Author: Lesley Wheeler

  • Points on my poetic license

    I have a guilty sense that I’ve deluded people, cast up a falsely shimmering mirage of the Productive Poet-Scholar-Teacher, when someone asks how I get so much done. I feel perpetually behind, anxious about what I should have finished but haven’t started yet, and believe that last year’s publishing rate is a fluke. Really, my […]

  • Zombie poems, just in time for Christmas

    Zombidextrous Maggots spill from one wrenched hand; from the other, your tedious to-do lists. Zombivalent Listen or regret: undead lips upthrust from soil, grunting out the songs you would forget. Zombiguity If Schrödinger’s cat is both dead and alive, don’t open that box. Zombience Mournful twanging from the pyre. Decay perfumes the dark. A toast, […]

  • Dead Cats, Quince Jelly, and the Rolling Stones

    All the synthesized sentiment at this time of year used to irritate me, but right now it’s too resonant, despite some intellectual resistance. That’s probably why I’m most struck, in the fall/winter issue of Hayden’s Ferry Review, by poems that riff on nostalgia. “I have this memory and it’s really poignant to me”: there’s a […]

  • Poetic Dedications

    In my first (pre-Google) years as a teacher I was in a perpetual state of fear and trauma: someone would ask me about the obscure name in a poem’s dedication, and I wouldn’t know the answer, and I would therefore be exposed as an ignorant imposter. I’ve relaxed since, having learned that everyone is an […]

  • Poetry, Pedagogy, and Ectoplasm

    I was just outed as a ghost-whisperer in Amy Balfour’s article about campus spirits. Balfour recounts several spooky stories about the building I teach in, Payne Hall, on the south end of Washington and Lee University’s historic colonnade, in a Civil-War-haunted town where garage doors are left open for spectral horses… I’m blogging for Shenandoah […]

  • The Heathen at the Trading Post

    What if one of the few places you feel intellectually at home is a once-a-year gathering that shifts from city to city and disperses after three days? At the annual Modernist Studies Association meeting I can’t sleep for worrying about what I said or didn’t say during the panels. I sometimes feel like a clown […]

  • Work-work-work life balance

    This week, one of the two most productive writers I know wondered aloud, “Is this it? Is the brain case empty now?” as she rapped her skull smartly. Last week, I asked the other one, who is going through a bad time, whether she was writing about it. “Nope,” she pronounced with authority from within […]

  • “Sociability’s a drag”

    That’s Allen Ginsberg quoted in Gordon Ball’s memoir, East Hill Farm. Ginsberg must rank as one of the most generous, sociable poets ever, so his complaint about togetherness makes me feel better: my vague guilt this time is that I’m just not sorry to have missed the fifties and sixties. I do envy the cultural […]

  • Occasional poems

    “Who Wants to Be a Scholar Anyway,” “The Academic Strategic Planning Blues,” “Ballad of the Executive Director of Alumni Affairs”: the titles in my poetry folders suggest that I write a lot of doggerel when I’m all steamed up. Most jobs present occasions for indignation, even when you like the work and feel fortunate to […]

  • How to read a literary magazine (print)

    Either immediately, because you’re procrastinating about some other task, or after a long period of dusty avoidance, as if reading poetry were a chore. Bad poet. This summer, after nearly six months in New Zealand, the pile is high and dust rules. Primed for irritation, because so many poems will be dull and yet the […]