Hedge-Fund Poet

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Author Katy Lederer
Author Katy Lederer

Lately, the great American money centers have looked, if anything, like tragic poetry. Meltdown. Mayhem. Fall from grace.

Katy Lederer was a poet in the belly of the beast — an Iowa Writers' Workshop grad who for six years worked for one of the world’s biggest hedge funds. While they bet billions, she took notes — and wrote poetry.

Now, she’s quoting Goethe, Galbraith, Nietzsche and Kant from the land of leverage and the lush life.

This hour, On Point: The hedge-fund poet, and verse in the ruins of high finance.

You can join the conversation. Masters of the universe, did you find poetry in the bubble? In the billions? What do we learn when we open the books on money?Guests:

Katy Lederer joins us from Atlanta. She is the author of the poetry collections "The Heaven-Sent Leaf" and "Winter Sex," and the memoir "Poker Face: A Girlhood Among Gamblers." She worked from 2002 to 2008 as a recruiter at D.E. Shaw, one of the world's biggest hedge funds. She is currently a poetry editor of Fence magazine, a literary and arts journal.

Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst and senior editor at The Atlantic.

Here are two poems by Katy Lederer, from her new collection, "The Heaven-Sent Leaf":

Me, a Brainworker

Me, a brainworker toiling in pristine white hallways.
Abnormal, aboriginal, endemic to this site.
Some people sell their wares outside.
In the pulsating light of Times Square they are singing.
In their noses and nipples, the glinting of rings.
Let us call them unoriginal.
Let us call them all these awful things.
The busy unoriginals are throwing out their trash,
But on this lovely parchment they are writing priceless poems.
They suppose that by such rendering they’ll be remembered after death.
They suppose that by such influence their souls will sing eternally.
In the hallways, we are killing time,
Its blood now thick and lurid on the freshly painted walls.

. . .

The Heaven-Sent Leaf

The speculation of contemporary life.
The teeming green of utterance.

To feel this clean,
This dream-éclat.

There is, in the heart, the hard-rendering profit.
As if we were plucking the leaves from the trees.

Let us think of the soft verdure of the spirit of this age as now inside
           of us and swollen by spring rain.
To imagine oneself as a river.

To imagine oneself as a stretch of cool water,
Pouring into a basin or brain.

And if one knows one is not free?
One crawls from the back of the head to the river

And places one’s pinky oh so cautiously in.

“Me, a Brainworker” and “The Heaven-Sent Leaf” by Katy Lederer, reprinted from "The Heaven-Sent Leaf" © 2008 by Katy Lederer. Reprinted by permission of BOA Editions, Ltd.

This program aired on December 4, 2008.


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