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About this poet

Born on July 16, 1955, Susan Wheeler grew up in Minnesota and New England. She is the author of several books of poetry and the novel Record Palace (Graywolf, 2005).

Her first collection, Bag 'o' Diamonds (University of Georgia Press, 1993), was chosen by James Tate to receive the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America.

Her other collections are Smokes (Four Way Books, 1998), Source Codes (Salt, 2001), Ledger (Iowa, 2005), and Assorted Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009), which includes poems from her first four books, and Meme (University of Iowa Press, 2012),

Her poems have appeared in eight editions of the The Best American Poetry series, as well as The Paris Review, New American Writing, Talisman, The New Yorker and many other journals.

About her work, John Ashbery writes: "Susan Wheeler's narrative glamour finds occasions in unlikely places: hardware stores, Herodotus, Hollywood Squares, Flemish paintings, green stamps, and echoes of archaic and cyber speech. What at first seems cacophonous comes in the end to seem invested with a mournful dignity."

Wheeler's awards include the Witter Bynner Prize for Poetry from the American Academy of Arts & Letters, and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the New York Foundation for the Arts.

Wheeler has taught at the University of Iowa, NYU, Rutgers, and Columbia University, and is currently on the creative writing faculty at Princeton University. She has lived in the New York area for twenty years.

A Selected Bibliography

Poetry


Bag 'o' Diamonds (University of Georgia Press, 1993)
Smokes (Four Way Books, 1998)
Source Codes (Salt, 2001)
Ledger (Iowa, 2005)
Assorted Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009)
Meme (University of Iowa Press, 2012)

Prose

Record Palace (Graywolf, 2005)

That Been to Me My Lives Light and Saviour

Susan Wheeler, 1955
Purse be full again, or else must I die. This is the wish 
the trees in hell’s seventh circle lacked, bark ripped by monstrous dogs,
bleeding from each wound. We see them languid there,
the lightened purse a demon drug. Less, less.

At the canal, the dog loops trees in a figure eight — 
a cacophony of insects under sun. A man against a tree nods off.

Let there be no sandwich for the empty purse.
Let there be no raiment for someone skint.
Let blood run out, let the currency remove.
Let that which troubles trouble not.

My father in the driveway. Legs splayed behind him. Pail beside him.
Sorting handfuls of gravel by shade and size. One way to calm
a pecker, compensate for stash. Dad! I lied.

The man shifts by the tree and now grace is upon him.
The slant of sun picks up the coins dropped by travelers and — lo! — 
grace enables him to see. The demon dog fresh off an eight barks, too,
standing, struck by the man, by the coins, barks at their glare;
the man reaches in scrim at the glint in the light and thinks Another
malt. The flesh is willing, the spirit spent,
                                                   the cloud passes over — 
relief is not what you think, not the light. Regard the barking
dog now tugging at the dead man’s leg becoming bark.

You be my life, you be my heart’s guide,
you be the provision providing more,
you be the blood — stanch the sore! — 
you be failing 
                          proportion (mete) . . .  

Steward of gravel squints up at the girl who is me.
What? defensively. Out of the east woods, a foaming raccoon spills.
Palmolive executive? Palmolive customer? Palm’s stony olives
                              on the embankment of limestone or soapstone or
shale. Leg of the man clamped in the dog’s mouth. Mouth
of the man open and unmoved. Voice of the man:

Three dolls sat within a wood, and stared, and wet when it rained
into their kewpie mouths. They were mine to remonstrate to the
trees at large, the catalpas and the fir, the sugar maples in the
glade turning gold. To each is given, one doll began, so I had
to turn her off. Consider how it was for me — 

Flash of the arrow and the foam falls down. Three balletists 
ignoring pliés bound onto the long lawn and its canalward
slope. I am underwater and they haze in the light, 
                                                                      mouth
but do not sound. In the arrow’s blink they start.

Decimal as piercing of the line — 
Table as imposition of the grid — 
Sum as heuristic apoplex — 
Columns in honeysuckle cents — or not.

Just this transpired. Against a tree I swooned and fell, and
water seeped into my shoe, and a dream began to grow in me.
Or despair, and so I chose the dream. And while I slept,
I was being fed, and clothed, addressed — as though awake
with every faculty, and so it went. Then: blaze, blare of sun
after years uncounted, and synesthesia of it and sound,
the junco’s chirp and then the jay’s torn caw, arc
of trucks on the distant interstate, your what the fuck
and then her call. Beside me, pinned to a green leaf,
in plastic and neat hand, a full account. I had indeed still
lived, and been woke for more. So, weeping then, I rose.

Reprinted from Ledger, published by the University of Iowa Press.

Reprinted from Ledger, published by the University of Iowa Press.

Susan Wheeler

Susan Wheeler

Author Susan Wheeler has published several collections of poetry and a novel

by this poet

poem
Green is the false nettle
and green is its bloom
and few are the tenders
you pull from your room,

fewest are the cinders
that fall from your fire,
the many times I wait at
the sparking of desire,

and full yearned, unsated
you adopt a green regret,
unfaithed a slopping kettle
you in my love, beset.
poem
Child in the thick of yearning. Doll carted and pushed 
like child. The aisles purport opportunities — 

looking up, the women's chins, the straight rows 
of peas and pretzels, Fizzies' foils, hermetic 

boxes no one knows. I'll get it! What thing therein 
— bendy straws, powder blue pack Blackjack gum
poem
The perch was on the roof, and the puck was in the air. 
The diffident were driving, and the daunted didn't care. 
When I came out to search for you the lauded hit the breeze 
On detonated packages the bard had built to please. 

The century was breaking and the blame was on default, 
The smallest mammal