“Nostalgia,” writes scholar Tony Esolen, is not mere “misty-eyed adulation of an imagined time that never existed,” nor “reactionary sentimentalism.” It is “the ache to turn back home,” a mirror of the soul’s yearning for our eternal home, heaven. It is the longing to break free of our postmodern alienation and set our steps back on the journey to meaning and belonging. And it is the theme that courses through Wanderings in Place, the latest collection of poetry from David Horowitz Freedom Center president Michael Finch.
I reviewed Finding Home, Finch’s first collection of poems, for FrontPage Mag here in 2015. Like that book, Wanderings in Place is a very personal volume, with poems anchored in Finch’s vivid memories of loves and landscapes and longing. But when art is personal and true and heartfelt, it rises above the personal and resonates with our common humanity, and that is the case here. Also like Finding Home, the new book has a very American character, grounded as it is in our unique spirit of freedom and in
the lands, forests, fields, rivers,
from Great Lakes to widening expanse, a land blessed
of waves of amber grain and purple hues, rising up
against the great Rockies across desert to the mighty sea.
“I have spent my life searching for America,” Finch wrote in the introduction to Finding Home, “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?” In more than three dozen short poems in his new book, Finch helps lead us out of that void into the welcoming panoramas of an American home we are in danger of losing.
What is it we are losing, exactly, and why? In poems with titles such as “American Man in Final,” “Thoughts of Freedom Dying,” “Oh, America,” and “Statues Fall,” Finch laments:
our freedom, our strength, our land our culture
faded into memory, traveled faraway, gone forever.
This moment of a nation, a people who lived free,
lived in liberty so unique, so true, so brief.
Praise be to God for all of it – even if fleeting, fading, and gone.
It was, in our time, glorious.
He lays the blame for our decline on the false “love of our own created gods” and our failure to stand firm against an internal enemy:
We didn’t hold fast, lost faith, and now,
slipped and vanishing before our eyes,
in a generation’s blink taken, given, freedom
whisking past like whispers of ghosts.
A progressive rise, revolt of elites, opened borders
sovereignty spent, all for profit and power, and nothing left.
Land of gutted factories, torn families, wasted lives
shattered dreams, vacant, blown-through memories.