Easy poetry
LESLEY WHEELER
by Lesley Wheeler
1w ago
“Excitement comes from being lazy and fun loving. O’Hara worked hard, but he also took it easy. His Collected Poems are a manifesto of the high aesthetic rewards that accrue from a life—albeit a tragically abbreviated life—of taking easiness as the gold standard. Like Warhol’s professed love of easy art (or art that was easy to make), O’Hara’s love of easeful production stood in ironic contrast to the uneasy intensity that electrifies his work and complicates its every emotional posture, threading melancholy and ambivalence and the threat of self-loss into the most apparently in ..read more
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New year, old places
LESLEY WHEELER
by Lesley Wheeler
3w ago
Chand Baori step-wellQutub MinarDelhi street marketsTaj Mahal in the early mistQuranic verses on the Taj Mahal I crossed the invisible border into 2023 while in India. The occasion: my son’s close college friend, Rish, is from Bengaluru and wanted to show us the country. The Christmas break worked well for this bunch of students and teachers; the only other break we have in common would be summer, when heat is extreme. He ended up heroically organizing a complex trip for nine people: Rish himself and two families of four (my family plus the family of their other college friend, Neville). It wa ..read more
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Poetry in 2022 (work & joy & religion)
LESLEY WHEELER
by Lesley Wheeler
1M ago
It’s become a private tradition to read poetry in this wintry span of time between the end of one academic term and the beginning of the next. I think it’s because poetry helps me center myself, dial down stress, and look away from my inbox. I’m definitely hit at the end of the calendar year by guilt at my to-be-read stack–but I think a craving for calm matters more. I’ve used books my whole life as a mood regulator, and probably built my career around them for similar reasons. As I put it in “Oral Culture” in my book Heterotopia, poetry is “work and joy and religion.” I just posted at the Aqu ..read more
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H.D., tarot, & occluded vistas
LESLEY WHEELER
by Lesley Wheeler
1M ago
Above is the first card of the Mountain Dream Tarot created by Bea Nettles in 1975–the Fool, a card of fortunate beginnings and free spirits. I don’t think ANYONE has ever described me as a “free spirit.” But the digitized images of this deck were a lucky chance find as I was doing on online search of the Beinecke Library’s holdings, which is part of looking ahead to summer. In late January professors at my college apply for summer research funding, and the proposal is always a bit of speculative fiction. I absolutely will write and revise next summer, and I know what I would be working on if ..read more
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Haunted Matisse & packing light
LESLEY WHEELER
by Lesley Wheeler
2M ago
On the Friday after Thanksgiving, we visited the “Matisse in the 1930s” exhibit in the Philadelphia Museum of Fine Arts, and there was plenty NOT to like. So many odalisques! The images that stayed with me in a more positive way did so because the way they reflected process struck me as appealingly uncanny. The drawing above is haunted by other visions of the figure–a smudgy sense of layers and alternate possibilities. In the painting below, there’s an unstable relationship between figure and ground as if the world is invading her thinking–but it also reminds me of sketching, how you might dr ..read more
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Word-feast
LESLEY WHEELER
by Lesley Wheeler
2M ago
If you have some quiet hours this week, I hope you’ll read the amazing poems in the new issue of Shenandoah. Hot-flashing in your Thanksgiving kitchen? Ann Hudson has you covered. Missing green horizons? Look at Oliver de la Paz’s Diaspora Sonnets. Craving something funny-dark? See Kelli Russell Agodon and Julie Marie Wade. Want a poem that’s a doorway, a dream, a marathon, a shopping expedition? Step into Jesse Lee Kercheval’s “Coronillas,” Akhim Yuseff Cabey’s “Complex,” Lucien Darjeun Meadows’ “Mile 11–,” or Jane Satterfield’s “Errand Hanging with Emily Brontë.” Ned Balbo’s poem talks to a ..read more
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Book birthday and other shenanigans
LESLEY WHEELER
by Lesley Wheeler
2M ago
Happy 6-month birthday, little book. Thanks to all the friends who sent and posted these baby and launch portraits, and to the reviewers, personal-note-writers, and quiet book-buyers. I feel guilty that chairing my department has slowed down my promotion efforts, so as always, if you have suggestions for events or other ways of getting the word out, I’m glad to hear them–sometimes I just need a nudge (hey, Lesley, apply for this!). I will be presenting at NEMLA and AWP in March, and I have a couple of other Virginia events lined up; I’m also grateful to Anna Maria Hong, whose hybrid writing c ..read more
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Reading T. S. Eliot’s tarot cards
LESLEY WHEELER
by Lesley Wheeler
3M ago
I threw in the Queen of Cups in honor of the “burnished throne” with Cupidons I was talking to my British and Irish poetry class about the “wicked pack of cards” Madame Sosostris wields in “The Waste Land” when one person said, “There should be a Modernist Poets tarot deck.” My brain exploded: H. D. as The Star, Pound as The Emperor, Sassoon as the Nine of Wands, maybe Yeats as the ever-dissatisfied Two of Wands, unless you wanted to go ahead and dub him The Magician, full of occult power. On the other side of the Atlantic, might Langston Hughes be the Ace of Pentacles, Helene Johnson The High ..read more
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Book season (hours of ellipsis)
LESLEY WHEELER
by Lesley Wheeler
4M ago
Pumpkins are all right (in pies, not in lattes, thanks)–but what the suddenly cool, rainy weather makes me want to do is read. It’s also nourishing to be read. Hurrah for the thoughtful attention Sarah Stockton gives Poetry’s Possible Worlds in the Staff Favorites section of River Mouth Review. I love the Octoberish timing AND that it coincides with the second printing appearing at the distributor. This means you can order it again directly through SPD or your favorite indie bookstore. It’ll soon show up on other places you order books, too. A small press book tends to spider along–think of s ..read more
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The wheel(er) considers turning
LESLEY WHEELER
by Lesley Wheeler
4M ago
“Yeah, I didn’t want to remind you about the equinox,” my spouse said. “Right? Another thing on the to-do list,” I agreed. We mimed leaning our shoulders into the wheel of the year. “But I got it done!” It’s autumn and my birthday and I’m struggling. Sleep has been especially hard. If I’m to have any chance at all, I have to turn off the screens, even Netflix, an hour and or two before bedtime and read something completely unrelated to work, as well as popping Unisom and melatonin–and while I love sinking into a book, the new routine makes the day feel even shorter. I’m ruminating about some o ..read more
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