Another Land of My Body

Four Way. Mar. 2024. 116p. ISBN 9781954245945. pap. $17.95. POETRY
As Leonard notes in his second volume (after the NPCA Gold Award–winning Sweetgum & Lightning), “hunger”—in all its manifestations—”is one of my songs.” Certainly, there is pain here, from “Poverty”—“They refuse to call it violence”—to the acknowledgement that “place can blister” in a poem recounting the death of a young man who was “gay & out & bullied.” But the references to food and fashion (“my nails were freckled teal”), love, sex, and travel (“And where do I jet to when I need love? / To Salvador, Bahia—to samba in Barra / with that goateed bassist”), all wrought in soaring, high-spirited language, clarify that here’s a soul who abundantly embraces life. The poems coalesce snippets of memory and observation into lovely wholes, frequently moving by portraiture, from his mother, whose “allure wasn’t from a magazine; Jet came later,” to Aretha Franklin, who “could lock her lids / & unfasten everybody’s sentiment,” to Ms. Clematine and Ms. Bessie Will back in his home state of Alabama, though he now frequents Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle (“artful froth”) and the Harlem Artists Salon (“un-teaching myself that applause can be bought”).
VERDICT Leonard has written a work that can and should be savored by a wide range of readers.
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