Leslie Ullman is a fluent, effervescent poet and author of the award-winning collections Slow Work Through Sand, Dreams by No One’s Daughter, and Natural Histories. She teaches poetry – although she considers that all of us, including her students, are “interdisciplinary beings” – at Vermont College of Fine Arts and is professor emerita at University of Texas-El Paso. Melody Nixon saw her read on the last day of 2012 in Montpelier, Vermont. Taken by the lyrical language of her poetry, she invited Ullman into an email dialogue about the light of New Mexico, absence, and the experience of being interviewed.
Melody Nixon (MN): Your book Progress on the Subject of Immensity will be released in August 2013. The poems in this book are highly lyrical, invested in the sounds of language and in the rhythm of words, while they also maintain a tight focus on subject. Can you talk about your relationship to rhythm and word sound?
Leslie Ullman (LU): My relationship to sound is so instinctual as to lie at some remove from my conscious grapplings with craft while I’m writing, though it does find a place in my intellect when I’m teaching. I dutifully have read and talked about meter without feeling much excitement beyond the satisfaction of fulfilling an obligation to my students. Other aspects of sound, however, such as the subtle harmonies achieved by repetition or near-repetition of vowel or consonant sounds, have interested me more, especially as they underscore meaning.