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

Friday, April 6, 2012

April is National Poetry Month. Kay Ryan

I just found this book at used book store in like new condition.  Couldn't believe it!  Hee hee.  The Best Of It won the Pulitzer prize for poetry in 2010.  

Kay Ryan, born in California in 1945, was the Poet Laureate of the United States from 2009-2010.  She published her first book when she was thirty-eight years old.  Ryan has also won a Guggenheim fellowship, and her poetry has been featured in three Pushcart anthologies and in many magazines.  To read a complete biography of Kay Ryan click here.

I cannot remember when I first read Kay Ryan's poetry.  It had to be recent because I have only been reading poetry since April, 2011 in response to the murder of Phylicia Barnes.  What I have learned from Ryan is that trying to understand a poem can put the mind in a state the same as in prayer.

What I love about her poetry is her insight into our shared human condition.  She is contemplative.  One can feel how she struggles and ruminates over her poetry.  Ryan wants to get the poem just right.  As far as I'm concerned she is awesome.  That is why she is my poet of the month for April and National Poetry Month.   I will be featuring her work all month on this blog.  Here is some of her poetry from Elephant Rocks and Say Uncle.


Intention doesn’t sweeten.
It should be picked young
and eaten. Sometimes only hours
separate the cotyledon 
from the wooden plant.
Then if you want to eat it,
you can’t. From Elephant Rocks
Cotyledon-the primary leaf of the embryo of seed plants.


Why We Must Struggle

If we have not struggled
as hard as we can
at our strongest
how will we sense
the shape of our losses
or know what sustains
us longer or name
what change costs us,
saying how strange
it is that one sector
of the self can step in
for another in trouble,
how loss activates
a latent double, how
we can feed
as upon nectar
upon need?
From Elephant Rocks.  This is a mistake.  This poem is from Say Uncle.  I will be more careful in the future.

Why 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.
From Elephant Rocks

Kay Ryan's Bibliography (There may be more but you will have to look it up.)

Dragon Acts to Dragon Ends, Taylor Street Press (Fairfax, CA), 1983.
Strangely Marked Metal: Poems, Copper Beech Press (Providence, RI), 1985.
Flamingo Watching: Poems, Copper Beech Press (Providence, RI), 1994.
Elephant Rocks, Grove Press (New York, NY), 1996.
  • Say Uncle: Poems, Grove Press (New York, NY), 2000.
  • The Niagra River, Grove Press (New York, NY), 2005.
  • Jam Jar Lifeboat and Other Novelities Exposed, illustrated by Carl Dern, Red Berry Editions (Fairfax, California), 2008.
  • The Best of It: New and Selected Poems, Grove Press (New York, NY), 2010.

Take good care of yourself or I'm gonna talk about you.  I'm serious.  Judaye

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