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Knowing that Most Things Break, Poems by David Leightty

The poems in this, David Leightty’s first full-length book of poems, cover a wide range of subjects, but bend toward a central theme: the perilous reckoning to which humankind has brought both itself and the fragile word we inhabit. Speaking comfortably in measured forms, these poems wind through sections that explore, in turns, the sometimes troubled history and present of Leightty’s home city; the at-risk beauty of the surrounding rivers, fields, and woods; and the fragility of threatened human culture and civilization. Other themes include a recognition of the vastness of time and space, and the variety of human character. The poems culminate at the present day’s existential reckoning—“the crux / Our scattered histories converge us to.” The breadth of interests explored in these poems is manifest in the diverse points of praise offered by the three poets quoted below.  Leightty has published poems widely—although sparingly—over several decades, in journals and in two chapbooks, but never before in a full-length book.  He is an attorney in Louisville, where he lives with his wife, Sharon. 

Sample Poems by David Leightty

“David Leightty’s poems are primarily about the fragility of human existence. They contain fires, accidents, warfare, and disease. Secondarily, these poems also limn the fragility of the natural world. They are by turns narrative and contemplative; and the poet is a master of his craft and subject matter, both the quotidian and the historical. For me, the central poem is about the poet-critic Yvor Winters, dying of cancer and yet determined to finish writing his magnum opus, gathering his ‘wisdom for one final look . . . / And enter[ing] knowing to the utter end.’ However, I don’t want to give the impression that these poems are unremittingly grim; there are poems about nature, love, sport, and heroism, among other subjects. In the end, what most strikes me about David Leightty’s poems is the pleasure they give, a rarity today.”— R. L. Barth, author of Learning War

“Poet and fisherman, David Leightty deftly captures the dance between fish and fly (wet and dry), rich and slant rhyme, in tight lines. All of which give pleasure. I don’t think it would detract from your enjoyment to read his whole ‘Foraging’ section first. That’s where the beauty he finds in the wild fortifies both poet and reader to face ‘Civilities.’ It is a rare writer who can turn their day job of lawyer into poems about city planning, gun violence, arson, and poverty. Leightty can and does. And yet his artful ease may be at its best when he is in flight from the quotidian. For instance, during a deposition where he notes ‘Perched at arm’s length outside the glaze/Thirty floors up, a sparrow hawk/ Bright copper mantle; robin size …”—Suzanne J. Doyle, author of Sweeter for the Dark; Dangerous Beauties; Calypso

“My favorite professor, Guy Davenport, defined art as the replacement of indifference by attention. These poems brim with attention, careful peerings into the worlds of fisher folk, urban dwellers, and wayside observers, including cats that yield wise insights. They fulfill the role of the poet in spades. To quote David Leightty’s poem on Black Elk, ‘I am the one who sees.’”—Richard Taylor, Kentucky poet laureate 1999-2001