wvfc poetry SwoopThe phrase “poetic justice” has never had a better representative than Hailey Leithauser, who, after more than 20 years of silence on the page, was called back to poetry one day and wound up with the Poetry Foundation’s Emily Dickinson First Book Award at a much later age than most who win such prizes.

She’s not a natural. She’s much, much more. Possessed of an unnatural ability with the language, preternatural grace in form, and an extraordinary capacity to be dead serious with killer humor, she is a glittering poet who found her voice in maturity.

In the firmament of poetry, stars are not born. They are formed of the heat of their labors and the miracle of talent. Meet a grown-up star worthy of her own galaxy. We salute the appearance of Hailey Leithauser’s collection called SWOOP, from Graywolf Press, this week.




So often ironic,
at times caustic, despotic,

and always so


that the mere sight
of the word

stirs a not quite

crimp of the lip.

How simple the way
that it plays to our need

to see someone
not us,

caught in the thrall
of a just,


to snigger the gloom
of the other

guy’s grand, moody

It’s basic:

She saddens, he gladdens.
He rises, she flops.

Diverting enough
to name a rare

tonic, or exotic
parfum for it, sell it in fat-

bottomed bottles
shaped like a tear,

an attar
of pleasure, a tincture

of voyeur,
dabbed coyly,

at the back of the ear.


Hailey Leithauser, “Schadenfreude,” from Swoop. Copyright (c) 2013 by Hailey Leithauser. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.


wvfc poetry hailey Leithauser,_Hailey_(Sandra_Beasley)(1)Hailey Leithauser’s poetry  has appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Poetry, and in the Best American Poetry and Best New Poets anthologies. She has received numerous awards, including a Discovery/The Nation Award, and an Individual Artist’s Grant from the Maryland State Arts Council. She lives in the Maryland suburbs near Washington, D.C. 

Photo Credit: Sandra Beasley

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  • ellen sue spicer-jacobson October 6, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    So glad rhyme is back! Love the pace & use of words in her poem.