The Heaven-Sent Leaf

The Heaven-Sent Leaf, Katy Lederer’s second book of poetry, takes its title from Goethe’s Faust, in which it refers to printed paper money, first lauded, in the play, as a way to make gold and, as she points out, responsible for an economic "bubble." Money is at the heart of Lederer’s book, but rather than drawing the language of finance and commerce into poetry, she draws upon her gifts of sonic lyricism, imagistic depth, and phrases fraught with feeling to bring money into the realm of poetry. Her poems bring finance and office work into a language that can explore and evoke the sway they hold on lives. This does not mean the book is single-minded in its subject. Rather, Lederer’s poems range in sentiment, and in subject, between the sexual and the theoretical, between romance and cold distance. She worked for many years at a hedge fund and creates for her subjects an openness to all that money can mean. Poet Elizabeth Willis wrote, "In this architecture of financial and romantic speculation, tenderness brushes up against other things tendered. The result is not exactly an erotics of money—;or a balance sheet of love’s trades and trade-offs—;but a feeling for the shared roots of money and blood, lineage and ‘brainwork,’ poetry and speculations." The end of the poem "Kept" captures, a very contemporary, and yet timeless, urgency:

Astonish me.

In the pitch trapezoidal room,
Before dark falls,
The catastrophe, waiting.

Kept by it, caged up,
The soul is then girlish.

The moon that is yellow
Reneges us.

This book review originally appeared in American Poets.