Chopping Wood in the Moonlight by Ken Letko. Flowstone Press. 2021. 33 Pages. Paperback. 

Chopping Wood in the Moonlight is Ken Letko’s tribute to nature and simple living. In these tightly crafted poems, the author utilizes his years of traveling and collected wisdom to celebrate a life lived authentically. In the title poem, Letko invokes the ancient Chinese poet Li Po as he contemplates whether he likes chopping wood at day or by moonlight. In the end, the speaker decides to let the owl show him “how / to glide through trees,” or, in other words, to follow their natural inclination, whatever that might be on any occasion.

In “Enjoying Illusions,” the speaker muses on a smudge left by a finger on their back door window. Each angle from which the speaker views the smudge reveals a different resemblance to a rabbit or a zombie walking their backyard. It is this playful meditation which makes the book so charming, as when, at the end of the poem, the speaker admonishes the reader to play their own games with perception, asking “how many windows / have you washed today?”  

The true strength of this collection, however, lies in its quiet, imagistic nature poetry. The poet’s home in the “redwoods of Del Norte” certainly helped inspire some of the collections most immersive meditations on nature and what it means to inhabit it. In one of the opening poems, “Bright Angel,” the speaker shares the revelation that every living thing is connected by using a symmetrical conceit wherein “ferns become deer” and later “deer become ferns.” In Chopping Wood in the Moonlight, Ken Letko invites readers to spire to insight by following him on his mystical journey through nature. 

—Christopher McCormick, MAR.