The Leek Soup Songbook
Des Hymnagistes Press, 2015
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Praise for The Leek Soup Songbook
The true poet, like the good gardener, must, as Matthew Nickel writes, “know the names of things.” These poems are alive with them, especially what grows in gardens: garlic, tomatoes, cantaloupes, and of course life-giving, death-defying leeks. And every name has a story, told with wit, intelligence, and often—oh so rare, welcome, and difficult!—humor. Nickel, a careful, reverent, joyful gardener of words, shows us how to “stay attentive to the way things grow.”
—Jane Eblen Keller, writer, author of Adirondack Wilderness: A Story of Man and Nature & numerous other works
The Leek Soup Songbook teaches us how to cherish and celebrate moments of communion. An abundance of sensual particulars create poems that glow, shift and blaze with a passion for being. With a sense of connection to all who have come before, to the land they have tilled, Nickel tries to “relive the death of every living thing.” Each poem of memory is underpinned with tenderness and seeks a grace that approaches the sacramental. The Leek Soup Songbook not only nourishes the body with leeks and garlic, but also feeds the soul by showing how to stay centered, how to rise. Like the taste of a savory soup, music and wisdom in this shimmering collection of poems linger first in the ear but finally find their home in the heart.
—Vivian Shipley, poet, Connecticut State University Distinguished Professor, author of All of Your Messages Have Been Erased, Hardboot, & numerous other works
Matthew Nickel’s Leek Soup Songbook is a splendid first volume of poems from an already much published poet and editor. The best songbooks are composed of songs and stories, cantos and canticles, and Nickel’s superbly crafted collection of cantos and tales of seed-time and harvest, love and loss, tragedy and joy, has something for every reader—autochthon or anachthon, gardener or foodie, lovers of earth or well-made poetry. Leeks have been fabled for millennia as aids to the singing voice and here the poet sings wisely and well of place and displacement, of dépaysement and renewal through relocation. With wit and humor, formal equipoise and reinvested echoes of many writers, the poet gives us authentic songs and recipes, hymns and prayers to reclaim the radical innocence of the soul. Nickel’s suffused sense of place and, more importantly, the way he encounters the Deus Loci, the sublime Spirit of Place, invites us all to sing along with him.
—H. R. Stoneback, poet, scholar, singer-songwriter, Distinguished Professor The State University of New York, author of Voices of Women Singing, The Stoney & Sparrow Songbook & numerous other works