“Leave Smoke is a book suffused with menace and longing, where people “abandoned and hungry” make their way as best they can in a a world of shitty jobs and low-life bars. In Jeff Walt’s universe, angels get drunk and forget their duties, “souls sweep down the alley like ripped plastic Foodland bags,” and nights dissolves into “another irresistibly damned dawn.” Bleak, yes, but readers can take heart from Jeff’s humor and sharp-eyed observations of the more absurd aspects of twenty-first century American life (electric vaginas, the three Wise Men in thongs, the Muse as a dominatrix). What’s left but to find love where we can and insist on celebrating, “our bodies spooned, flawed, used.”
— Kim Addonizio
Leave Smoke wins the 2020 Housatonic Book Award for Poetry given by the Western Connecticut State University’s MFA in Creative and Professional Writing. Each award carries a $1,000 honorarium, $500 travel stipend. "The award winner will be our guest at a residency of the MFA in Creative and Professional Writing at Western Connecticut State University to give a public reading and a one-day, three-hour workshop with MFA students. The mission of the Housatonic Book Awards is to promote excellent writing, to identify authors who serve as professional role models for writing students."
"In Leave Smoke, everything is dangerous, especially the mundane: the everyday eight-to-five, the stray dog, the addiction, the gray hairs, and the confession, to the priest or to the mirror, that the power to destroy and create lays waiting in all our fingertips. So this is the poetry of possibility, too. Yes: these poems tell us what will kill us and what will try, but they also expose the magic that makes the grind worth it.
-- Bryan Borland
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