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Shara Lessley

Shara Lessley

Shara Lessley is a former Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry. Her awards include an Artist Fellowship from the State of North Carolina, the Diane Middlebrook Poetry Fellowship from the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, an Olive B. O’Connor Fellowship from Colgate University, The Gilman School’s Tickner Fellowship, and a “Discovery”/The Nation prize. Shara’s poems have appeared in Ploughshares, The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, and The Missouri Review, among others. She currently lives in Amman, Jordan.


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Two-Headed Nightingale

Two-Headed NightingaleTwo-Headed Nightingale

$15.00 paper | 85 Pages
ISBN: 978-1-936970-07-0
Publication Date: March 2012
Buy: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | ShopWMU | UPNE

These poems describe the outside world with a luminous grasp of detail, clarity, connection. Soon enough in every poem it seems the external world is giving way to a subtle interior of feeling and nuance. What is surprising is the command of language and music in which this occurs, and the sheer precision of both. There are pleasures on every page here, making this one of the best debut collections I have read.
        —Eavan Boland

The birds that populate Shara Lessley’s rich and elegant debut collection are avatars that mediate experiences of loss and violence haunting the deepest reaches of the human psyche. In language that is luxurious and musical Lessley creates the two-headed nightingale that is not so much a freak of nature as it is a paradox of the imagination and as such its special and disturbing gift of sight gives us access to the terrible and beautiful double nature of the self.
        —Michael Collier

Shara Lessley has a scrupulous eye for the natural world, for the detail of memory, for the seemingly ordinary in which she often finds the surprise, the bizarre, or a painful past. In language that is sharp and clear, in forms that are disciplined by a discerning mind, she also explores the lives of liminal women and American outsiders. This is a first book you shouldn’t miss.
        —Peter Balakian


The Countervoice

                Yourself, the rule.
Yourself the maker of its exception.
                        Snow fills the nest’s ladle.

                Whiteness. Talons clasped,
the cardinal sits on the ice-
                        clipped bough, motionless. Everything

                bleached to nothing. The bird’s
undistracted color: winter’s counterpoint.
                        Should survival require such deliberate

                action? That difficult
grace called once
                        in defense, not too unlike a bird

                fallen less from flight
than instinct. What I wanted was
                        to know what sadness isn’t

                in part exhaustion?
Something ravenous not ravenous
                        enough. Unattended to, the nest

                naturally spills over; self-
induced or by accident, the heart
                        just stops. Like silence: snow drifting,

                drifting. Often I thought,
if only I could make myself
                        still enough
. Porcelain still. Cardinal

                still. Go farther even,
inside. This too shall pass,
                        I reasoned, not knowing

                what (if anything)
to answer. Not knowing then, too
                        often a bird will not abandon

the branch that snaps beneath it.