Mare Leonard’s chapbook ( a group of 18 poems) takes reader on a journey from past to present, invites us into a conversation between generations, and is an exploration of what a poet doesn’t know but feels about family and how she came to be who she is. Places matter: beginning, in early 20th century, in the Southern Italian town of Montagano, moving through her family’s experiences in Hell’s Kitchen, and then in Crestwood Each poem’s language told me as much about the poet as about the family’s journey. The language and form of Leonard’s poetry evolve as the stories change, and as the focus moves from her family to her growth and experience as a young woman.
–Teresa Vilardi is the Former Director of The Institute for Writing and Thinking at Bard College in Annandale-on-the Hudson. In addition she taught numerous workshops for teachers in all disciplines through the Institute and along with Mary Chang edited Writing Based Teaching: Essential practices and Enduring Questions.
In her new chapbook, The Dark Inside My Hooded Coat, Mare Leonard artfully integrates memoir and vivid descriptions of her family and ancestors in poems that take us into vital American origins of people, historic neighborhoods, daily work and simple joys. Yet she also moves us into the present when we least expect it. In poem after poem, Leonard weaves rich and heartbreaking details like “Dad worked in a printing plant / engraving toxic chemicals” and with unexpected humor like this line, sky-written, “There are no eggs in a NY egg cream.” Sharing in the experiences of these poems, the reader is drawn in and deeply moved.