In The Field: Conversations With Our Contributors–Lesley Wheeler
1. Tell us about your poem in Volume 20. How did it come to be?
I’m working on a collection that’s in part about turning fifty, and it contains a lot of poems that riff on that number in one way or another—a poem called “L” in fifty-character lines, for example. I wanted to write a very short poem in counted verse—ten lines, five words per line—so I started looking up the meanings of the letter “L,” besides its status as the Roman numeral for fifty. Once I had a rich list, the poem happened fast.
2. What was an early experience that led to you becoming a writer?
There are so many ways I’ve answered this, including reading voraciously, having encouraging teachers at key moments, and a couple of early successes. Another answer is just loneliness. Reading and writing help me feel connected to others about non-superficial matters in a sustained way.
3. How has writing shaped your life?
The practice eases all kinds of pain and gives me delight; it feels wholly good, even when it’s hard. The getting of writing out into the world is much more costly!
4. What books, writers, art, or artists inspire you and your work?
As a reviewer I read a lot of very contemporary work with excitement and admiration. I’m especially attracted to sound-driven poetry, and also to writers who think formally but are in various ways disobedient to form, too. Dickinson is my desert-island poet and I teach modernism, so I keep coming back to H.D., Moore, Hughes, Cullen, Millay, Brooks, and others.
5. What projects or pieces are you working on right now?
The poetry book mentioned above is She Will Not Scare. I’m also doing a lot of work that hybridizes criticism with personal narrative, including some short pieces (most recently, “Women Stay Put” in Crab Orchard Review) and a book about reading twenty-first-century poetry.