All 2 entries tagged Katy Lederer

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September 01, 2010

Why Poetry Matters: Poetry and Money —– August/September 2010.

Writing about web page http://nvwn.wordpress.com/

I recently joined the Nittany Valley Writer’s Network in Pennsylvania, and I have been trying to convince some of the other members of the wondrous nature of poetry. Consequently, they’ve asked me to write a column in the newsletter on “Why Poetry Matters”, the title taken from Jay Parini’s excellent book Why Poetry Matters .

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Poetry is sometimes dismissed as irrelevant to the modern world, and some see it as a relic of bygone times. Poetry, though, has always and will always matter. Poetry has existed since the time of primitive human beings, when it was the language of prayer and incantation, and even now it reflects the times we are living in. Take for example, Katy Lederer’s 2008 collection The Heaven-sent Leaf, which comments on the current financial crisis. Lederer has some experience of this world, having worked for a hedge-fund in midtown Manhattan. The “heaven-sent leaf” is paper money, a phrase taken from the story of Faust (Goethe’s version) when he was tempted by the devil to exchange his soul for money and power. Whether you know the reference or not, it is obvious Lederer is writing about the temptations of the stock-market. In “The Tender Wish to Buy This World”, she puns on the financial, physical, and emotional meanings of the word “tender”.


The shedding of leaves from the wallet of morning
Down low by the bridge in this city of money,
I will take down this axe, shatter gently this greed.

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Money inhabits the landscape of Manhattan, the printed notes becoming leaves on the trees. The shedding of the leaves also suggests the losses of the financial crisis. In response, Lederer enacts a symbolic ritual that shatters greed, though she does it “gently”. She suggests that it is only human to be greedy, and the evocative language in her poem works powerfully to unravel the whys and wherefores of the current recession.

(Read Lederer’s full poem at http://hcl.harvard.edu/harvardreview/issues/34/Lederer_1.html).

For those interested in getting to know poetry better, I recommend: Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times, Neil Astley, ed., a useful and accessible anthology of what actress Mia Farrow calls `truly startling and powerful poems’; and An Introduction to English Poetry by James Fenton, the best introduction to meter and rhythm I have found.


August 06, 2010

Poetry Papers at the CWWN Conference

Writing about web page http://cwwn.sdsu.edu/

A paper that I really enjoyed during the conference was by Jane Dowson , who was one of my external examiners for my PhD. We have many interests in common and I was pleased to see Dowson presenting on Kate Clanchy , Pascale Petit and Gwyneth Lewis . Dowson described these poets as inhabiting a New Confessionalism, which needs to be negotiated carefully. Dowson quoted Clare Pollard who suggested that ‘To revert to confessional mode now might be to reaffirm the cultural image of the “Mad Poetess”,’ and she commented on the hostile critical reception faced by Kate Clanchy on the publication of her collection about motherhood Newborn. Dowson condemns the dismissal of confessional poets and uses her ‘new critical grammar’ to discuss Pascale Petit and Gwyneth Lewis. This means:
• paying attention to ‘the unsayable via symbolism, typography, rhythm, self-reflexivity’;
• ‘building alliance with the reader as eavesdropper, confidant/e, listener-subject’;
• being aware of ‘the pleasure and healing of recognition, shared intimacy, community, imaginative expansion’;
• and paying particular attention to intertextuality.

One of my favourite panels from the conference was “Sexuality, Danger and Money in Three Women Poets”. I went along to this panel because it was on three poets that I do not know quite so well; I had never come across Arielle Greenberg or Katy Lederer but I had read a few books by Anne Carson (e.g. Decreation). Unfortunately, I had a farcical moment in this panel where all of my pens ran out of ink at once, so these notes are just from memory and are not quite as detailed as usual.

Darcy L. Brandel discussed Arielle Greeberg’s negotiations of language and violation. She focussed in particular of Greenberg’s interpretation of Marcel Duchamp’s art installation Étant donnés, which presents the viewer with a wooden door that has a peephole for each eye. Through the peepholes can be seen a naked mannequin and a lush landscape. Brandel discussed the ambiguity of this image: is the naked woman/mannequin powerful or powerless? Is she offering an invitation to the viewer or is she being violated? In her analysis of Greenburg’s poem ‘Given’, Brandel offered detailed analysis of the poet’s experimental use of language and outlined the poet’s condemnation of the artwork’s voyeurism: ‘in the afterlife—-is so accommodating a gift / of gaslight murdered by air’.

Next Paul Crossthwaite spoke about Katy Lederer’s collection The Heaven-sent Leaf, a collection of 45 almost-sonnets. Crossthwaite focussed on how Lederer brings together money and poetry comparing the two as systems with economies, values and currencies. Lederer worked as a “brainworker” at a hedge fund in midtown Manhattan, and the book was published at the beginning of the downturn in the world economy. Crossthwaite talked (among other things) about how bringing the language of finance into poetry lends it at times a prosiness that is in tension with the sprung and musical lines elsewhere in the poems.

The final paper was presented by Maya Linden on desire, danger and ambivalence in Anne Carson’s poetic form. Linden talked particularly about Carson’s collection Autobiography of Red and The Beauty of the Husband focussing on how Carson approaches femininity, masochism and self-destructiveness. Linden seemed to be suggesting that the ambivalence in Carson’s writing is a problem for more conventional feminisms and that there needs to be a more expansive kind of politics to understand Carson’s work.


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