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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


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)


Record Palace (Graywolf, 2005)

Charity Must Abide Call for Ancient Occupation

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 degrees 
supporting the basic initiative, 
in his trailer, terminally wounded in Congress, 
waiting for sunset so he could sound alarms about its ability 
to spend hours putting temporary fences, 
implementing, nondiscriminatory, 
not only his sheep when it comes to gays but, 
when it comes to all their dogs in holes they had dug 
to religious faiths, under trailers, 
to groups providing government-funded, blistering heat.
And one, Solomon, solemn one, puled, 
She, initiate in the knowledge of Him, 
co-creator in His works, 
I determined to take her to live with me, 
for if we want riches in life, what be greater bounty 
than the knowledge that triggers all things? 

I waited on that corner until the yelling began,
the sharp horn, the crumpling steel —— 
until the songbirds swooped in like carrion, 
into the funnel of charitable provisions, 
sounding the alarm in a surfeit of ours, 
initiates, faith based in moneylenders' lairs. 
I credited their flight. Wrung charity. 
But the wing flapping went on in the heat. 

In the hour before sunrise the wet & swift wings ceased. 
Should there be, I thought, a mandible for each? 
A Dolly for each Sofia? Faith entering the breach? 
Still air, expectant, dark. The legalese. 
From one I will expect, before earth us takes, 
Staff, and thermos, crazed. Deafening heat. 

From Ledger by Susan Wheeler. Copyright © 2005 by Susan Wheeler. Reprinted with permission of the University of Iowa Press. All rights reserved.

From Ledger by Susan Wheeler. Copyright © 2005 by Susan Wheeler. Reprinted with permission of the University of Iowa Press. All rights reserved.

Susan Wheeler

Susan Wheeler

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

by this poet

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
The moon rose like a blooming flower. 
The tin in the hand clattered its charge. 
We walked by in the wavering hour, 
I looking away, you chattering hard. 

Met by luck, with like destinations, 
We startled again at what ended in pique. 
Strollers out, seeing us, had no notion; 
A car alarm cycled its querulous
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