(More than you wanted to know) About David
Essayist, poet, photographer, and sometime fiction writer David K. Leff works from his home office in the center of the old mill village of Collinsville, Connecticut, not far from the partially abandoned factory buildings that once produced world renowned axes and machetes. David’s writings focus on the connection of people to their communities and the natural environment. He often explores commonplace elements of the world around us that have hidden meanings and unusual links to each other like the deep geologic history revealed by highway rock cuts, the use of Quonset huts for homes and businesses, and what a snowfall can tell about where we tread.
David’s first book, The Last Undiscovered Place (2004), is a memoir about discovering our own neighborhoods—usually the last place we look for anything important. Finding in Collinsville a methodology and a metaphor, he explores the relationship among people, architecture, and nature. His second nonfiction book, Deep Travel: In Thoreau’s Wake on the Concord and Merrimack (2009), takes us on a canoe trip following the route of the great naturalist. It’s a voyage of discovery in a place already well traveled, about going deep rather than far. It’s about seeing places in time as well as spatially, and about tying together diverse phenomena from geology to ethnicity to literature. Hidden in Plain Sight (2012), is a series of essays exploring quirky commonplace wonders close to home in both the natural and cultural environments. Topics range from diners to big trees, cider mills to old mileposts, racetracks, and ghost towns. David's most recent nonfiction book, Maple Sugaring: Keeping it Real in New England (2015) tells the surprising story of America's favorite natural sweet through the eyes of the people who make it.
The Price of Water (2008) is David’s first poetry collection. Written as densely metaphorical and musical prose poems, the pieces are accessible and compact lyrical meditations on the relationship we have as individuals and as a society to nature, our past and each other. His second book of poems, Depth of Field (2010), explores synergies between the verbal and visual by joining many of the author's poems to his photographs. David's third book of poems, Tinker's Damn (2013) probes the individual's relationship with other people, nature and culture. It includes haiku for each week of the year about the nearby Farmington River. Finding the Last Hungry Heart (2014) is a novel in verse about the confluence of the present and the 1960s. David formerly served on the board of the Riverwood Poetry Series, Inc. which holds a monthly reading series and sponsors the biennial Connecticut Poetry Festival. On occasion he serves as a judge in poetry contests, and has given nature poetry workshops at the famed Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, the Mark Twain House, and elsewhere.
David has been a contributor to the editorial and Place pages of the Hartford Courant and has written a column for his local weekly paper. His essays have been published in Appalachia, Canoe and Kayak, The Encyclopedia of New England, Yankee, and elsewhere. David's photographs have appeared in newspapers and magazines and were the subject of a show at the Gallery on the Green in Canton, Connecticut.
Born in Albany, New York in 1955, David grew up in Connecticut following his father’s job transfer. An average student until the middle of his high school years, an inspiring teacher’s introduction to the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson drew him to a writers’ life. Working his way through school as a tool factory porter, house painter, dishwasher, salad chef and bankruptcy paralegal, David received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1975. Faced with more kitchen work or learning a trade, he decided to become a lawyer and graduated from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 1978, passing the bar exam that same year.
Dedicated to public service and the natural world, David had a 28 year career with the state of Connecticut as an agriculture and environmental policy adviser to the state legislature and as deputy commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection where he was primarily responsible for parks, forests, fisheries and wildlife. During those years he stole from his sleep for quiet hours to write. His first million words or so were merely practice, and after years of writing he finally found his voice and got published.
David continues environmental work as a chairman of the Public Policy Committee of the Connecticut Forest and Park Association on whose board of directors he served for several years. He is former director of Audubon Connecticut. Determined to protect our architectural heritage, he is a member of the Collinsville Historic District Commission and served as chairman for twenty years. In addition, David spent twenty-six years rushing to car crashes, kitchen fires and other emergencies as a volunteer firefighter. Until his retirement in 2013, he was the first safety officer in his hometown fire department. He is the town historian of Canton, Connecticut and also the town meeting moderator. For his writing, environmental, and volunteer work he has garnered awards from groups as diverse as the United Bow Hunters of Connecticut and the Connecticut Chapter, American Institute of Architects. In 2012 he received a Special Recognition Award from the Connecticut Association of Conservation and Inland wetland Commissions for his writing about landscapes and habitats.
Energized by an audience, David has read poetry, conducted seminars, and given lectures and book talks around Connecticut and beyond on environmental, historical and literary topics. Whether it's a college classroom, library or coffee house he enjoys a room full of people who respond with their eyes and body language. He has presented nature poetry writing seminars at at Farmington, Connecticut's famed Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, the Mark Twain House in Hartford, and elsewhere. He has spoken to the Boston Society of Architects' Placemaking Network on "Preservation of Place," and lectured to classes at Boston University and other colleges.
David is married to Mary C. Fletcher, a fine art painter. They have two daughters and a son. The kids are boon companions and a constant reminder that he has a lot more to learn. He enjoys working with young people and has been a volunteer high school tutor and is a Boy Scout merit badge counselor.
Over the years, David has spent time puttering in his flower garden and with backyard chickens, casting a fishing line, hiking woodland trails, and wielding a canoe paddle. He spent a decade-and-a-half boiling sap and packaging syrup as a maple sugar maker and served on the board of the Connecticut Maple Syrup Producers Association.