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Leslie Ullman

In acclaimed poet Leslie Ullman’s fifth and newest book, she offers a glorious hybrid collection of essays, poems, and writing exercises. Inviting writers and serious readers into the spaces poetry can open up around us and inside us, Library Of Small Happiness focuses on aspects of craft while embracing a holistic approach that makes accessible the unique intelligence of poetry. The essay section of the book addresses subjects such as the interactive role between silence and utterance, finding the center of a poem, and the Golden Spiral as it applies to the structure of a work and the process of its creation. The exercise section offers prompts that can be used by writers, teachers, and students to generate surprising language, fresh imagery, and new territories for crafting poems.

The late Swiss artist Paul Klee famously observed in his diaries, “One eye sees, the other feels.” In these brilliant, non-traditional essays, Leslie Ullman explores the warp and woof of poetry, its inner textures and outer resonances. In the course of this intimate journey, our guide shines so much necessary light, as we feel our way holistically through the “sacred space” that poems make, where “a silence resonates with the presence of two voices, only one of which is the writer’s.” Along the way, she offers up a simultaneously accessible and intelligent commentary on the inner workings of twenty poems. These deeply thoughtful essays and exercises about and with the creative process deliver us into a full-on and intensely personal embrace of the practice of poetry.

—Jeffrey Levine, Publisher & Editor-in-Chief, Tupelo Press

Not since William Stafford’s quartet of meditations on the writing life has there been a book about the craft of poetry that is as ego-less, open-minded, intuitive, generous, encouraging, and just plain smart as Leslie Ullman’s Library Of Small Happiness. A hybrid collection of essays, writing exercises, and selections from her own poetry, it explores from many angles the mysterious process of entering what she calls the “sacred space” in which we both write and read poems. One of the many poems she discusses with feeling and insight along the way is Adrienne Rich’s “The Loser,” in which a man tells the woman he loved and lost that he envies her husband for getting to live “forever in a house lit by the friction of your mind.” Ullman’s book is just such a house, and every room in it is lit by the beautiful friction of her mind. Anyone who wishes to learn how to write poetry will want to live in its light forever.

—David Jauss, Glossolalia: New and Selected Stories

Leslie Ullman is the author of four poetry collections, most recently Progress on the Subject of Immensity, published in 2013 by University of New Mexico Press, and the winner of the 2014 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award in Poetry. Her awards include the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award, the Iowa Poetry Prize, and two NEA fellowships. In addition to poetry, she has published craft essays in several magazines, including Numéro Cinq, Poet Lore, and The Writer’s Chronicle. Now Professor Emerita from University of Texas-El Paso, where she founded and directed the Bilingual MFA Program, she currently teaches in the MFA Program at Vermont College of the Fine Arts.