By Molly Shoulta ‘13
GC News Bureau Intern

Katy Lederer
Poet Katy Lederer will do a reading Feb. 23 in Hall of Fame Room

Katy Lederer liked poker before poker was cool. But her current occupation as a poet would seem to have no ties to her past in the gambling industry. To her, the game is more than chips and a deck of cards; it is a family skill and haven for financial support when trying to launch her early writing career, which was “not the usual poet fare” she jokes. It also serves as an inspiration for her writings and early development as a writer.

On Tuesday (Feb. 23), she will be sharing events of her life and highlights of her work with the Georgetown College campus community and poetry-lovers in the next-to-last of the Foust Artist Series at 8 p.m. in the Hall of Fame Room in the College’s Cralle Student Center. Ticket prices for this event have been dropped to a “Recession-buster” $5; plus, come early for the complimentary coffee and dessert which will be served prior to the reading. (The March 6 Sixties concert by The Epics of Louisville will wind up the Foust Series, which has brought world-class talent to campus for 27 years.

Lederer will weave together poetry and a bit of biography. She said she doesn’t target any particular audience and doesn’t intend to alter her style to reach students in particular, but focuses her content on what is relevant to contemporary readers.

With an English professor as a father and an actress as a mother, it is no surprise that Lederer’s literary flow comes so naturally. Her siblings’ calling, however, is a bit vaguer of a story found in the heart of Las Vegas. Lederer’s sister, Annie Duke, was a student at Columbia before ascending to the place of a poker champion. Similarly, her brother, Howard Lederer, experienced bitter losing streaks but climbed all the way to the top as a world-class poker player. She describes her “that girl who put her siblings through college playing poker” reputation as hilarious, and even focuses her 2003 memoir – Poker Face: A Girlhood Among Gamblers – around the game and the paths it presented in her young life. Even as her life as a writer has taken off, she always makes time for a card game, though now it’s more of a leisure activity than a financial reliance.

The 2002 release of her first poetry collection entitled Winter Sex took the poetry world by storm. Her poetry debut drew attention from fellow Poets D. A. Powell, who described the work as “leaps of faith,” and Poet Gillian Conoley, who described the “great generosity of humor at play along the edges of the poem, never fully taking over, but balanced precariously among the many qualities the poems manage to allow.”

Her memoir followed in 2003, which tells the story of her gambling family and the move to Vegas after college at Berkeley. There she was trained in the field of professional poker, which was certainly an odd stepping stone in her career. Still, she knew her passion as a poet, which continues to draw her to the art form. Lederer wrote in an e-mail, “[Poetry] is the purest form of linguistic expression – the art for in which it really matters what word you use, where you put the period, how the syntax flows.”

Still, her life as a writer is just as much of gamble. “Everything we do in life can be seen as a gamble,” Lederer said. “There is always a risk – or lack of risk – and reward, calculation, some underlying way to analyze a situation that might, on some level, resemble a gamble.”

Her newest publication, The Heaven-Sent Leaf took form on the 40th floor of a hedge fund company in Manhattan and focuses on the themes of love, money, and what Publishers Weekly described in their review of her material as “a cog in a capitalist machine.” The book contains 45 poems encircling the connections of money and love. The name is from Goethe’s Faust where the “heaven-sent leaf” is printed paper money, which eventually leads to ruin. But the idea of love is strongly connected, but may or may not produce the same consequences.

Visiting Assistant Professor of English Emma Bolden, who knows Lederer’s work and has struck up an “electronic friendship” (e-mail exchanges) with her, gives three tips for enhancing a patron’s enjoyment for such a poetry event:

  1. Familiarize Yourself With The Writers’ Work And Aesthetic

    You wouldn’t go to a concert before listening to the band’s music, and the same should be true of a poetry reading! Just as music falls into different genres or types, so does poetry. Some poets craft straight-forward stories while others travel to the edges of language and its capabilities. Some poets center song-like pieces around a specific emotion while others explore intellectual concepts and philosophical ideas. Learning about a poet’s aesthetic will give you an idea of the themes and ideas the poet investigates, the type of language they use, and the way their poems are constructed. A familiarity with these things will allow you to better follow and appreciate the poet’s work. Examples of Katy Lederer’s work can be found on the Boston Review’s website at and at Katy Lederer is also a poetry editor for FENCE, a popular and important poetry journal, poems from which can be found at

  2. Remember That Poetry Is Both A Written And Perfomative Art

    We currently encounter poetry mostly on the page, as something we read for ourselves. However, historically, poetry has been a performative art far longer than it has been a written art! Poetry has its roots in music: in fact, a good many of the poems you’re familiar with, from Sappho’s lyrics to Beowulf, were originally performed. Contemporary poetry holds on to this tradition, as poets still pay as much attention to the sound of the words as they do to the way they appear on a page. A poetry reading is a rare opportunity to celebrate this performative aspect of poetry, so keep your ears open for sequences of sound and rhythm, and the music behind the meaning!

  3. Be Open To Poetry As An Experience

    When we do encounter poetry on the page these days, it’s usually within the confines of the classroom. We’re often trained to dissect a poem, and tend to approach poetry more as a test than as entertainment. It is indeed true that every poem contains layers of meaning, but it is also true that a poem is something meant to be enjoyed. When reading or listening to a poem, you have the rare opportunity to see the world exactly the way someone else sees it. Open your mind, and allow yourself to enjoy the experience of experiencing the world exactly as another person does!