Natural Philosophies
by Michael J. Leach
40 poems ~ 86 pages
Price: AU$19.95
Publisher: Recent Works Press
ISBN: 9780645180855
To Order:


In his first full-length poetry collection, Natural Philosophies, Michael J. Leach grasps for truth and solace by embracing interdisciplinary perspectives and multiple meanings. The poems in this collection address the archaic term ‘natural philosophy’–the philosophical study of nature and the Universe–in past, present, and future contexts through the lenses of various natural science disciplines, including botany, zoology, astronomy, chemistry, and medicine. Michael explores a range of urgent personal and public issues, from climate change, extinction, and post-truth logic to COVID-19, chronic diseases, and death, all the while pinpointing much-needed beauty across physical, emotional, and spiritual domains of existence.


“This is an innovative and sculptural poetics of dwelling in space-time, informed by astronomical, biological, and health sciences, and fine-tuned to the imperatives of moral philosophy: care for Earth, self-worth, and goodwill. Born in lifeblood and consciousness of the cosmos, this collection will leave your eyes glittering like distant suns.”
–Phillip Hall–author of Fume (UWA Publishing, 2018)

“In Natural Philosophies, science is used in elegant and surprising ways to explore the Universe, the planet we live on, the times we live in, and human life, replete as it is with loss, and grief, and love. Readers with a background in science will relish the skillful use of scientific language and metaphors, but those without will also enjoy these eloquent, moving, and playful poems.”
–Tricia Dearborn–author of Autobiochemistry (UWA Publishing, 2019)

“Michael J. Leach’s Natural Philosophies features a pioneering array of poetry drawing on interdisciplinary perspectives, including personal narrative, philosophy, science, environ-mental ethics, experimental linguistics and visual aesthetics. Via a scaffolding of scientific jargon, medical acronyms, mathematical symbols and binomial nomenclature, heartfelt testaments express personal mourning as well as wider concern for the plight of land and living beings. Language spills, ascends, scatters and solidifies around themes of birth, death, grief, love, dislocation and belonging. Like its predecessor, Leach’s chapbook Chroni-city (Melbourne Poets Union, 2020), this full-length poetry collection celebrates the calli-gram as an innovative means of multi-faceted communication. It is excellently presented by Recent Works Press.”
–Sophia Wilson–author of Sea Skins (Flying Islands Press, forthcoming)


Michael J. Leach is an Australian poet, reviewer, and academic who works at the Monash University School of Rural Health. Michael’s poems have appeared in journals such as Cordite and Meniscus, anthologies such as Poetry for the Planet: An Anthology of Imagined Futures (Litoria Press, 2021), exhibitions such as the Antarctic Poetry Exhibition (2019), and two poetry collections: Chronicity (Melbourne Poets Union, 2020) and Natural Philosophies (Recent Work Press, 2022). He won the UniSA Mental Health and Wellbeing Poetry Competition (2015), received a commendation in the Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine (2021), appeared on the longlist for the Poetry d’Amour Love Poetry Contest (2022), and jointly won the poetry category of the Minds Shine Bright Confidence Writing Competition (2022). Michael lives on unceded Dja Dja Wurrung Country and acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land.


This Contemporary Palette
by Michael J. Leach

The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love colour the most.
–John Ruskin, The Stones of Venice, 1851-1853

The postmodern gothic absorbs like vantablack.
Our universe’s hue–cosmic latte–is a shade of beige.
These new age fashions shimmer in neo mint.
That red splattered on LED screens is dragon’s blood.
Artists keep painting cerulean skies electric blue
while we turn to our dying sun like heliotropes.

Our colour of mourning is heliotrope–
that age-old alternative to vantablack.
As our workplaces crackle with electric blue,
we tire of interiors that whisper in beige.
As our bloodshot eyes drink dragon’s blood,
our home interiors shimmer in neo mint.

Your colour of the future is neo mint–
a green that honours plants like heliotrope
and Draecana (the true source of dragon’s blood).
All dimensions vanish in vantablack
yet reappear in familiar shades of beige.
My colour of the future is electric blue.

Lightning bolts colour our skies electric blue.
Pot plants brighten our offices with neo mint.
You ask, ‘Who’d want to be as boring as beige
when you can be as quirky as heliotrope?’
We watch the Night’s Watch vanish in vantablack
and the last Targaryens bleed dragon’s blood.

I ask, ‘Who’d believe dragons gave dragon’s blood
in a world where science shines in electric blue?’
Scientists made VANTAs to create vantablack
and melded tech with nature to yield neo mint.
Your aura is a purple flower–heliotrope–
that stood out against a background of beige.

We painted our first home’s walls beige
then exposed bricks the colour of dragon’s blood.
We slow danced after planting those heliotropes.
I stumbled through a karaoke version of ‘Electric Blue’
decades before lexicons swelled with colours like neo mint
and that darkest of shades–vantablack.

But now, in our beige universe amidst the vantablack,
I recreate yellows from neo mint and dragon’s blood
while you swirl violets from electric blue and heliotrope.

Notes: ‘This Contemporary Palette’ was first published in Meniscus ahead of republication in Natural Philosophies. This poem is a fictional sestina exploring a couple’s relationships with six colours or shades: vantablack, beige, neo mint, dragon’s blood, electric blue, and heliotrope. The piece was inspired by a reference book entitled The Secret Lives of Colour (Kassia St Clair, John Murray, 2016) as well as the HBO television series Game of Thrones (2011-2019). ‘VANTAs’ stands for ‘vertically aligned carbon nanotube arrays’–the technology used to create vantablack. In the penultimate stanza, ‘Electric Blue’ refers to a song from Australian band Icehouse’s LP Man of Colours (1987).


Return to:

[New] [Archives] [Join] [Contact Us] [Poetry in Motion] [Store] [Staff] [Guidelines]