“Children, I said to her. For the first little while, they not exactly human, you don't find?”
Nalo Hopkinson

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Poet For July is Kay Ryan

Kay Ryan

The other day I picked up a book innocently sitting on the shelf in the New Books section of the library. The book was The Best Of It, New and Selected Poems by Kay Ryan.  Ryan was the U.S. Poet Laureate 2008-2010, but what I thought is a Poet Laureate? 

From the Library of Congress website I learned that the Poet Laureate is appointed by the Librarian Of Congress to raise the awareness of and educate the American public about the joys of poetry.  The Laureate, who serves from October to May, is paid a $37,000 stipend and given time to work on personal projects.  Poetry critics and the current Laureate help the Librarian select the next Laureate.  To learn more go to:

Now, let's get back to Kay Ryan.  I am not a sophisticated poetry reader.  Most of the poetry I have read has been since Phylicia Barnes's body was found. 
Nevertheless, this collection totally blew my mind because it is so real, so practical.  The poetry is spare, thoughtful, to the point, intelligent, beautiful, deceptively deep, and wise.  For me, reading these poems was life changing.  My perception of the world has been irrevocably altered forever, which may be one of the true purposes of poetry.

The Best Of It is a collection of older books by Ryan with some new poems added.  Here's a few of the poems from the book that pertain to nature.  Enjoy.

"How Birds Sing"

One is not taxed;
one need not practice;
one simply tips
the throat back
over the spine axis
and asserts the chest.
The wings and the rest
compress a musical
squeeze which floats
a series of notes
upon the breeze.
By Kay Ryan from Elephant Rocks, 1996.


From other

angles the

fibers look

fragile, but

not from the

spider’s, always

hauling coarse

ropes, hitching

lines to the

best posts

possible. It’s

heavy work


fighting sag,

winching up

give. It

isn’t ever


to live.

by Kay Ryan from New Poems, 2010.

"Things Shouldn't Be So Hard"

A life should leave
deep tracks:
ruts where she
went out and back
to get the mail
or move the hose
around the yard;
where she used to
stand before the sink,
a worn-out place;
beneath her hand
the china knobs
rubbed down to
white pastilles;
the switch she
used to feel for
in the dark
almost erased.
Her things should
keep her marks.
The passage
of a life should show;
it should abrade.
And when life stops,
a certain space—
however small—
should be left scarred
by the grand and
damaging parade.
Things shouldn't
be so hard.
By Kay Ryan from The Niagara River, 2005.

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