“I’m a global citizen,” says poet Lee Woodman. “I think all my books reflect that.” Woodman was born in the United States and moved to France at the age of 2. Her family later moved to India, where her father worked for the State Department and the Ford Foundation, and her mother opened a ballet school; Woodman lived there until she returned to the U.S. as a teenager. Living in a variety of countries taught Woodman to love travel—“If it weren’t for Covid-19, I would have been traveling still,” she says, and she hopes to do more exploring in the future—and to appreciate the different sounds she encountered in each place. “My brain and my senses were flooded with different languages,” she says. “Even as a child, I was taking it all in. I think my senses were hyperventilating.” 

That appreciation for language is evident in Lifescapes, Woodman’s third collection of poetry, which Kirkus Reviews calls “a streamlined, satisfying set of works about love and loss.” The book tells the story of a relationship, from the first date through the fading romance and the divorce—conducted, in the early days of the pandemic, online and captured in “Digital Divorce.” 

Zoom, a court of Hollywood Squares / Judge is Host / Participants in Waiting Room / Zoom, who will be there? / Admit My Thumbnail appears / I’ve been muted / My lawyer and the clerk / row up along the top / Below A Full-screen Judge / Pixelated all / wrangling Audio and Video / Up last / Opposing Attorney / Zoom, has 2020 come to this? / Solemn Self-sequestered / Solo. 

“I wrote it during the pandemic,” Woodman says. “It was a time of hiding out and waiting and having a long time to reflect.” Like the narrator of the poems, Woodman also saw a longtime marriage come to an end in 2020, complete with a Zoom divorce, but she doesn’t want readers to take the poems as autobiography. “I think it’s much more a reflection about women than about my personal experience,” she says. “There comes a point when women start to review their own passions and their own needs, and often they’ve been in the service of men.” She notes that although the book is written from a woman’s perspective, she has found male readers connect with the work as well.

“Three relationships in a life span make a lot of sense,” Woodman says, embracing Margaret Mead’s theory that people should not expect to find everything they need in a single lifelong partnership. “There’s been an increase in divorce among older couples,” she notes, suggesting that the experiences described in Lifescapes will resonate with a wide audience. 

Lifescapes is part of Woodman’s series of “-scape” poetry— “I do think they reflect different kinds of landscapes,” she says—along with Artscapes, Mindscapes, Homescapes, and the forthcoming Spiritscapes. “I find sound runs through all of it,” she says, though each book has its own themes and structure. Woodman has been a writer for nearly seven decades. “My sister and I started writing when we were 4 and 6,” she says, though she really began to focus on poetry after retiring from the Smithsonian in 2014.

“I thought I might take up dance or some other kind of writing, or take up theater, even,” now that she was no longer writing and producing media for museums. She planned to take classes, and it was a fortuitous catalog listing that led her to poetry. “There was one called ‘Transformation,’ which, when you’re retiring, is such a ringing word,” she says. That class led to more and to a wide-ranging appreciation for the genre. “I was so lucky to have instructors who would bring so many different poets to the table,” she says. “I found it brought together every other art form.”

Poetry also offered Woodman a way to process the upheaval of the pandemic, which affected her deeply. March 12, 2020, is “the day that, basically, Washington closed down,” she says. “I lost touch with so many acquaintances.” Woodman wrote about how Covid changed the city she had called home for 45 years. “It was a time of reclusion, I think,” she says. “I also felt that everyone was waiting and waiting and waiting. Nobody knew what was going to happen in the world.” Woodman left Washington for Rhinebeck, New York, where she stayed and wrote for two years; she has since returned to Washington to reestablish her roots.

“I never have felt like I knew exactly what my home was,” Woodman says, thanks to her many relocations, but she has always been clear on another key aspect of her identity. “The family religion was definitely education,” she says, explaining why, after earning multiple degrees, she considers it essential to continue learning as she moves through the phases of her life. She is now teaching herself about different spiritual traditions as she works on Spiritscapes, which she says will be a book about “other ways of knowing.” She is currently exploring the history of the paranormal in the United States. “I’ve always thought there were many, many more ways of thinking about spirituality,” she says. “Anywhere where I’m welcome, I like to go and hear the sounds and witness the rituals.” Her own spirituality leaves plenty of room for trying new experiences: “As a poet, I’m part skeptic, part believer.” 

Woodman also spends her time working on her website, which allows her to connect her poetry with her professional experience in media production and her longtime fascination with the sound of words. “I think the strongest part of my poetry is performing it,” she says, so the website features recordings of Woodman reading her own poetry, offering listeners another way to engage with her work. “I think it brings the poems off the page,” she says. “I’ve tried to make it quite a different kind of experience.”

Sarah Rettger is a writer and bookseller in Massachusetts.