Miller, Leslie Adrienne 1956-

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MILLER, Leslie Adrienne 1956-


Born October 22, 1956, in Medina, OH; daughter of Ray G. (a lawyer and judge) and Martha Ann (Fergason) Miller; married William Nevin Simonds, August, 1978 (divorced February 19, 1980); married David Williamson (an orchestral musician), September 30, 2000; children: (second marriage) Sebastian Dante. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: Stephens College, B.A., 1978; University of Missouri, M.A., 1980; University of Iowa, M.F.A., 1982; University of Houston, Ph.D., 1991. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Methodist.


Home—956 Portland Ave., St. Paul, MN 55104. Office—Department of English, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN 55105-1096; fax: 651-962-5623. E-mail—[email protected].


Teacher in an adult education program, Columbia, MO, 1977; junior high school English teacher, Columbia, MO, 1978; University of Missouri—Columbia, instructor in English, 1979-80, 1981-82; Catonsville Community College, instructor, 1982; Goucher College, instructor, 1982-83; Stephens College, Columbia, MD, director of Creative Writing Program, 1983-87; University of Houston, Houston, TX, instructor, 1987-90; University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, visiting writer, 1990; University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN, began as assistant professor, became associate professor, 1991-2002, professor of English, 2002—. Instructor at University of Maryland—Baltimore County, 1982-83, Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, 1983, and Washington College, Chestertown, MD, 1984-85; University of Minnesota, guest lecturer, 2001. Open Places, managing editor, 1985-87; judge of writing and scholarship competitions.


Modern Language Association of America, Associated Writing Programs, Poets and Writers, Loft Writers Center.


President's Award, Ohio Journal, 1985; Writers at Work poetry fellowships, Quarterly West, 1987, 1988; Stanley Hanks Chapbook Award, St. Louis Poetry Center, 1987, for No River; Pushcart Prize, 1988, for "Epithalamium;" Ann Stanford Poetry Prize, Southern California Anthology, 1988, for "Influenza;" PEN Southwest Discovery Award, 1988; grant from Arts Symposium of Houston, 1989; Stanley Young fellow in poetry, Breadloaf Writers Conference, 1989; Billee Murray Denny Poetry Award, 1989, for "Keeping My Place in the Line;" poetry fellow, National Endowment for the Arts, 1989; Strousse Award, Prairie Schooner, 1991, for three poems; cultural exchange fellow in Berlin, Germany, Goethe-Institut, 1992; fellow, Minnesota State Arts Board, 1993, 1997; Loft McKnight Awards, 1993, 1998; Minnesota Book Award nominations in poetry, 1994, for Ungodliness, and 1999, for Yesterday Had a Man in It; grant for Indonesia, U.S. International Education Program, 1995; Poetry Award, Nebraska Review, 1996; resident at NALL Artists Colony, Vence, France, 1997-98; fellow at Hawthornden Castle International Writers Retreat, 1997; Loft Minnesota grant, 1998; resident at Fundación Valparaío, Almería, Spain, 1999; resident at Le Château de Lavigny, Lavigny, Switzerland, 2000.


(With Matthew Graham) Hanging on the Sunburned Arm of Some Homeboy (poetry chapbook), Domino Impressions Press (Iowa City, IA), 1982.

No River (poetry chapbook), St. Louis Poetry Center (St. Louis, MO), 1987.

Staying up for Love (poetry), Carnegie-Mellon University Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 1990.

Ungodliness (poetry), Carnegie-Mellon University Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 1994.

Yesterday Had a Man in It (poetry), Carnegie-Mellon University Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 1998.

Eat Quite Everything You See (poetry), Graywolf Press (St. Paul, MN), 2002.

Work represented in anthologies, including Anthology of Magazine Verse and Yearbook of American Poetry, 1984; Yellow Silk: An Erotic Anthology, Crown/Harmony, 1990; Writing Poems, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1995; Motives for Writing, Mayfield Publishing, 1995; and Are You Experienced? Baby Boom Poets at Midlife, University of Iowa Press, 2002. Contributor of poetry, essays, and reviews to magazines, including Luna, Big Muddy: Mississippi Journal, Willow Springs, Colorado Review, Seneca Review, Rattle, North Stone Review, Crab Orchard Review, Gulf Coast, and Harvard Review. Open Places, member of editorial staff, 1977, contributing editor, 1981; editor, Narcissus, 1978, and Midlands, 1980; member of editorial staff, Pavement, 1981-82; contributing editor, Telescope, 1985.


