all this sink
Into the heart—oh, yes, I think they all
Can feel it too—the sweet sadness there is—
So much is lost, and yet we still hold on.
I go back down and greet the evening’s host,
A great and generous soul whose knowing smile
Tells me he is aware of the great gift
He’s given in that rooftop gathering.
I lift a golden glass and silently
Smile back at him, even as I do now.
Our souls often feel singular and alone, and yet, even for a moment, there are times when a shared experience—the view from a rooftop—gives us a glimpse of what binds us together. This sense of discovery and insight permeates the collection’s poems, from the long poems like “The Berlin Air,” “The Devil at Woodstock,” and “Worlds Within Worlds” to the shorter poems about seasons and memory.
Leach publishes classical poems online and in print. He’s spent much of his life advocating for the ideals of classical culture and classical poetry. He’s written essays on the poetry of John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and other poets, and on the advantages and benefits of reciting poetry. Leach also leads poetry workshops and seminars. He’s previously published the collection Voices on the Wind.
Places the Soul Goes is an invitation from Leach, to join him in a poetic exploration of human experience. Our souls can travel to many places, and we may be surprised at just how many souls are joining us.
How to Read a Poem uses images like the mouse, the hive, the switch (from the Billy Collins poem)—to guide readers into new ways of understanding poems. Anthology included.
“I require all our incoming poetry students—in the MFA I direct—to buy and read this book.”
—Jeanetta Calhoun Mish
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