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Sydney Lea – American Poet:

Tony Morris

Special to the Mirror


More than 25 million Americans read poetry regularly and support the work of the nation’s poets. Inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in April 1996, National Poetry Months brings together publishers, booksellers, literary organizations, libraries, schools and poets throughout the country to celebrate poetry’s vital place in American culture. Businesses and non-profit organizations participate with readings, festivals, book displays and workshops.

 Sydney Lea, the author of eight volumes of poetry and several nonfiction works, has devoted the better part of his life to the craft of poetry. A founder and editor of the New England Review for thirteen years, Lea’s eighth volume of poems, Ghost Pain, is inspired by the author’s gift for describing life in his community and an ability to convey this world in a manner that is truthful and revealing.

In reflecting on the origin of Ghost Pain, the author remembers a member of a local church who lost a leg. For Lea, there is a “sense that the older one gets, and gathers more ghosts – there is pain involved. There is nothing you can do about it. There is a spiritual dimension to accepting this….”

As a longtime resident of Vermont, Lea shares his knowledge and love of family, neighbors, the flora and fauna of the region and the land he knows so well.


The Author in March, a poem Lea remembers writing some thirty years ago, is a fitting introduction to Ghost Pain.  It begins:


Remnant, rank corn snow

perspires like dirty dough

What few drab birds there are

don’t fly up very far,

So hard do the clouds bear down.

Not much to this splotch of town–

Flue smoke, smalltalk, clutter.

Last autumn’s leaves clog gutters


In Evening Walk As the School Year Starts Lea connects with the passing of summer and a noisy squirrel busy gathering nuts for the coming winter.


It’s after Labor Day, it’s end of summer, it’s another season upon us. Now he scolds me,

that squirrel on his branch, his store of weapons gone.

Why me dumb brute? I haven’t done anything wrong,

I’ve got no grievance with him – not with anyone really.


With Epidemic the author confronts the reality of neighbors stricken by illness. Tony, who restored Lea’s ’37 Chevy pickup and “has smoothed my rumpled fenders for thirty odd years”, has lymphoma.

Shelly, lung, who babysat my oldest son, age 30.

Jim, prostate, advanced, who, had written books that can bring me to tears.

Chemotherapy, morphine, Percoset, catheter, radiotherapy

Tony leans against his shop door and tells me, “A man doesn’t need this s—, not in his wildest dreams….They say 50-50”

Mumbling, he’s eloquent. I can’t met his eyes, for which no good words come to mind, only banal: empty, haunted. “I’ve never smoked in my life,”

Shelly writes, “So how come the lungs?” Who’d say it better? It seems so odd,…


Ghost Pain is a rewarding read as Lea writes with a clear vision and as a keen observer of the human condition.

For those wanting more information, go to www.sydneylea.com. 

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