Consummate Geographies, a poetry collection.


Leslie Adrienne Miller told CA: "I write poems for many of the same reasons that I travel, to disabuse myself of the notion that I know anything at all about who and what I am. Why I begin a poem or a journey should be different from why and how I end it. If where I begin doesn't shift in a palpable way during the acts of writing, moving, or being, I've failed.

"The obvious and grandiose reasons one writes or moves to and through distant places: to mark the passing of time, to fend off cruelty, silence, nothingness; to reduce the general incomprehensibility of life by some fraction; because speaking anything clearly and compellingly in English seems almost, but not quite, impossible—the idea that there are other languages improves the odds. One writes, or moves, because all the unsaid things that accumulate in a day, a week, a year, a lifetime, a history, many histories, are noisy; because everything fits: the sweetness, the 'ha-ha,' and the 'get lost;' because it is satisfying to stumble on a temporary illusion of order, to mark one's place in a community, a geographical location, a psychological and/or linguistic conflict.

"Also there are the 'inobvious' and inglorious reasons for writing or traveling, those (dare we admit them) personal, petty, and routinely denied reasons: escape, revenge, eat your heart out; because something hurt, someone didn't pay attention; because love was lost, some truth didn't come home, there is gratuitous misery. One writes to get the reader to agree to the 'ouch,' the 'oh,' the 'quoi,' and 'warum' of it all; because prose like this and life itself are dull, abstract. Poetry is the only mode wherein the movement of interior and exterior life can be simultaneous, if not momentarily merged into one possibly eloquent gesture."

Miller added: "I grew up in Zanesville, Ohio, a small town in the southeastern corner of the state, the daughter of a lawyer father who ran for and won posts as county and circuit court judges and a grade school teacher mother who was also the soul of my father's political ambitions. Southeastern Ohio was James Wright country. My parents played bridge with Ted Wright, James's brother. Poetry was that close, but I had to go far away to find out how close I had been to those sons of steelworkers.

"I began writing when I began to discover my own consciousness. I must have been twelve or thirteen. As I came into consciousness, I also came into shyness; the more I regarded my own baffling sense of self, the more I shrank from others, and so poetry became a secret language with which I explored the interior of this emerging sensibility. I suspect that most adolescents write in some kind of secret interior language as they imagine and construct their own personalities, but some of us kept doing it, and so had to name what it was we were writing. Poetry. One of my high school English teachers gave me that name for what I was doing, and once I had the name, I had a world: Sylvia Plath and Edna Millay, Sara Teasedale and Marianne Moore were among my first meaningful encounters with poetry.

"I went to Stephens College for women in Missouri in 1974, and though I regarded myself as a serious writer of poems by then, I had no clue that writing poems was something I might actually do for a living. In my four years at Stephens I was offered extraordinary opportunities as a young writer, but I also had the opportunity to study with a variety of visiting writers. By the time I was twenty-one, I had met and worked with many of the most exciting women writers of the day. I also published my first poem in a nationally recognized literary magazine, Beloit Poetry Journal.

"After Stephens College, I enrolled at the University of Missouri and studied there for two years with the poet Larry Levis. His work had an enormous impact on my own work at this time. His work with Spanish surrealism influenced, not only his own poems, but those of his students who were privy to his obsessions during those years. When Levis and his wife, poet Marcia Southwick, moved to the Iowa Writers' Workshop in 1980, I headed for Iowa, too.

