poem index

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)

Shanked on the Red Bed

Susan Wheeler, 1955
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 redolent of what was in the vault, 
The screeches shrill, the ink-lines full of interbred regret—
When I walked out to look for you the toad had left his net. 

The discourse flamed, the jurors sang, the lapdog strained its leash—
When I went forth to have you found the tenured took the beach 
With dolloped hair and jangled nerves, without a jacking clue, 
While all around the clacking sound of polished woodblocks blew. 

When I went out to look for you the reductions had begun. 
A demento took a shopgirl to a raisin dance for fun, 
And for you, for me, for our quests ridiculous and chaste 
The lead sky leered in every cloud its consummate distaste. 

The mayors queued for mug shots while the banner rolled in wind 
That beat at bolted windows and bore down upon the thin, 
And everywhere warped deliverers got bellicose and brave, 
When I walked out to find you in the reconstructed rave. 

The envelopes were in the slots and paperweights were flung. 
When I came down to seek you out the torrents had begun 
To rip the pan from handle and horizons from their shore, 
To rip around your heady heart looking there for more. 

From Smokes. Copyright © 1998 by Susan Wheeler. Reprinted with permission of Four Way Books. All rights reserved.

Susan Wheeler

Susan Wheeler

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

by this poet

poem

qui s'est refugie
ton futur en moi
—Stéphane Mallarme, "A Tomb for Anatole"

Small bundle of bones, small bundle of fingers, of plumpness, of heart,
predicate, prescient, standing and wobblings, lit up in the joy,
lachrymose GA, your bundle oh KA, the unfolding begun of
poem
Child, entering Ye Olde Trading Post, takes the pegs upon the walls 
For trees, fingers the beaded doll in buckskin dress, a moccasin, 

A square of maple sugar maple leaf, small imprint of a fingernail 
In its clear window. She wants the Minnesota charm in green, 

Six of ten thousand lakes in silver raised,
poem
Red barn, still house, shimmering heat. 
Brown barn, air in rain, green smell. 
I climbed the hill to volunteer my hands: 
O works that we may walk in. 
The rodent's toe in the pinecone cell, 
the brackish bag with its damp wax gel, 
beside the fence links, glinting. 

One was spending one hundred thirteen