Eric Chandler’s new book of poetry, Kekekabic, reinvigorated me as a writer. His poems reminded me of what drew me to the craft – experimentation with words and phrases, and that spirited feeling of trying something new. Writing is about noticing and appreciating – both of which Chandler does well in this book.
In 2018, Chandler wrote a poem after every workout as a way of being mindful and paying attention to the world. He chose the form of haibun, a combination of prose and haiku poetry, to express his connections with nature, his family, and his trusted dog Leo.
In his introduction, Chandler speaks of studying the Japanese writer Basho’s form of haibun. He quotes Basho as saying, “Abide by rules, then throw them out! —only then may you achieve true freedom.”
Throughout Kekekabic, Chandler reminds us that in life it’s “never too late for firsts.” Amid his outdoor expeditions he has many firsts, and one often leads to another. Chandler speaks of his willingness to explore:
I normally go
upstream, but I wanted to
follow the river.
Chandler contrasts his hometown of Duluth, Minnesota with the other places he visits –imagining what it is like at home. Though he is able to connect with nature wherever he travels, there is a longing for the great lake, cool weather, and boreal forest. Chandler reminds us that writing is an artform of play and fun and that enjoying the outdoors should be as well. Whether he is running, cross-country skiing, paddleboarding, hiking, kayaking, or roller skiing, Chandler reveals homage to the place he calls home.
I found it easy to relate to Chandler, as I am a Duluthian and partake in most of the activities he describes (aside from roller skiing). Like Chandler, I am always surprised by what arises when spending time in nature – what appears before me and in my thoughts. His loyal companion Leo captures living moments fully, as only a dog can do, rolling, running, and embracing the wild. I’m a dog lover too.
Though much of the writing was done while he was on the road as an airline pilot, Chandler imbues a grounding sensation – where the reader becomes one with the earth. Chandler connects manmade structures to the natural world, often highlighting their juxtaposition. He writes, “Downwind now, I was struck that the world of man and the world of nature kind of reach toward one another at the border.” On the second day on his Kekekabic Hiking Trail adventure, Chandler composed:
The loons wail all night.
The airliner flies over
and joins the chorus.
A quote from Chandler’s writing during a layover in Puerto Rico made a significant mark on me. “But today, as I looked at the beach and the crashing waves over the video screen on the treadmill, I listened to Naomi Shihab Nye say that I didn’t have to spend my whole life on a big project. I could write three sentences a day and that would be enough to start connecting things together. To start seeing things. So, I felt better.”
Without any explicit mentioning you can surmise that Chandler’s most revered time is in the trinity of activity, spending time outdoors, and family. After a trip roller skiing with his family, he wrote:
Roll toward the sun.
Gold poplar leaves fill the trail.
The wheels hum; poles click.
Kekekabic will be available for prepublication sales January 18, 2022 through March 25, 2022 from Finishing Line Press. The book will be released on May 20, 2022 and can be preordered at Finishing Line Press beginning on January 18, 2022 at https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product-category/new-releases/.