Kickoff for David K. Leff’s Poet in Residency is Tuesday
By John Fitts
Writers have always turned to nature for inspiration and Collinsville’s David K. Leff is no stranger to this phenomenon.
Now, however, Leff has an opportunity to meld the written – and spoken – word and nature together in unique ways as Poet in Residence of the 215-mile New England Scenic Trail.
In fact, it is believed he is the first poet to serve as an artist in residence for a national scenic trail, in this case, a foot journey that runs from Guilford to the New Hampshire border of Massachusetts.
“I’m really honored; I’m humbled,” said Leff, an author, poet, Canton Town Historian and former official with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. “I’m really excited because I think there’s so much potential to enhance and enliven people’s experience of the outdoors with poetry that’s accessible.”
A formal kickoff for Leff’s residency will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016 at the Connecticut Forest and Park Association Headquarters, 16 Meriden Road in Middlefield, CT
In addition to poetry from Leff, attendees will enjoy words from CT Poet Laureate Rennie McQuilkin of Simsbury, as well as a narrated slide show of the New England Trail.
During the year-long National Park Service residency Leff will lead nature-based poetry workshops, led trail and poetry oriented walks, host a poetry concern in the quarterly CFPA Connecticut Woodlands publication and coordinate an Ekphrastic poetry exhibit in which a past artist in residence’s photos will be paired with poetry.
“It doesn’t really concentrate on my work but it involves bringing people together to experience the trail to experience poetry as it relates to the trail,” he said of the residency. “I’m hoping that this will be an additional constituency for both poetry and the trail.”
For his own trail-based writings, Leff plans to follow a style known as Haibun, which was a form by the Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō that combines journal entries with Haiku.
“It seemed to be this combination of evocative prose and haiku really was the best way of describing the trail experience,” Leff said.
Leff said he approached the park service more than a year ago with the idea, which he feels will enhance the experience of hikers and encourage writers and poets to learn about the trails as a source of inspiration.
“It seemed to me that you could connect the legs to the heart and the mind and really get something more than is the sum of its parts,” Leff said.
And for Leff, one of the greatest aspects of the trail is not only its natural features but also its rich history, geology and culture.
For example, he said there’s a spot in the Holyoke range in Massachusetts where one can see the view that inspired The Oxbow by Hudson River painter Thomas Cole. In another spot, in Guilford, CT, people can see the grave of Fitz-Greene Halleck, who at one time was a very renowned poet whose statue is in New York City’s Central Park.
“The trail is really about the confluence of nature and culture, it’s a cultural artifact laid over a natural artifact and to me the most exciting part of it is that junction,” Leff said. “That to me is the most vibrant thing about the trail and part of what I want to give greater clarity and realization to people who experience the trail.”
While not required, registration is encouraged for Tuesday’s event. See more at http://ctwoodlands.org/CFPA-events/net-poet-residence-kick-event
For information on the trail, Leff and the first trail Haibun, visit.