The Heaven-Sent Leaf by Katy Lederer
(BOA Editions, 2008)
It’s About Money: The Heaven-Sent Leaf by Katy Lederer
Bearing a visually delightful title, Katy Lederer’s slim sophomore poetry collection presents a total of forty-five short works, each written in crystalline simplicity, with a sonnet-like lyrical voice. Can poetry bring beauty out of the evil — money? Invoking lines from Philip Larkin’s “Money” — “I listen to money singing. It’s like looking down/ From long French windows at a provincial town,/ The slums, the canal, the churches ornate and mad/ In the evening sun. It is intensely sad,” Lederer’s poems read like private pages selected from a diary, reflecting on small or ordinary moments of daily life that possibly allow us to glimpse at “a heaven-sent leaf” (i.e. her chosen icon that symbolises money).
Titles of the poems are rather intriguing, resonating, and telling, for each is well-carved out of images: “The Tender Wish to Buy this World,” “A Sad Harp,” “Brainworker,” “In the Seafold, Savings, I Have None,” “Parable of Home and Broom,” etc. Although once in a while, the overall langage risks being too light or thin, as energies drift due to a dominating absence of line density, each work contains very original images and a clear voice that co-exist within a specific moment of introspection. Because each piece is considerably economical in terms of words, many moments of silence sustain vibrantly on the page. The measure of rhythm is as sharp as the rhyme. Efficiently and effectively, Lederer chooses the nostagic theme of love to reveal what money and material desires fail to fulfil us and our never-ending list of wants — yes, we the so-called sophisticated human beings who take pride in surviving in a sophisticated civilisation. Take for instance, “In The Flower Store Next Door”:
The object in the poem you must focus on is me.
Here in the poem I am, and in the flower store next door
Are wilting daisies, cups of breakfast blend,
And dark, expensive chocolates you may purchase if you please.
We are watching in the flower store our weight, and so we do not eat,
But wrap the wilting daisies up in happy flowering trees.
In the branches of these trees, the self will grow and grow till plucked.
Once plucked, the happy self will run, the parts will move in unison, at once!
Ta-wee, ta-wee, the happy self!
And if one knows one is not free?
I love you, reader, may I say?
I’ve brought you all these presents, which I’ve placed beneath this flowering tree :
Brighr red box, bright blue box, and a small vial of Botox.
Most of the book draws its inspiration from the poet’s work experience as a brainworker at a hedge fund in midtown Manhattan. This probably explains why most verses relate directly to authentic observations and real experiences — lived, resolved or unresolved. Vivid instances in which materialistic concerns invade love are also cleverly depicted in “Parable of Time Square,” as an another example:
We met in this country, beneath the damp light at the world-famous fair,
Where life is meaningful and dreadful.
The conglomerates show off their wares,
Which will help us when we’re sick of work and headng for the train.
I hate to be alone. The solitude of Brooklyn.
But outside, now framed by the window, a couple.
They stare at one another over pork chops and beer.
I call you on the telephone. I call to hear
Your muffled voice. People aren’t the be-all and end-all of one another’s lives,” you say
Between these tender hemispheres, in the space of our gender, the divine reaches down like a
Must it be such a hardship, then, to hoist ourselves up to the conscious interior?
Are we so cleanly spoken, here, that all has been said by two bodies, alone in the dark,
Their brains electrified, their tongues in one another’s mouths?
If there is any territory yet to be explored, it will be the poet’s own naked and unhidden stance towards money — which insofar remains evocative and indirect as far as meanings and intentions are concerned. The fact that the book ends with “The Unseduced” may suggest something else less than elusive, however. That said, an extra unfiltered layer of social consciousness may give a hand in rendering such quiet observations of a fragile yet sensitive individual a stronger voice — one that may perhaps serve beyond descriptive or romantic inclinations. Yet, forthright statements such as “My mind is at ease. I will die like this, penniless” are at once realistic, idealistic and bold, all to highlight that despite youth, the tender poet — admirably and courageously — yearns for a priceless and profound interior life.
Fiona Sze-Lorrain (www.fionasze.com) also publishes poetry and non-fiction under the nom-de-plume, Greta Aart. Her new works will be appearing in Caesura, Ellipsis, Sojourn, Broken Plate, Alimentum, etc. Also a musician, she is currently one of the editors of Cerise Press (www.cerisepress.com), and lives in Paris, France.