Poets Sampler: Katy Lederer
remember the first time I read some Katy Lederer poems. They were
immediately intriguing█lyrical, Romantic, oracular, meditative, cool,
ironic, and deeply honest all at once. I liked reading them. They
asked interesting questions, like ¤Is this longing?Ë and ¤Is the flanged
brain more original?Ë The poems cast a wide net over what one could
think of as a kind of tonal range of the Romantic lyric█melancholic,
passionate, erotic, devoted. In a Katy Lederer poem, one will often
hear these romantic tones cast in a cold, cold music, a gesture that
sets everything in a sort of relief. And yet the poems escape mere
irony. The speculative quality the poems have is one of utmost seriousness.
Both intelligence and beauty are
present. The subject matter is usually love; one of the central concerns
is recasting the language of love. And there is humor█a great generosity
of humor at play along the edges of the poem, never fully taking it
over, but balanced precariously among the many qualities the poems
manage and allow. These poems are a delight to read. It is my pleasure
to introduce them to these pages.
You color all. Is this longing?
Or private. Is it private to speak
in the morning, the birdsong
like knives? We sit on this bench
while this wind swirls and billows.
This setting is love, yet we sit on
this bench, yet we listen to birdsong.
This color, your brain, which is bluer
than water. I touch it, your brain,
which is cooler than water. I wonder,
your brain, when it falters will it be
so cold? We buffet one another
with our bodies, with our slackened
hearts. I put myself in it, your body,
which aches. I put myself in it, your
brain, which is cooler than water.
In that other place,
a calm water
The culprits were
Intent on getting through
I came upon a harbinger,
rotted goat, floating
In this allegory, we are here,
I saw in morning light a sex
The gulls were pressed
the waves, across the blue
Stretched taut like this drum,
like this sail, focused
this eye of a lizard. On the
the white, liminal edge of
edge of the sea-squall,
Is the flanged brain more
I wonder when I find a line, do I
pick it up?
There are jumps in the mind,
we use to escape these small
But what if the fires are too big,
and like children,
we hide from ourselves? What if
we put down
our thoughts in perfect ladderings,
climbs them but for dull ideas?
It is simply a matter of syntax.
¤IË ¤loveË ¤you.Ë It is simply a matter
of order. The simplest words work
the best for the complex emotions:
¤Love.Ë ¤Gone.Ë ¤Loss.Ë It is morning
and we lie here on this clean, white, pleated
double bed. We are waiting for the sunrise
to unmask us of our sleep. It is lyrical
to dream like this. We ones who climb
like primates up through sleep at night
to dream of light. I dream of you. Black suitor,
gone, like sleep. Like vapid, nothing dreams.
At night these objects take on cast of shadow,
yet we sleep. At night we feel this nothing-new,
this tongue-loll, this exigent sinew, and
I think we must deceive ourselves.
The Epithet Epic
Their thoughts are entirely immersed in resolution.
He resolves to consecrate it with a tree.
He opens his eyes and he finds a place fitting to planting.
It is early in the morning. When he comes he is ethical.
He will remember it. He will give it the epithet epic and leave it.
Where is he?
In the country there are two of them.
Standing immersed in the shadow of love.
Of his motives, he says they are pure.
Of the heavy silence, she thinks it is part of the trueness of their
In the winter his motives are altered by a storm.
The two of them purchase a knife.
The blade of it is long and thin.
He commands her to speak in direct discourse.
He indicates that he wants her to express her thoughts concisely and
He finds this romantic.
They are in the country and her bodice has been cut with the knife.
Part of it hangs off her shoulder. In the distance she hears the sound
of a gunshot.
Their speech no longer serves them adequately.
He walks toward her, feels her breast.
He places his lips on hers. Pulls her down. Puts his hand far up her
skirt and she sighs for him.
Their skin is taut, bumpy.
He is no longer in a predicament.
She tilts her head back and moans. She lilts her voice slightly and
asks him if he loves her.
He does love her. He feels a very true love for her.
He is then quite unable to continue. He is breathing too heavily and
doesn╠t want to be speaking anymore.
She is also breathing heavily.
They come. They are happy.
I think of your face and of its deepest
It makes me sad as if the morning
were a tower or pair
of them█haunted and pure,
degenerate, elevated, strange of view
Katy Lederer edits the magazine Explosive
and a series of limited-edition chapbooks under the imprint Spectacular
Books. Her first book for poems, Winter
Sex, was recently published by Verse Press. Gillian
Conoleys most recent book of poetry is Lovers in the Used
World. She is founder and editor of the magazine Volt.
¤The Epithet EpicË and ¤Poem (╬I
think of your face . . .╠Ë are reprinted from Winter Sex, by
permission of the author and Verse Press. Photograph by Annie Duke.
in the October/November 2002 issue of Boston