Read The Best of It: New and Selected Poems by Kay Ryan Online


Kay Ryan, named the Pulitzer Prize Winner for Poetry 2010, is just the latest in an amazing array of accolades for this wonderfully accessible, widely loved poet. She was appointed the Library of Congress’s sixteenth poet laureate from 2008 to 2010. Salon has compared her poems to “Fabergé eggs, tiny, ingenious devices that inevitably conceal some hidden wonder.” The two hKay Ryan, named the Pulitzer Prize Winner for Poetry 2010, is just the latest in an amazing array of accolades for this wonderfully accessible, widely loved poet. She was appointed the Library of Congress’s sixteenth poet laureate from 2008 to 2010. Salon has compared her poems to “Fabergé eggs, tiny, ingenious devices that inevitably conceal some hidden wonder.” The two hundred poems in Ryan’s The Best of It offer a stunning retrospective of her work, as well as a swath of never-before-published poems of which are sure to appeal equally to longtime fans and general readers....

Title : The Best of It: New and Selected Poems
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ISBN : 9780802119148
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 265 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Best of It: New and Selected Poems Reviews

  • s.p
    2019-02-02 11:55

    The Best of It collects new and selected poems from sixteenth US Poet Laureate Kay Ryan’s career covering 1993-2005. A highly decorated poet, Ryan teaches English at the College of Marin in California (her partner Carol Adair also taught there until her death in 2009) and has released eight collections of poetry. Ryan write tight little poems teeming with figurative language and marching to a rhythmic beat to emphasize her rhyme schemes that marries the traditional poetry styles of old with modern poetry.The Edges of TimeIt is at the edges that time thins.Time which had beendense and viscousas amber suspendingintentions like beesunseizes them. Ahumming begins,apparently comingfrom stacks of put–off things orjust in back. Aracket of claims now,as time flattens. Aglittering fan of thingscompeting to happen,brilliant and urgentas fish when seasretreat.Ryan often takes a small, specific idea or moment, and unlocks a quick insight, offering a surprising amount of depth from such a small idea and in such small paper space. While her poems rarely exceed a few short lines, they are filled with poetic devices and charge forward to the rhythmic quality of her words. She fuses her techniques together so well that it is difficult to tell which device was the ultimate goal for the poem, all of them working together in unison to create a brief immaculate image. This rhythm, often iambic, gives the poetry an older feel to it, and allows her to construct interesting rhyme structures. Many of her rhymes are interior rhymes that are brought out and highlighted by the rhythm of her words.AtlasExtreme exertionisolates a personfrom help,discovered Atlas.Once a certainshoulder-to-burdenratio collapses,there is so littleothers can do:they can’t lend a handwith Braziland not standon Peru.I must admit, however, that the rhythm and rhymes of her poetry is my greatest complain with it. It is cute and fun at times, but it is often too much. The rhyming to her poems is like eating a piece of cake with frosting so rich that you cannot take more than a few bites without feeling sick. Much of her poetry is playful and witty, while always retaining an overall seriousness to the poem, yet the playfulness did not charm me the way it does with, say, Billy Collins. I hate to say it, but reading this reminded me of why I love Collins and I felt that Ryan pales in comparison. However, that is not a fair comparison to make, as both poets have radically different styles and goals, but all in all I prefer Collins. There were some very touching poems in here, and several that did grab me. For example, I loved her poem on Hide & Seek, which really reminded me of my 2 year old daughter and her current ‘hiding method’ of standing in the middle of the room with a blanket over her head yelling ‘Where Tilly go?!’: Hide & SeekIt’s hard notto jump outinstead ofwaiting to befound. It’shard to bealone so longand then hearsomeone comearound. It’slike some formof skin’s developedin the airthat, ratherthan have torn,you tear.Ryan does take a fun look at poetry as an art form and often uses it as a commentary on other poets. A good quarter of the poems contained in this collection begin with the quote to which they are either inspired by, or in response to. Marianne Moore, Annie Dillard, and Joseph Brodsky are the most common writers spoken to through poetry, and there are several poems based on facts from Ripely’s Believe It Or Not!, such as her poem on stage productions or her poem about Matrigupta (Matrigupta wrote a poem that so pleased Rajah Vicraama Ditya that he was given the state of Kashmir for his efforts, which he ruled from 118-123 until abdicating to become a recluse). She even dedicates a poem to W.G. Sebald:He Lit a Fire With IciclesThis was the workof St. Sebolt, oneof his miracles:he lit a fire withicicles. He struckthem like a steelto flint, did St.Sebolt. Itmakes senseonly at a certainbody heat. Howcold he hadto get to learnthat ice wouldburn. How coldhe had to stay.When he couldfeel his feethe had toback away.Her commentary on language, translation and poetry in general are some of the best aspects of this collection.Poetry is a Kind of MoneyPoetry is a kind of moneywhose value depends upon reserves.It’s not the paper it’s written onor its self-announced denomination,but the bullion, sweated from the earthand hidden, which preserves its worth.Nobody knows how this works,and how can it? Why does somethingstacked in some secret bank or cabinet,some miser’s trove, far back, lambent,and gloated over by its golem, make usso solemnly convinced of the transactionwhen Mandelstam says love, evenin translation? As a sort of ‘best of’, this collection left me a bit underwhelmed. There were some wonderful and touching poems, but much did not particularly grab me. I can see why many people would really enjoy her poetry, and reading a bit about her life reveals an impressive woman with a wonderful mind, but this just fell a bit flat for me. I did enjoy her method of blending the traditional with the modern, and the way her poem often spoke to the title, either allowing the title to be the actual first lines, or to posit and idea that the poem would then look up to the top of the page at and deconstruct. It was the rhyming and overly bouncy rhythm that wore thin on me, which happened in far too many poems. Which may be a point of personal pretention as I don’t mind rhyming in older poems, but in these it just felt, well, cheesy and often times forced. It occasionally played out in my head like corny rap lyrics that would be sung over preset Casio beats. This is still a great collection to sample however, and if you enjoy rhyming poetry you might end up adoring Kay Ryan. She is deserving of praise.3/5 FailureLike slimeinside astagnant tankits greendeepeningfrom limeto emeralda dankbut lessephemeralefflorescencethan successis in general.The Best of ItHowever carved upor pared down we get,we keep on makingthe best of it as thoughit doesn’t matter thatour acre’s down toa square foot. Asthough our gardencould be one beanand we’d rejoice ifit flourishes, asthough one beancould nourish us.Among English VerbsAmong English verbs,"to die" is oddest in itseagerness to be "dead",immodest in itshaste to be told-a verb alchemicalin the head:one speck of its goldand a whole life's lead.Green HillsTheir green flanksand swells are notflesh in any sensematching ours,we tell ourselves.Nor their greenbreast nor theirgreen shoulder northe languor of theirrolling over.

