2002 Iowa Poetry Prize
“ . . . [a] deeply odd and original debut . . . It’s the jazzy, oblique incantation more often associated with urban poets, skillfully applied to Lewis’s rural milieu. . . . In Lewis’s poems, the familiar bucolic landscapes of New England become something to learn down to the bones, and then to sail away from. It is a measure of her strength as a poet that she is able to make the journey, in a fierce and strange small boat of her own devising.”—Time Out New York
“Here’s the amazing thing about the prose poems in Lewis’s first book, Small Boat . . . they manage to be startling and tender at the same time. . . . This is quirky, intriguing stuff, poetry on a crazy, winding path you can’t help but follow.”—Jane Eklund, Talisman
“Lesle Lewis has created a wonderful, dreamlike world, where joy and sorrow are never far apart. I am deeply moved by the honest searching of these poems. They seem to me wholly original, like no one else. Hers is a rich, complicated voice, beautiful, mysterious, and heartbreaking.”—James Tate
“Prose poetry, for better or for worse, is no longer marginal, and yet in spite of its current popularity there is very little to marvel at. Enter newcomer Lesle Lewis, whose Small Boat is truly an astounding first book. So many linguistic surprises yet firmly rooted in the real world. 'We frequent the marshy places and one day a small boat appears,' the narrator of the title poem says. Certainly Lewis's Small Boat was worth waiting for.”—Peter Johnson
“Lesle Lewis's arrival comes at a time when new voices and fresh perspectives are everywhere appearing. Within that arena Lewis is markedly originally voiced. She's patient and impatient; she's gloomy and she's now and then ecstatic; she's prying open portholes heretofore overlooked and looking into them deeply (though at times with awe-filled averted eyes). Small Boat is an immensely beautiful debut. I'm grateful to have it around to go back to.“ —Dara Wier, author of Hat on a Pond
In Small Boat Lesle Lewis's craft rides the waves of the New England landscape both internal and external. If her world is a collage, as she says, then her poems provide the glue that anchors everything from shifts in the weather to world events to a cacophony of thoughts. When two sentences collide, a new relationship begins, and Lewis's poems bring sense to these complex and disparate juxtapositions. Small Boat, in other words, both creates an exciting chaos and provides a soothing faith.