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With its websites FrontPage Mag, Jihad Watch, and TruthRevolt, the David Horowitz Freedom Center is home to some of the most prominent warriors in the fight against the unholy alliance of radical Islam and the radical left: Horowitz himself, Peter Collier, Robert Spencer, and Daniel Greenfield, to name a few. But the dynamo that powers the Freedom Center, the unsung beating heart of the organization, is its Chief Operating Officer Michael Finch. Finch – full disclosure – is also a friend of mine, and as such I am proud to introduce to FrontPage readers his first work of poetry, Finding Home.
Considering the Freedom Center’s aggressive political work, poetry may not be something one would expect to find as part of its intellectual arsenal. But as many conservative writers such as Andrew Klavan and myself have noted for years, reclaiming America means reclaiming the culture, and that means engaging in the arts. As Finch writes in his introduction, “[I]f as a people, and a nation, we can return to something lost, recovering something from our culture that has been torn, then it can only happen through art.” The art of Finding Home is Michael Finch’s deeply personal contribution to the culture war.
“I have spent my life searching for America,” he continues in his introduction, “for what we have lost. And always searching for home. We are a rootless people, a rootless nation, it is a great strength as we always strive and push out and go beyond all limits. But who can deny the void that it leaves?”
Over the course of nearly three dozen short nostalgic poems redolent of Finch’s literary influences Wendell Berry, Robert Penn Warren, and Gerard Manley Hopkins, Finding Home takes us back across that void to the welcoming panoramas of his native Midwestern America in a simpler time. In the course of that journey he, like many of us, is a “Weary, rootless traveler in search of my past and of an America gone.” He asks “the breeze that blows / Upon my tired eyes; take me to your destination – / Home, take me where your peaceful mind lies.”
These poems – largely about home, nature, love, and an idyllic America – and are grouped into four sections: “Middle America”; “The Martyrs”; “Loves, New and Lost”; and “America.”
In “Middle America,” Finch brings to life the sights, sounds, and smells of the country of his youth. From “Prairie Day”:
My mind remembers a soft, warm wind,
Sweet earth scent, and billows of clouds
In a wide prairie sky of youth’s eternal hope.
Where have you gone?
From “My Wisconsin”:
Gentle glacier-cut valley, bluffs in beauty;
Below, the earth sleeps ahead of
Spring’s coming thaw and planters’ seed.
High upon the wide sky, geese come home, home again.
Living in the moderate climate of urban California now, Finch longs for the seasons of home. From “Note from California”:
I miss the smell of harvest corn,
Leaves burning sweet in autumn sky,
Long walks down your covered path.
I miss the sound of winter’s eve,
Howling winds from corners’ bend.
Soft falling snow covers the scar –
World gone mad so swift in time.
I miss the high sky.
I miss the fires burning.
O, sweet autumn,
Take me home in your wind.
“The Martyrs” section breaks from Finch’s personal reflections to consist of two historical poems – “To Constantinople Sailed” and “Plains of Ninevah Gone” – in which he hails “the last of the righteous Christians,” “the last of the great kings and knights on angel wings,” martyrs that may have since been forgotten by “the world and the ‘Church,’” but whose lives and deeds are written in The Book of Life for all time, and for whom there will one day be justice:
But be sure: Accounts are kept, mercy not spared for the
Murdering Umma or the self-righteous West.
Some of the titles from “Loves, New and Lost” hint at the more romantic, yearning mood in that section: “But a Dream,” “Passions Fleeting Time,” “Unrequited,” “Beyond Reach.” A particularly beautiful passage from “Tonight”:
Years from now when the winds blow again,
When you stare at the midnight’s blue of
The setting sun, lined mountains black against
A cobalt sky, do one thing for the one who loved you:
Think of me when your eyes gaze at the wondrous sky,
Your eyes searching the heavens for one,
When the breeze blows one last time through your hair,
Do one final thing. Think of me.
Seven poems of the section “America” round out the collection: a personal lament for the country that took a disastrous turn half a century ago. In a poem titled “The 1960’s,” Finch harkens back to boyhood in a time of American post-war glory, when the sun suddenly set on the “grand days of summer” and “the 60’s wrought destruction.” The sun then rose on an “America turned to storm, of innocence gone.” In “And Where Did Liberty Go?” Finch laments that the liberty our forefathers won at battle sites like Sharpsburg and Ticonderoga “died into a false god of equality and a radical / Creed that drove utopia hard and ended all free men.” Now Finch urges, “Pray, sweet America, for us all / We only caught a glimpse, now you’re gone.”
Finding Home is a personal volume to be sure, but make no mistake: it is more than a collection of one American’s wistful memories and road trips across Midwestern landscapes, though there can be immeasurable value in that for readers his poetry touches. It is also a call for restoration, for “remaking freedom,” for affirming the “endless and timeless / And tested truths that need be steadfast, held, tradition-true.” In addition to sparking in the reader his or her own memories of, and longing for, a better America, Finding Home is inspiration for us to strive to do just that –find home, return to something lost, recover what has been torn away, “turn on the path of our choosing.” It is not just a lament for a lost past, but inspiration for us to revive it.