Lesley Wheeler is a writer and professor born in New York, raised in New Jersey, and residing in Virginia. Her fifth poetry collection, The State She’s In, appeared in 2020 from Tinderbox Editions. Her debut novel, Unbecoming, was recently published by Aqueduct Press. Tinderbox will also publish her essay collection, Poetry’s Possible Worlds, in 2021. Wheeler is Poetry Editor of Shenandoah.
Wheeler’s previous poetry collections are Radioland (Barrow Street Press, 2015); The Receptionist and Other Tales (Aqueduct, 2012); Heterotopia, selected by David Wojahn for the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize in 2010; Heathen (C&R, 2009); and the chapbooks Propagation (Dancing Girl Press, 2017) and Scholarship Girl (Finishing Line, 2007). Heterotopia was a finalist for the Library of Virginia Award. The Receptionist was named to the Tiptree Award Honor List, now the Otherwise Award, and nominated by Ms. Mentor at The Chronicle of Higher Education for an Ackie (both rarely given to speculative campus novellas in terza rima). Her poems and essays appear in Kenyon Review, American Poetry Review, Gettysburg Review, Crazyhorse, Cimarron Review, Ecotone, Crazyhorse, Subtropics, Poetry, Massachusetts Review, and many other journals.
She is the author of two scholarly books, Voicing American Poetry: Sound and Performance from the 1920’s to the Present (Cornell, 2008) and The Poetics of Enclosure: American Women Poets from Dickinson to Dove (Tennessee, 2002). Voicing American Poetry was one of three finalists for the Modernist Studies Association Prize. With Moira Richards, Rosemary Starace, and other members of a feminist editorial collective, she coedited Letters to the World: Poems from the Wom-po Listserv (Red Hen, 2008). Her poetry reviews have appeared in Harvard Review, Kenyon Review, Strange Horizons, and many other journals.
The Henry S. Fox Professor of English at Washington and Lee University, Wheeler has held fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation (New Zealand), the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Virginia Commission for the Arts, and the American Association of University Women. In 2015, she became the Mid Atlantic Regional Council Chair for the AWP, joining the Board of Trustees until 2018. Wheeler received her BA from Rutgers College, summa cum laude, and her PhD in English from Princeton University.
In 2011, Wheeler received an Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia. She teaches courses in nineteenth-, twentieth-, and twenty-first century poetry in English as well as creative writing and speculative fiction. Seminar topics include Protest Poetry; Documentary Poetics; African American Poetry; Poetry and Music; Whitman vs. Dickinson; Modernist Networks; American Poetry at Mid-Century; Poetic Forms; and many others. She has taught poetry as a visitor in graduate, university, high school, middle school, and elementary classrooms; guest workshop topics include Led by Sound. Her partner is fiction writer, comics scholar, playwright, and superheroic blogger Chris Gavaler. They have two children.