From California coastal redwoods to giant sequoias in the Sierra, from practical jokes of adolescence to unexpected epiphanies marking an academic career, the many poems in Somewhere to Follow range through the life of a poet on the lookout for what comes next.
In this his seventh volume of poetry, Paul Willis ascends the switchbacks of ordinary experience to cross paths with song-leading rangers, exhausted mothers, dirt-loving children, terrified immigrants, Arctic climbers, face-masked students, beatified counselors, rejected suitors, honest morticians, talking ferns, mourning crows, stinking fungi, vengeful rivers, raging fires, faithful brothers, the world’s largest pinecones, and an innocent pair of twin grandsons.
Also present in these pages are the Virgin Mary, Sir Philip Sidney, George Vancouver, David Douglas, John Muir, Ernest Hemingway, and the inimitable Ruth Kerr of the Kerr Canning Jar Company.
Throughout this collection, one hears Willis’s unique tone: quietly observant, worldly wise and yet still full of wonder, alert to the surprises and vistas that can only be found by striking out on your own. Take the path that each poem offers and find for yourself Somewhere to Follow.
At times wistful, occasionally heartbreaking, often humorous, and always tender, Paul Willis’s Somewhere to Follow is a love letter to the natural world with plenty of affectionate notes to humankind jotted in the margins. Reading these poems during a personally busy era has reminded me that while there’s more to life than my daily routines and surroundings, everything I need can be found in those wondrous places. As Willis writes, ‘no one knows where this trail goes,’ but his voice is the someone to follow.
Tania Runyan, author of What Will Soon Take Place
In Paul Willis’s new book there is much to admire and enjoy. Not least among these qualities is a specific attention to, and love of, the natural world—something for which his poems are well-known, a ‘tenderness toward existence,’ as Kinnell had it. Also the virtues of clarity and concision, and especially a deep humanity and compassion for others, perfectly balanced by a subtle wit and fine sense of humor—a complete and resonant vision.
Christopher Buckley, author of Pre-Eternity of the World
I’ve admired the work of Paul Willis for many years, yet this collection arrives as a revelation—the span of these poems, their lifelong reach, quiet tenderness, and, yes, wisdom. Willis has his eye on the world, an eye that refuses to objectify, but stands in relation to presence on earth, his own, and multitudinous life.
Marsha de la O, author of Antidote for Night