Author Amy Leach can charm a crowd. Recently she spoke on the campus of Webster University where people gathered, listened, and laughed during a reading of her essay collection “Things That Are.” Leach presented delightful snippets of her essays as part of a Visiting Writers Series produced by the Webster University English Department. Authors such as Billy Collins, Li-Young Lee, George Saunders and Lucia Perillo (to name a few) are among the nationally proclaimed authors to have participated in the series. Adding her name to these ranks, Leach gave a personal rendition of the whimsical Jabberwocky-like language found in her essays that amounted to much more than a reading. Her performance was pure enchantment.
Leach’s small voice bounced around the sunlit windows as if on a beam with a purpose, echoing with vibrancy. What became clear as she read to us about a Moon with a “stony face, while the Earth’s face is a slaphappy burlesque – screaming flocks of peacocks here, and cloudbursts there, and spriggy merriment everywhere,” was the enthusiastic intimacy she has with her writing. Leach flirts with words, molding them and lengthening them into something that is wholly her own with a childlike abandonment of that old hat called reason.
“Things That Are” holds the categorical label of Nature/Essay, yet prospective readers should know the truth. Imagine a world grounded in National Geographic-like facts, yet orchestrated by the likes of Lewis Carroll and peopled by Dr. Seuss. This gets you a little closer to what you can expect with her collection of essays. Yet, Leach doesn’t stop at just the world. She builds a fantastical universe that requires a never-fading delightablitiy in things, in lieu of an entry fee.
In the simplest terms, Amy Leach is fun. She gives us goats that are pioneering flexible survivalists and Pandas that are ever-dwindling loyal traditionalists. She invites us to “come and miss the boat with me” in a place where music dances people and beavers save us from “bladderworts and mudpuppies.”
At her presentation she read, “We’ll read aloud the illegible electric green script of the northern lights; we’ll speculate about which star in the next ten thousand years is going to go supernova.” Her essays are as charming and magnetic as the author herself.
Leach writes, “I’ll buy you rain, you buy me snow, and we’ll go in together for sunshine for the grass and the clover and the delicious prickly thistles.” She leaves her readers and listeners with a little more of that fickle thing called hope, and a notion that enchantment doesn’t have to end with childhood. Leach suggests that wonder never need end at all, not as long as things decorate the universe.
For more information on Amy Leach, or to purchase her book “Things That Are,” contact Milkweed at (800) 520-6455 or visit www.milkweed.org. For a cherry on your sundae, do some research on Amy Leach and the bluegrass band that performs with her essays.