Leigh Giza, intimate poet

I love stopping at the post office in Pine Level, North Carolina to get my mail. Sometimes the white envelopes contain rejection letters. I’ll never get used to them, but a working writer pushes on.

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Imagine my delight when I pulled a brown envelope out of the little metal box, and it was Then and Now, a second book of poetry by Leigh Giza, a friend and fellow writer from Bristow, Virginia. Leigh is a one of the original members of Write by the Rails, the Prince William Chapter of the Virginia Writers Club. Then and Now is a sequel to her first book, Found and Lost, in 2011.

Leigh isn’t what I’d call shy. A better word is … intimate. She shares herself and her work with the small, supportive community of writers that Write by the Rails has become. She doesn’t push her blog. She doesn’t push book sales. She just … is. Her poems just … are.

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Leigh Giza (left) with authors Nancy Kyme (center) and the late June Kilpatrick at a Write by the Rails book marketing workshop in 2012.

Opening up to read at a poetry mic at a local coffee shop was a big step for her.

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Leigh with author Dan Verner at Arts Alive!

Leading a workshop, along with Dan Verner, at Arts Alive! at the Hylton Performing Arts Center, was a broader experience. But even that was intimate, cocooned as it was in the copper-colored and creative space of the Lovey Hammel lounge upstairs.

I remember sitting there, listening to them both, and feeling compelled to shoot a photo of Leigh’s feet. She is a tall and slender woman who dresses simply with a single point of focus. It might be a small-brimmed hat or a clutch purse. In this case, it was her boots.

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She’s the same way with her poetry. Slender. Simple. Focused.

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Leigh with her first book at the 2014 poetry and jazz event at Tackett’s Mill Lakeside. Photo by Kathy Strauss, Imagewerks.

The best part of taking Then and Now out of its brown envelope? I opened it to find my name singled out in her acknowledgments. All I’d done was offer an honest critique of her rough draft, same as I’ve done for other working writers, and they’ve done for me.

It’s only the second time in forty years of writing that anyone’s ever given me that nod.

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Then and Now is an intimate book. Photographer Sarah Kane’s black and white photos are a stunning accompaniment to Leigh’s words. I’m going to put the book with the other cozy treasures I like my visitors to find and read in the guest bedroom in my home, along with a woolen throw and a basket of shampoos and soaps.

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Thank you, Leigh.

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