Heathen

by Lesley Wheeler

“In Lesley Wheeler's exquisite debut collection, Heathen, the otherworldly flit among the actual like imaginary chameleons in real gardens. The dwarves of Eden think it's a stable and refuse to touch the wine: 'Gah,' they cry, 'it's dung' ('Religious Education'). Marianne Moore, hired to teach typing at the Carlisle Indian School, feels 'false as a New World chameleon' and sows 'sedition' in the Business Department until it's closed down ('A Place for the Genuine').And in the wondrously rhymed quatrains of the title poem, a son fits his ear to his mother's 'so that the god in your head can talk / to the god in mine. I hear a forest / creak like the binding of a book' ('Heathen'). Wheeler strikes an impossible balance between the wildly witty and tenderly elegant detail. Heathen is sheer magic.”
—Cynthia Hogue, author of The Incognito Body and Flux

“Lesley Wheeler is hardly the first poet to wrestle with her god, but the god of Heathen is a bear who ‘rears up, slavering [and] unsheathes / his nails.’ In this wildly ambitious first collection, we find meat and wit, awe and irreverence.’I swallowed it all,’ she writes and, indeed, this volume’s scope, its exacting intimacy and far-flung expansiveness, bear witness to this poet’s refusal to turn her eye away from anything. We are richer for this keen gaze, for this poet’s vision.”
—Janet McAdams, author of Feral and The Island of Lost Luggage