Smoke From This Altar
Louis L’amour is best known as a voice of a very American genre, the Western. His novels and short stories helped define the genre for generations of readers. And while his reputation is well deserved it is not definitive. L’amour was also an American writer who loved the craft of words, the practice of letters and the landscape his adventures encountered. American writing often has intersected with naturalism and if that were as far as Lamour’s non-adventure writing went no one would be shocked.
However, his poetry collection SMOKE FROM THIS ALTAR passes far beyond that. With urbane titles such as “To Cleone: In Budapest” and wry introspection in pieces like “A Wail From A Pulpeteer” it might well surprise you.
Now, bear my words carefully. L’amour’s poetry was not challenging Maya Angelou’s I Shall Not Be Moved which was published in the same year. L’amour as a poet was an amazing novelist. However, there are gems to be found in this collection and even the most basic are from a literary voice that should be recognized.
I will share a fragment from one poem, one of my favourites,
I shall remember when my fires are low,
The way you looked at me; the words you used;
The fragrance of your hurried breath, till lo,
Through all the pain of love our spirits fused.
I shall remember when my fires cease
Your heart against my own- for that was peace.
If you are a poetry snob you will be able to turn up your nose at this collection but I think you will be missing the point. It is plain but also sincere and born from experience not an attempt at abstract art and mirrors the broad plains and bad lands his stories were set in.
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Leto was born in a crossfire hurricane, or at least that was what he believed until his parents told him he fell asleep in the car listening to the Rolling Stones too much. Somewhere after that, he accidentally got an education while reading.
He has played D&D with one of its inventors, learned archery from Buddhist monks, and is no longer allowed legal entry to three ex-Eastern Block countries. Sorry, Sascha.
Deciding that he should combine his experiences with cooking, information technology, strippers, and stroking women’s hair while they fall asleep, Leto realized writing was the only reasonable path forward.
Today he lives in the greater Atlanta, Georgia area with cats, dogs, and humans who seem to like him despite actually knowing him. He prefers to write on his back deck listening to birds as he writes romance, erotica, and weird fiction.
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