The Penultimate Suitor
“… Leader is a searching writer who has her craft down cold. Her poems…struggle to make sense of the difficulties in living the artist's life—as well as making sense of sexual desire… Leader artfully articulates one woman's struggle to unite intellect and emotion …”—New York Times Book Review
“The Penultimate Suitor is terrifically fresh and engaging. This is a book that never allows the reader to catch his or her breath, one in which the speed of the thinking is matched by the urgency of the feeling. The speaker is lovelorn, grieving, bawdy, pleading, but never, never self-pitying. Mary Leader reminds us that there is much to be said for simply beautiful writing.” — Mark Levine
“Mary Leader brings a lovely music, a nearly limitless sense of invention, a ruthless taste for games, and a fantastic imagination to her signature second book—a work of high craftsmanship, of equally high desires and longings, of twin avidities, art and love.”—Edward Hirsch
“Mary Leader's Second Volume of poetry, The Penultimate Suitor winner of the 2000 Iowa Poetry Prize, is a work of stunning ambition and confidence that attempts an array of lyrical forms and manages to rally them toward her singular cause: the explication of the idea that love and art serve as impetus for one another.”—Jeremy Spencer, The Memphis Flyer
In The Penultimate Suitor Mary Leader strips away comfortable layers of poetic self-protection to arrive at a position of acute emotional self-conflagration. Each poem turns upon and returns to the infuriating and glorious correlations between love and art. Learning to love, learning to make art, trying to make beauty, trying to be a beauty-all these efforts call for passionate explorations in the schools of art and love.