Interview by Carol Smallwood
How has where you live influenced being a writer and artist?
Liza Gyllenhaal Bennett, past president and current executive board member, Academy of American Poets, noted: “Leslie Klein writes with the eye of an artist and voice of a poet.” I have been fortunate to live throughout the northeast—from Vermont, the Hudson Valley in NY, and here in the Berkshires. The natural world—its colors, shapes, sound, light, plants, animals inspire both my writing and art. Each day is a visual feast. At night the owls serenade!
What types of writing have you had published in the past?
Most of my published writing has been op-ed, feature stories and some poetry for newspapers and magazines.
What are some galleries and juried exhibitions you’ve taken part?
A sampling includes:
510 Warren Street Gallery, Hudson, NY
Lauren Clark Fine Art, “Small Works,” Great Barrington, MA
Gallery 35, Great Barrington, MA, Guild of Berkshire Artists
Boston 2000, Inc., Boston, MA; Created sculpture for “The Boston Freedom Award,” presented by Coretta Scott King and Boston Mayor, Thomas M. Menino, to Dr. Charles Jacobs, Founder and President of The American Anti-Slavery Group
Please share your affirmation expressed in “Magic”.
If we open our eyes to really see all that surrounds us in the natural world, we would be in awe of its complexity and beauty.
Another lovely poem that caught my eye was “Library”. What was your first visit to one and how do you use them now?
Though the memory of my very first visit is vague, I always remember feeling like I was in a peaceful space with so much to see and touch. Just about every book I read is borrowed from the library. Even now, with the virus, it is great to be able to order books and movies online, and pick them up at my local library. I do miss being able to go inside. I often use their computer and printer. All librarians are wonderful, and have all the answers!!!!! My love of the library, is also very much influenced by my travels. I am inspired when a library in a small town comes into view. They are so architecturally beautiful and solid—reminiscent of ancient structures holding sacred texts—truly, works of art.
You make many references to birds. Have you always been so aware of them and what do they mean to you?
I “discovered” birds when I was in my late 20’s, after seeing a flock of cedar waxwings land on a tree to share berries. They actually fed each other. They were so exotic looking, with black eyeliner and feathers like Chinese silk. That was the beginning. I am fortunate to live in a lovely, rural area, with a small brook. I am surrounded by birds and their melodic songs. Many are familiar and have personalities. They are truly beautiful, delicate creatures. Though, considering the perils of migration or just daily survival, they are so strong. Their ability to fly makes them seem so free and happy.
One of your poems says: “We are all artists”: when did you come to this conclusion and please explain.
That poem was the result of one of those long, into the evening, conversations with a friend. That’s why it is titled “Letter,” because I wrote it for him later, restating what was said about art and creativity. He was lamenting that he was not an “artist.” I was trying to explain to him that even though he was not a painter, sculptor, writer, his life path was one that would leave its mark, and inspire others, just as a painting or a poem.
Have there been subjects you wanted to work on as an artist that ended up as a form of writing or the other way around—or didn’t fit either?
Not that I can think of. I have, however, created numerous sculpted trees (including The Boston Freedom Award) which are perceived by each viewer with their own impressions. I think my poem “Trees” is more descriptive of the feelings that I have for them, than the actual sculpted pieces can convey.
Are you working on a new collection of poems?
Yes, I do have more poetry that I am compiling and changing and changing some more!!! ha! I also have an idea for a book on libraries, and two children’s books that have taken a back seat of late.
About the interviewer: Carol Smallwood, MLS, MA, Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, is a literary reader, judge, interviewer; her 13th poetry collection is Thread, Form, and Other Enclosures (Main Street Rag, 2020)