Poetry. SHE LIVES THERE STILL is Mary Leader's second collection with Shearsman Books. In some senses, it is an extension of her previous Shearsman volume, BEYOND THE FIRE, in that it reinforces what John Muckle in PN Review described as, "The overall impression is of a mind that's acute, musical and subtle being brought to bear on everyday life." In other senses, it seeks radically to complicate any concept of the everyday to account for wisdom, but be warned, it is a peculiar wisdom. The "she" of the title is from a Mother Goose rhyme, but two key series ("A Warty Chin" and "A Withy Hut") and between them a key sequence ("Cornucopia of Arcadia") could also be called "Crone Cards." An initiating question asks: "And, well, should she rule for mythology / versus history? What material / difference is there?" And, well, seventy pages later, questions are still being asked: "Who are we, so / physically new?" Throughout, the reader will encounter Leader's characteristic passions for form and for variety. But the book also affords a tightly organized demonstration of what The New Yorker called Leader's "quite remarkable sensibility, which is one of the most self-possessed in contemporary poetry."
Mary Leader began writing poems in the midst of a career as a lawyer working for the Oklahoma Supreme Court. For her, law practice did not entail interacting with lawyers, litigants, witnesses, judges, juries, bailiffs and so on. Rather, she gravitated to appellate work. Appeals happen at a far remove in time and space from the drama in the lower court. On appeal, there are almost no performances requiring people to appear. Almost all the actions are performed by words written on a page. Legal documents and trial transcripts were evocative to Leader in a way that meeting the parties to a lawsuit or observing a trial would not be. Those words on a page had impact, as do poems, and eventually led her to a literary career. THE DISTAFF SIDE is her fifth collection of poems.