|Mary Leader's red signature
The Plainness of the Plains
red signature (Graywolf Press), a winner of The 1996 National Poetry Series, begins in the plains,"I look down on you, Town..." and makes a b-line for the nearest
exit,"Your edge is my hope. I am going."
And off she runs, weaving from narrator to narrator. Only the lonely populate this
landscapewidows, school marm, fat girls, drifting boysresigned to rural circumstances or
searching for an escape from them. It's all here, Americana keepsakes, subdued colors. The allusions
to Hopper are too easy, and the painting as subject has become the mannered form of modern
Leader is at her best when she leaves the brush behind and works her own seam with form. See
"Probate" for its fine use of the list, "Unheroic Couplets", "Chromatic Scales Against Impossible
Loves", "Boy Unobscured on the Highest River", "Both" and most interestingly,"Girls Names". The last
is a quilt pieced together from scraps of letters, lists, conversations, and Elizabeth Bishop lines.
Leader looks for the poetic in the plain-spoken. It's risky; at times it lays flat, and at others
it soars with honesty.