SYDNEY LEA was Poet Laureate of Vermont from 2011-2015. In 2021, He received Vermont’s highest artistic distinction, The Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. (See Interviews and Trailers.) In 2022, he published Seen from all Sides: Lyric and Everyday Life, a collection of newspaper columns on poetry, composed during Lea’s laureate tenure. A third edition of Roads Taken: Contemporary Vermont Poets, an anthology he co-edited with Chard deNiord, his successor as state poet, is now available. His sixteenth collection of poems– What Shines?– is due in September 2023. In early 2024, his collection of personal essays, Such Dancing as I Can, will appear, and later in the year, his second novel, Now Look.
Lea founded New England Review in 1977 and edited it until 1989. Of his twelve previous poetry collections, Pursuit of a Wound was one of three finalists for the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for poetry. The preceding volume, To the Bone: New and Selected Poems, won the 1998 Poets’ Prize. In 1989, Lea also published the novel A Place in Mind with Scribner, soon to be re-issued in paper by Red Hen Press. The author’s longtime fascination with upper New England and its vanishing traditions is recorded in A North Country Life: Tales of Woodsmen, Waters and Wildlife, (Skyhorse Publishing, 2012).
Lea has received fellowships from the Rockefeller, Fulbright and Guggenheim Foundations, and has taught at Dartmouth, Yale, Wesleyan, Vermont and Middlebury Colleges, as well as at Franklin College in Switzerland and the Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest. His stories, poems, essays and criticism have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New Republic, The New York Times, Sports Illustrated and many other periodicals, as well as in more than fifty anthologies. He lives in Newbury, Vermont, and is active both in literacy efforts (Central Vermont Adult Basic Education, Inc.) and in conservation (Downeast Lakes Land Trust).
Lea has been described as “a man in the woods with his head full of books, and a man in books with his head full of woods.” His affection for story, moreover, an affection derived in no small measure from men and women elders in New England, colors his poetry, just as a relish for the musical properties of the word colors his prose. His lifelong passion for the natural world informs almost his every utterance.