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This review is taken from PN Review 201, Volume 38 Number 1, September - October 2011.

ENCRYPTING THE DAY JOB MARY LEADER, Beyond the Fire (Shearsman) £8.95
elaine randell, Faulty Mothering (Shearsman) £8.95

Almost every one of Mary Leader's poems employs a different formal strategy, sometimes typographically - emboldened quotations, attempts to recreate the look of an old sampler, crinkly indents, pure visual slabs of poésie concrète - and sometimes narratological. There are as many ways of telling a story here as storytelling poems: in juxtaposed fragments, through myths or emblems, anecdotally, even allegorically; but each permutation of these various means reveals another aspect of an ongoing project for her poetry that is resolutely personal, familial, memory-based, minor-historical, essentially modest. The overall impression is of a mind that's acute, musical and subtle being brought to bear on everyday life. Is it possible to relate this love of intricate formal games, proofs of religious-leaning authority and respect for the commonly human to her career as a lawyer for the Oklahoma Supreme Court? Yes, I would say, as much as one can see the bottom-line insurance executive in Wallace Stevens' assertion that the only emperor is the emperor of ice cream; but, as with Stevens, you would be hard-put to find much in the way of direct reference to her job in her poetry, although there are many echoes of his feeling for aesthetic paradoxes:

             It costs

Nothing to read these warm geraniums.
It costs zero to look at a library book:

The Principles of Physical Optics. If a painting
Looks like nothing so much as a painting,
That is the ultimate realism. That ...


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