The Penultimate Suitor

The Penultimate Suitor

English | Apr. 15, 2001 | ISBN: 0877457654 | 89 Pages | PDF | 3 MB

In The Penultimate Suitor Mary Leader strips away comfortable layers of poetic self-protection to arrive at a position of acute emotional self-conflagration. Each poem turns upon and returns to the infuriating and glorious correlations between love and art. Learning to love, learning to make art, trying to make beauty, trying to be a beauty ¨C all these efforts call for passionate explorations in the schools of art and love.
Love poems, exclamations, declamations, and vividly shaped verse redolent of May Swenson or e.e. cummings share space with W. C. Williams-ish verse essays, tightly constructed Sapphics, couplets, epistolary poetry and philosophical fragments a la Anne Carson in Leader's sophomore volume. One poem uses a string of @ signs to indicate "Heavy Roses"; another examines the sexualized, perhaps selfish concentration in a portrait of violinist Fritz Kreisler "He expects you to make him look good, but/ He cares nothing for you, and is not curious about your work." Much of the book examines or models itself on visual art from ancient craft objects to the Irving Penn photo that provides the basis for "Rowboat on the Seine." The Carsonesque sequence "For the Love of Gerald Finzi" holds together as a plant-based fantasia "Paper, smooth, and cream, as/ The longest, oldest petals of the spider/ Mum I glide along my lipsĄ­." Other sequences model themselves on letters, on fairy tales and fables, or even on the idea of table of contents: a few of these seem arid and unmusical, though most reward careful attention. Marked throughout by accessible modes of whimsy, attention to visuality and by the slight exhaustion of a speaker who's used to falling out of love, Leader's second book should win a solid following among Carson-ites looking for a fix. (Apr.) Forecast: Leader's debut Red Signature was Graywolf's National Poetry Series publication for 1997; this book won Iowa's eponymous contest for previously published poets. Poetry is something of a second career for Leader, who is the former assistant attorney general of Oklahoma and now teaches in the Warren Wilson Program for Writers. One item in Vanity Fair or the like that gets the backstory on her former vocation could touch off trade-like sales.


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