Forbidden blog
LESLEY WHEELER
by Lesley Wheeler
1M ago
January 25th Last night I finished Forbidden Notebook by Cuban-Italian writer Alba de Céspedes. Yes, I steal time for pleasure reading even on school nights, when I can. This novel was a Christmas gift from a good friend, and knowing zero about the writer (or translator Ann Goldstein), I had no sense of the world I’d be entering. The main character, a forty-three-year-old woman in post-World War II Italy, lives with her husband and two adult children in a cramped apartment, cooking them three meals a day and doing all of life’s grunt work while also holding down an office job. She defines hers ..read more
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Reading through change
LESLEY WHEELER
by Lesley Wheeler
2M ago
I have zero plans for New Year’s Eve: I don’t care enough about the midnight moment to stay up past bedtime, plus we just returned from visiting my sister in Florida (my family of 4 in an economy car for 12 hours each way), and we’re all tired. But introspection IS my jam, so like everyone else, I’m pondering the year behind me and imagining the year ahead. 2023 was framed by sorrow. Personally, it began in argument with my brother and the late-January realization that he’d scammed my sister and me, pretending my mother’s small bequest was legally tied up when he had already taken control of t ..read more
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Some indie books for your list
LESLEY WHEELER
by Lesley Wheeler
2M ago
This week in the U.S. academic calendar involves a lot of reflection on and (less rewardingly) grading of student writing. I always sift and contemplate of my own year’s work, too, looking over what I’ve read and written, considering what I want to do next, or do better. I wasn’t surprised to see poet-blogger Ann E. Michael’s recent post “Other forms of gleaning“–although she’s writing about rereading poem drafts from a longer span of time–because there’s just something about December, even when one has retired from academic life. It’s not only the calendrical accident of the official year’s e ..read more
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Socially antisocial
LESLEY WHEELER
by Lesley Wheeler
3M ago
Desperate to get out of a work-rut yesterday, Chris and I saw Dream Scenario. It’s interesting but messy in a painful way so I can’t recommend it. The main character at first seems like a socially awkward middle-aged professor (ahem) who’s a little too desperate for ego strokes–which he sort of gets when he goes viral in people’s dreams–but under that spotlight he seems more and more sociopathic. The situation is potentially a metaphor for that angry humiliated average white guy type who seems harmless until he storms the capital. I had already drafted the bulk of this post when I saw it, but ..read more
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The view from lockdown
LESLEY WHEELER
by Lesley Wheeler
3M ago
Around 3:45 pm on November 1st, a “shelter in place” instruction pinged in through our campus phone and email alert system. I was in my office about to head to class, but I checked with another colleague, also on the third floor of my old building and conferencing with a student. They had both received the warning, too. So the credible threat was real?! Failing to be appropriately scared, I looked out my two office windows, which offer a pretty good vantage. For a while people walked around, oblivious or not understanding what the warning meant or perhaps not having received it at all. One con ..read more
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Alternate possible worlds of poetry scholarship
LESLEY WHEELER
by Lesley Wheeler
4M ago
A quick postcard from Brooklyn and the annual Modernist Studies Association conference: hello! Having a great time! Wish you were here! The MSA was My Conference during the years in which I wrote my two wholly scholarly books. As a green assistant professor, I participated in a seminar on modernist women poets and made friends with whom I still keep in touch. I stopped attending for a while because I was working on a later period–21st century verse in Poetry’s Possible Worlds–and because I started publishing poetry collections that I needed to find audiences for, and perhaps ironically, most p ..read more
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Arts and humanities in annular eclipse
LESLEY WHEELER
by Lesley Wheeler
4M ago
John Guillory writes in Professing Criticism, a 2022 book, that literary criticism “originated millennia ago, achieved a maximal state of organization in the twentieth-century university, and now faces an uncertain future” (xv). He begins with a well-known story: nineteenth-century literary critics were self-trained journalists publishing in periodicals, while universities concentrated on philology–language instead of literature. “Literary scholarship” came into being as a profession after World War I, when it began to serve universities to offer electives and majors to its “clientele,” future ..read more
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Blockage, re-routing, clearance
LESLEY WHEELER
by Lesley Wheeler
5M ago
Did I ever tell you about the time I was on an AWP shuttle bus and a publicist’s assistant told me that my sacral chakra was blocked? We were chatting about reiki, so I’m clearly receptive to that kind of random conversational offering, but it’s pretty bold to diagnose a stranger. I instantly knew that I’d landed in a funny creative-writing-conference anecdote. What surprised me was that it also felt like a serious and sincere exchange: she was trying to be helpful, and for my part, I suspected she was onto something. I don’t use the term “writer’s block” because I find it unhelpfully mystifyi ..read more
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Walking: a footnote
LESLEY WHEELER
by Lesley Wheeler
5M ago
I just finished “Traversals: A Folio on Walking,” guest-edited by Anna Maria Hong and Christine Hume for the summer 2023 issue of The Hopkins Review. Walking and poetry have so many intersections: they foster observation, thinking, feeling, and talking; prompt unexpected encounters; depend on rhythm; and sometimes resemble each other even structurally, because meditation and meandering are associative as well as linear. When I give poetry students a walking-based writing prompt, their work often gets better. But I’ve hit pause on that assignment for a while because taking a thoughtful ramble i ..read more
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STILL mythologizing solitary genius
LESLEY WHEELER
by Lesley Wheeler
6M ago
I’m both proud of and embarrassed about where I went to grad school. I tend to avoid the name in conversations with new acquaintances because it triggers so much judgment: oh, you’re smarter than I thought, or richer and more privileged or snootier or whatever. I never felt as if I belonged at that elite place, although in retrospect, who deserves anything? So many deserve more than they’re given. That doesn’t mean I was dumber than other the students, although my academic training was weaker, and I was the youngest of the bunch. I thought they’d reluctantly admitted me because the state of NJ ..read more
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