Reading Series: Mary Leader

by Lindsey Alexander, Visiting Writers Series Coordinator

More than 120 people crowded Krannert Auditorium to hear Mary Leader read from her latest collection, Beyond the Fire,last week.  These poems explore themes of heritage—Leader’s hometown, Pawnee, Oklahoma, appears in the text—but also feminism, romantic love, and family. Alternating wonderfully personal moments of self-doubt with voices that seem to come from “anonymous scribes,” Leader shared with her audience the new expressions possible in her experimental poetic forms.

Her poem “They Vibrate,” which replicates the texture of woven art and blurs the sound and appearance of pairs of words across many different lines, was projected on a screen behind her during the reading.

Leader said her obsession with the colors red and blue, as well as their optic effects on the mind, has seeped into Beyond the Fire. In the Q and A, the colors and visual textures in her poems led to a discussion of how textile arts affect her work.  As an illustration of this influence, she treated the audience to a poem from her new manuscript. “The Distaff Side” plays on women’s links to textile arts and matrilineal relationships.

As Leader finished several manuscripts this summer, there is certainly more to look forward to from this poet.

For the next reading, we will welcome Purdue alumni Ely Shipley and Aaron Michael Morales at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 6 in the Krannert Auditorium, room 140.  For more information on our reading series, please click here.

Beyond the Fire
Mary Leader
Shearsman Books—September 15, 2010
88 pages/$15.00