Willis’ Poetry Offers ‘Somewhere to Follow’

By Scott Craig   |   July 29, 2021
Somewhere to Follow by Paul Willis

In a new book of poetry, Paul J. Willis takes his readers on a path through California’s coastal redwoods and giant sequoias in the Sierra, weaving in adolescent practical jokes and sharing unexpected epiphanies. Slant Books published the latest book by the Westmont professor of English and former Santa Barbara poet laureate. 

Willis’ seventh volume of poetry ascends the switchbacks of ordinary experience to cross paths with song-leading rangers, exhausted mothers, dirt-loving children, terrified immigrants, Arctic climbers, face-masked students, beatified counselors, rejected suitors, honest morticians, talking ferns, mourning crows, stinking fungi, vengeful rivers, raging fires, faithful brothers, the world’s largest pinecones, and an innocent pair of twin grandsons. The Virgin Mary, Sir Philip Sidney, George Vancouver, David Douglas, John Muir, Ernest Hemingway, and the inimitable Ruth Kerr of the Kerr Glass Manufacturing Corporation all make appearances.

“At times wistful, occasionally heartbreaking, often humorous, and always tender, Paul Willis’ ‘Somewhere to Follow’ is a love letter to the natural world with plenty of affectionate notes to humankind jotted in the margins,” says Tania Runyan, a poet from Illinois who wrote “What Will Soon Take Place.”

“Poet Paul Willis sees life’s every day, usually-passed-over-without-a-second-thought events, and he finds the sacred,” says Glynn Young, editor of Tweetspeak Poetry. “The sacred can surprise you, and it usually does. And it often surprises you years later, because sometimes you see the sacred only long after you experience it.”

Willis has also written two collections of essays; a quartet of eco-fantasy novels, The Alpine Tales; and, most recently, a young adult time-travel novel, All in a Garden Green (Slant). He graduated from Wheaton College, earned his doctorate in English at Washington State University, and has been teaching at Westmont since 1988.


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