Finding a New Poet: Katy Lederer

Perhaps I am the last poet on the block not to have heard of Katy Lederer. Or perhaps I heard her story of famed poker player to hedge fund executive and decided this wasn't the poet for me. Based on the two poems below (and these are the only Lederer poems I know) I was wrong. Her syntax, tone, and wonderful word patterns are reminiscent of Oleana Kalytiack Davis.  I don't know that I can point to exactly where these two poets intersect, but in my muddled poetry brain they do. 

Both women's biographies point to them as "fearless" and while I don't believe anyone is fearless - there is a brutality of truth that I admire in their work. In order to write strong poems I believe one needs to live in a certain way - either by choice or circumstance. However as I get older, I am no longer traveling to war torn countries or changing my address every 18 months --- and that's okay. But it's the bravery of these voices that I believe result in such new ways of writing. 

I've been working on an essay I'm writing for a new anthology The Poet and the World to be published jointly by the Poetry Foundation and McSweeneys . Fourteen years ago I spent 18 months on a Fulbright in Cape Town, South Africa. 

I've been returning to images of poets I met and the odd life I had as a sanctioned outsider. One of my friends summed up life as a Fulbrighter as "Peace Corps with status" and he was right. What he didn't mention was how lonely that status could be. And that's what these poems remind me of. 

by Katy Lederer

After Duras

"We go back to our house. We are lovers.
We cannot stop loving each other."

I come to confiscate your love.
What will you do?

Small shrubs grow in the blackened yard.
Sun, which is yellow, shines in through the windows, now barred.

You were watching me eat.
Put your tongue in my mouth then retract it.

We were waiting for our recompense.
But everyone knows love is bankrupt.

On the billboard in front of us: breasts.
The empty middles of the mannequins that peered out through the glass.

Reprehensibly, I mouthed the words: I love you.

That Everything's Inevitable
by Katy Lederer

That everything's inevitable. 
That fate is whatever has already happened. 
The brain, which is as elemental, as sane, as the rest of the processing universe is. 
In this world, I am the surest thing.
Scrunched-up arms, folded legs, lovely destitute eyes. 
Please insert your spare coins. 
I am filling them up. 
Please insert your spare vision, your vigor, your vim. 
But yet, I am a vatic one. 
As vatic as the Vatican.
In the temper and the tantrum, in the well-kept arboretum
I am waiting, like an animal, 
For poetry.


  1. Back in 2008 I head an interview with Katy and I made this entry in my journal from the interview... "It’s important for writers and other artists to report – our work can be a form of anthropology." I was struck by her words as well as some of her poetry a the time.

  2. Hi Michael,
    I knew I was one of the last to discover her. Is the interview on line? I'd love to take a look. All best to you in 2012.

  3. You might be interested to know that Katy's father is Richard Lederer, who has written numerous books on grammar, usage, and language -- many of them funny. He's been a guest speaker for the Whidbey Island Writers Conference and I also arranged to have him speak at Microsoft. His love of words (look him up on Amazon!) is surely a big influence on her poetry. And of course she and her brother are famous as professional poker players. Poker and poetry -- who would have thought?!?


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