The State She's In


Advance praise for The State She’s In:

Lesley Wheeler’s poems call us to power and challenge us to own our dazzle even as they explore gradations of despair, as a woman navigates the Trump years, marching in a cold city “pinked/by hats with pointy ears,” ever alert to her “inhospitable secret vagina” and whether it will “be grabbed or/ judged not fit for grabbing.” Wheeler’s formal virtuosity wheels and sparks as she explores the impact of whiteness and sexism on the literal state—its history, its land, its educational institution—she occupies. “I need to learn/how to endure my own bitterness,” she writes, as the contaminated water sings.” In a wallop of a poem, “New Year’s Colonoscopy,” she conjures: “for I/boiled the bones and drank the steam,/sipped pink potions hours on end, emptied/myself of last year’s toxic shit, and am clean.” Wheeler’s research, her feral witchery, her poems themselves, are an answer, if not the antidote, to the state we’re in. –Diane Seuss, author of Four-Legged Girl and Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl

These poems showcase Lesley Wheeler’s acerbic wit and vast intelligence– all laced over with a compassionate spirit for what divides us and what makes us whole. This gorgeous collection interrogates a landscape where a singular fruit makes “seeds jingle. Custard’s plush in the mouth,” while still hoping to arrive at a place where we’d prefer, “…the sparrow be true than cells struggling to contain unlikely radiance, and failing.” This is a collection of uncommon frankness, a poet of uncommon grace. —Aimee Nezhukumatathil, author of Oceanic and World of Wonders

What is the state of Lesley Wheeler’s The State She’s In? Accompany her there on her travels through history and culture, past and present, and you will discover more than you knew existed, including a spell for ridding oneself of certain politicians and a feminist bingo card.  There’s exuberance in these forms, humor in this self-awareness, and best of all, fierce compassion for the lost and downtrodden throughout this powerful, intriguing collection. –Lisa Lewis, author of Taxonomy of the Missing  

The tinder of Lesley Wheeler’s latest collection of poems ignites a tremendous bonfire with the glow of both history and the future illuminated in the present dark. In poem after exquisite poem she writes of both the spark and the ember, where “Scent resonates/even though the blooms are closed.” Here in her breathtaking work the landscapes of the past are indelibly linked with our hardwired present. And through it all, the defiance of the speaker evokes Lowell’s stubborn skunks who turn their tails (and tales) against narratives that neglect to tell all but the most evident truths. –Oliver de la Paz, author of The Boy in the Labyrinth

Contact or for information about review copies. I would also be happy to visit classes and book clubs virtually or, when the need for social distancing abates, in person.

Murray Robertson (photography & poems)

I make photographs and poems to please myself (and share them to please you).


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