Leigh Wilkerson — poet, beekeeper, nurse, publisher and founder of the Dig In! Food & Farming Festival — is the Ozark Poets and Writers featured reader at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Nightbird Books on Dickson Street in Fayetteville.
From her home in rural Northwest Arkansas, Wilkerson told me much of her writing comes from a love of the land and the startling moments that happen when she works out in the garden or fields.
“I look around in amazement at the beauty of it; not just the exquisiteness of the individual strands of life, but how it all weaves together into something so numinous that, at least for me, it defies words,” she said.
Still, Wilkerson is driven to capture those moments into poetry. Doing hospice nursing for 10 years adds a subtle strength to her work.
“Hospice,” Wilkerson said, “taught me the jaw-dropping brilliance of an ordinary day, which can also be a somewhat intense understanding … a kind of relentless awareness that flows between pain and the deepest joy.”
She and her partner, writer Mendy Knott, founded Limbertwig Press, of which Wilkerson is the director. Limbertwig creates and distributes hospice caregiver guidebooks to hospices around the country.
Additionally, through its imprint Two Poets Ink, Knott and Wilkerson publish regional poets.
This dedication to region and locality is a hallmark of Wilkerson’s worldview and approach to writing. Through the particular detail of a bird’s crest or flight feathers she sparks a wider connection to the region of the heart.
Wearing her many hats, she recognizes the heart as everyone’s locale.
Passionate about the role of local food and farms in the health of a community, Wilkerson said, “The research on the effects of buying local food is amazing; it’s win-win-win to choose local, naturally-grown food whenever I can. I put my food budget toward the world I want. That’s a world with honeybees and songbirds, clean and delicious food, healthy rivers and a strong local economy.”
Wilkerson grows much of her own food and writes a garden blog called “A Larrapin Garden.” (www.larrapin.us). With the time she devotes to working, gardening and organizing, Wilkerson declares she has little to spare for writing.
“The OPWC reading signifies an intention to return more loyally to the page,” she said, as a place where all of her passions can come together.
Bring your own words to the open microphone OPWC hosts preceding and following Wilkerson.