Hailey Leithauser
(USA, 1954)   
Hailey Leithauser

Poet Hailey Leithauser was born in Baltimore and raised in Maryland and Central Florida. In 2012, Leithauser's book, Swoop, won the Poetry Foundation's Emily Dickinson First Book Award. Swoop will be released by Graywolf Press in October 2013. Jeff Shotts, poetry editor at Graywolf, noted the playfulness of Leithauser's verse: “Leithauser is a risk-taker. She is innovative – with spirited titles and musical outbursts – but also nods to poetic tradition with rhyming sonnets and other lyric techniques.”

Midnight’s merely blue,
but me, me, me, I’m
and through
sloe, cracked soot-
nicotine spat, licorice whip.
You can scratch, scratch, scratch
but I stay underskin true
to ebony, ink, crowberry, pitch.
(From ‘ Bad Sheep’)

Hailey Leithauser originally took poetry workshops as an undergraduate at the University of Maryland, but stopped writing for almost 20 years while she pursued a career as a librarian. Standing in front of a Van Gogh painting during a visit to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., she was inspired to return to writing, and eventually developed her own form, the small sonnet. Writing dense, compact poems packed with slant and full rhymes has taught Leithauser “to really exploit what you can do in a poem that is only 70 syllables long and that relies on rhyme to really carry it through," she told the Takoma Voice in an interview.

       window and window
                        and window and ever
                 toward egress, to
           flurry, pollen
and petal shed,
                        to wet street
  and wet pavement,
              all sentiment intemperate,
  all sentience
(From ‘ Mockingbird’)

Over the years Leithauser has worked as a salad chef, real estate office manager, gourmet food salesperson, freelance copy editor, phone surveyor, bookstore clerk, fact checker, and, most recently, senior reference librarian at the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. Her work has appeared widely, in publications such as Poetry, Agni Online, Crazyhorse, the Gettysburg Review, the Iowa Review, Meridian, Pleiades, and Best American Poetry. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland where she is a coordinator for the Café Muse reading series.



Swoop, Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, MN, 2013


AGNI Online: Poems by Hailey Leithauser
Poem of the Day: Was you ever bit by a dead bee?, audio
Poem of the Day: O, She Says, audio
Poetry Foundation: Winner of 2012 Emily Dickinson First Book Award press release
Poetry Off the Shelf: podcast featuring Hailey Leithauser


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