"In Iowa the competition was stiff, and though years later I learned just how unhappy many of my peers had been there, I myself view my two Iowa years as some of the most exciting of my life. I studied first with Marvin Bell, who gave me the tools I needed to write the new narrative poetry. Donald Justice also taught in Iowa those two years, and in my second year there, Jane Cooper came to teach. Working with Jane was like coming home for me. An ardent feminist, Cooper gave me faith in my own voice and encouraged my poems about female subjects which, to be honest, did not seem to be entirely welcome in many of the other Iowa workshop classes.

"Not least among the important influences of my Iowa years were my fellow and sister students. So many of them went on to publish fine books, and I've always counted myself lucky to have been in such a stellar class. A small group of created our own 'salon,' the idea of poets Julia Wendell and Jack Stephens. Our little half dozen poets met every Friday night for two years, to share meals and poems. In 1982 I moved to Baltimore, Maryland, with a group from our salon. We continued to work together as poets. In a sense, we took Iowa City with us when we left. I taught creative writing in a state-run program for gifted children and taught part-time at five different colleges and universities.

"Between 1983 and 1987, I directed the creative writing program at Stephens College and served as managing editor of Open Places. I also spent several years developing, directing, and teaching in the creative writing program at the Perry Mansfield Summer Arts School and Camp in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and published my chapbook No River. In 1987 I moved to the University of Houston to finish the last leg of my educational journey. There I studied in four concentration areas: British romanticism, British medieval literature, classical rhetoric and criticism, and poetry. In 1990 Carnegie-Mellon University Press published my first full-length volume of poems, Staying up for Love. The poems in that collection were written over the ten preceding years and demonstrate my growth the discovery of a 'voice.' In 1990 I held the generous John and Becky Moores fellowship at the university, a full year's fellowship free from teaching to enable me to study for my comprehensive exams and to complete another collection, Ungodliness, a volume of pieces very much informed by my studies in British literature. Though it did not appear in print until 1994, the writing of that volume occurred almost exclusively during my years in Houston.

"In 1991 I accepted a tenure track job in creative writing at the University of St. Thomas, where I have taught ever since. The newfound stability of a full-time, tenure line job with benefits enabled me to begin to realize a lifelong dream of extended travels abroad. It was during a residency at the Literarisches Colloquium, a writers' center in Berlin, that I began to write many of the poems in Yesterday Had a Man in It. In 1995 I was awarded an arts international travel grant, on which I traveled extensively in Indonesia, and continued to work on the poems for that collection. In 1997 I spent most of my sabbatical year in France at a small artists' colony, and in Scotland at Hawthornden Castle. In both France and Scotland I worked on the volume of poems that would become Eat Quite Everything You See."



American Book Review, June-July, 1990, review of Staying up for Love, p. 2.

Arkansas Democrat Gazette, April 26, 1998, Andrea Hollander Budy, review of Yesterday Had a Man in It.

Choice, September, 1994, B. Quinn, review of Ungodliness, p. 1.

Columbia Missourian, January 25, 1984, "Poet Uses Childhood to Find Life's Lessons."

Houston Metropolitan, January, 1990, review of Staying up for Love.

Kansas City Star, April 26, 1987, "Voices of Missouri Women."

Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 19, 1994, review of Ungodliness; July 14, 2002, "Got Roots? Five Poets Expose Their Regional Affinities in New Collections."

Minnesota Literature, February, 1998, review of Yesterday Had a Man in It.

Minnesota Monthly, December, 1995, review of Ungodliness, p. 110.

North Stone Review, Number 14, 2002, Marjorie Buettner, review of Eat Quite Everything You See.

Ohioana Quarterly, fall, 1990, Marianna Hofer, review of Staying up for Love; fall, 1995, review of Ungodliness; spring, 1999, Gretchen Geralds, review of Yesterday Had a Man in It.

Publishers Weekly, June 17, 2002, review of Eat Quite Everything You See, p. 61.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 2, 1987, review of No River.

Siren, November, 1990, Jeff Troiano, review of Staying up for Love.

View from the Loft, September, 1998, interview by Heid Erdrich, pp. 4, 13-14.

Virginia Quarterly Review, summer, 1990, review of Staying up for Love, p. 3.

Washington Post Book World, May 6, 1990, review of Staying up for Love; November 13, 1994, review of Ungodliness, p. 51.