Library of Small Happiness, Leslie Ullman


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