Review of Take Hold by Merrill Leffler
Paul Zimmer, The Georgia Review

Take Hold is a rare treat. Leffler uses a photograph of a magnificent sculpture of horse and rider by Marino Marini on the cover. The rider leans back with his arms extended, representing the giving of oneself to the empty empyrean and its fullness. Though his modest nature would never allow him to intend such a comparison, the image is an apt representation of this open-hearted poet and publisher. These poems are full of his spirit, generosity, probity, and buoyant Jewishness, typified in the last stanza of "Farewell":

Dear Friends, we are traveling this way
Alone. Finally, there are no lies.
Minute by minute, day by day,
Each life is a blessing, each blessing a disguise.
In his full life, Leffler has somehow managed to find the time to make fine poems. He is most effective when he focuses on smaller subjects - his office, his hands, or late afternoon light - but his larger pronouncements are full of wisdom and accomplishment as well. I often find it odious when poets try to teach me with their poems, but I am content to let Leffler instruct me. In his reflective poem, "The King," he concludes:
         Let me tell you this:
If a man will open himself to need, he will become
The king he was meant to be. He has, you must understand,
No subject but would reside in a kingdom of kings,
And yours and yours and mine.
Finally, perhaps because Leffler does not totally devote himself to his poems, he has a clearer sense of what it really means to be a poet than do many ambitious, fully driven practitioners. In his delightful "Limits," "god, the author of it all. . .had an idea/ and worked like a poet driven mad by dreams." God then confronts the world:
But how much can I do? I also get depressed.
I also get writer's block. I too have limits
And am condemned to repeat myself. Don't bother me so
With your agonies. I too could use some pity,
A little empathy on your part wouldn't hurt. After all
What would you be without me, without even my dullest idea?