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About this poet

Leah Naomi Green grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina. She received an MFA from the University of California, Irvine.

Her first full-length poetry collection, The More Extravagant Feast, was selected by Li-Young Lee as the winner of the 2019 Walt Whitman Award, given by the Academy of American Poets, and will be published by Graywolf Press in April 2020.

About The More Extravagant Feast, Lee writes,

“This book keeps faithful company with the world and earns its name. The darkness and suffering of living on earth are assumed in this work, woven throughout the fabric of its lineated perceptions and insights, and yet it is ultimately informed by the deep logic of compassion (is there a deeper human logic?) and enacts the wisdom of desire and fecundity reconciled with knowledge of death and boundedness. These poems remind us that when language is used to mediate between a soul’s inner contents and the outer world’s over-abundance of being and competing meanings, it’s possible to both transcend the nihilism of word games, thereby discovering a more meaningful destiny for language, as well as reveal the body of splendor which is Existence.”

Her chapbook,  The Ones We Have, received  the  2012 Flying Trout Chapbook  prize. She is associate editor of  Shenandoah, and teaches English and Environmental Studies at Washington and Lee University. Green lives in  the Shenandoah Mountains  with her husband and their daughters.

Field Guide to the Chaparral

The fire beetle only mates
when the chaparral is burning,

and the water beetle
will only mate in the rain.

In the monastery’s kitchen, the nuns
don’t believe me when I tell them how old I am,
that you were married before.

The woman you find attractive
does not believe me when I look at her kindly. 

There are candescent people in the world.
It will only be love
 
that I love you with.
When we get home,
 
there will be our kitchen, the dishes undone.
There will be our bedroom.
 
What is it you eventually recognized
in my face that allowed you to believe me?
 
Beauty that did not come from you—
remember how it did not come from you?
 
As white sage does not come from the moon
but is found by it and lit.
 
The Buddhists say
that the front of the paper
 
cannot exist without the back.
Because there is a there,
 
there is a here. Chaparral,
the density of growth,
 
and the tattered chaps
the mappers wore
 
through it because they had to,
to keep walking without
 
being hurt. It is OK if we hurt
one another.
 
Chaparral needs fire.
(The pinecones would not open
 
otherwise.) Love needs lover,
whose last lover was flood.

Copyright © 2017 Leah Naomi Green. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Spring 2017.

Copyright © 2017 Leah Naomi Green. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Spring 2017.

Leah Naomi Green

Leah Naomi Green

Leah Naomi Green’s first full-length poetry collection, The More Extravagant Feast, was selected by Li-Young Lee as the winner of the 2019 Walt Whitman Award, given by the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet

poem
“God is an infinite sphere, the center of which is everywhere, the circumference nowhere.”
                                                              —Borges


1.

The peony, which was not open this morning, has opened,
falling over its edges 

like the circumference of God, still clasped 
at the
poem
I cut a cantaloupe from its rind and hold it, scalped 
and slipping.  Inside it, there are seeds in folding rows, 
dark in the concentric hollow, and I don’t know how 
I will remove them, 

and I don’t know how they keep one another, 
in loose grasp, from falling, 
or what they would touch if they fell.

Washing
poem
“It is your very self” I tell him.  
He has never seen me.  

His quick coin of breath disappears on the glass as it forms: air 
that feeds his bones their portion

willingly as it feeds mine.  He spends his here, 
besieged by the dull birds who gather 

and whom he cannot touch, his own feathers 
red as wrought