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Lisa Williams

Lisa WIlliams

Originally from Nashville, Lisa Williams teaches at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. She is the author of Woman Reading to the Sea (W.W. Norton 2008), which won the Barnard Women Poets Prize, and The Hammered Dulcimer (Utah State University Press, 1998), which won the May Swenson Poetry Award. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in Blackbird, Poetry, The Oxford American, and other magazines, and have been featured on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily, as well as in anthologies including Best American Poetry 2009, Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds, and American Poetry: Next Generation. Her essays on contemporary women poets have appeared in The Hollins Critic, The Cincinnati Review, and on Poetry Daily. Williams is the recipient of a 2011 Brown Foundation Fellowship awarded by the Brown Foundation and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; a 2010 Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship awarded by the Kentucky Arts Council; and a 2004 Rome Prize in Literature, awarded by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Spilled Milk on Banjo
Read by Lisa Williams
Video by Adriane Little

Publication of this book and production of this video were made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.


To find out more about how NEA grants impact individuals and communities, visit


Gazelle in the House

Gazelle in the HouseGazelle in the House

$15.00 paper | 89 pages
ISBN: 978-1-936970-24-7
Publication Date: March 2014
Buy: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | ShopWMU | UPNE

A Green Rose Book

Lisa Williams’s new collection, Gazelle in the House, is truly a book of stanzas: poetic rooms in which to dwell. Some of these dwellings have the uncanny familiarity of ordinary domestic space and others are as mysterious and disorienting as the depths of the sea. Painting with colors at times opaque, at times transparent, moving between shallows, tide-pools, and the abysses of dreams, Williams's voice is solitary, meditative, intimate—and in the end a means of revelation.
            —Susan Stewart

Like the photographer who “wants that dialogue between a singer’s gesture and what slants it,” Lisa Williams elegantly slants the space between sight and sound in her striking third collection.  She plumbs the worlds of eels and deep sea bells as deftly as she conjures unsparing snapshots of female adolescence.
            —Rebecca Morgan Frank

“Go / become again a threshold,” commands one of the speakers in Lisa Williams’ newest collection, Gazelle in the House. Williams’ poems consistently compel the reader to become a door; to pass through the most difficult of emotional landscapes. This collection asks us to traverse a burning landscape and to come out on the other side singed brighter and better. Williams moves us through this landscape with an intellectual and aesthetic rigor. 
           —Roger Reeves

Praise for Lisa Williams:

"Lisa Williams's poems often start out in song and end in epistemology, but they frequently break out into a kind of humming in the course of walking their self-generated routes. They manifest a fine ear not only for the rhythms of verse in English, but for those of the argument that makes them . . . They extend a line of powerfully and actively contemplative poetry that marks some of the finest American verse of the twentieth century."
            —John Hollander, from his foreword to The Hammered Dulcimer

"In Woman Reading to the Sea, Lisa Williams brings us a poetry of intense observation yoked with equal force to celebration and cerebration. . . .With restless energy, she arrays a rhetoric that allows her to enter into intense and transformative engagement with the world, regaling her readers with myths and cosmologies, tales of icebergs, tidal pools, and churches."
            —Gregory Orr

"Williams will merit, and reward, the attention of discerning readers."
            —Harold Bloom


Sounding Line

When you hove the plumb in the ocean
you heard it break the sheen
on the surface as it parted walls
of the mutable water column

then a rasp as your hands passed over
the visible twist of the rope
as the line paid out, and you wondered
how deep it would have to go

(your fathoming tool) as it sank
through layers of photosynthetic
migrating cells and stories
of diatomic bodies

until, once the lead hit the floor
with a slight change in slack, you could tell
how far the eye had travelled
by marks tied on the line

so that you pulled the weight
back up the glassy staircase,
back to the euphotic surface
where the ship steadied the plumb

and where, in a repetition
like a watery palindrome,
you—bound and leaning—were reeling
the measured feeling home.