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 landscape—widows, school marm, fat girls, drifting boys—resigned 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 poetry.

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.

--Barney Kirby
Mary Leader's red signature
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