  • Miriam
    2019-02-12 13:10

    A life should leavedeep tracks:ruts where shewent out and backto get the mailor move the hosearound the yard;where she used tostand before the sink,a worn-out place;beneath her handthe china knobsrubbed down towhite pastilles;the switch sheused to feel forin the darkalmost erased.Her things shouldkeep her marks.The passageof a life should show;it should abrade.And when life stops,a certain space—however small—should be left scarredby the grand anddamaging parade.Things shouldn’tbe so hard.

  • Dale Harcombe
    2019-02-01 19:09

    Despite winning the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2010 and being the United States Poet Laureate 2008-2010, this poet was unfamiliar to me as my knowledge of American poetry is not extensive. I was excited to discover her work and looked forward to delving into this collection of poems chosen by her as representative of her earlier and later poems. The book contains over 200 poems. That alone makes it worth investing time in.I particularly liked Virga. In this poem I liked the use of internal rhyme throughout. Others I liked included:The Edges of TimePolish and BalmRetroactiveShiftSpiderwebPatienceTuneThings Shouldn’t Be So HardStardustThinChopI liked the way the poet often started with an object and let thoughts and ideas fan out from it. In some poems I found the rhymes a little intrusive but that was the exception rather than the rule. At first read I wasn’t as impressed as I had expected to be given the status of this poet, but in re-read the poems crept upon me and pulled me in. This is an enjoyable and polished collection I am sure I will return to.

  • Jesse
    2019-02-14 14:08

    Along with Anne Carson, Kay Ryan has long been my favorite contemporary poet, so I was pleased to see her become our Poet Laureate a few years back, and then delighted to attend a reading and lecture last year, which is where I picked up this collection. She signed it "for Jesse from the San Joaquin," as I had asked her where exactly she had grown up, and the location turned out to be as small and unknown as my own hometown (though only about 45 minutes apart, neither of us had heard of the other, something which is not surprising). As for now, we're both Central Valley expats settled in the Bay Area. I've often seen Ryan's poems described as fine cut diamonds, and I won't bother trying to come up with a better description—each are remarkably compact (about the length of a typical stanza), constructed with a dazzling precision and conciseness, and sparkle endlessly with wit and insight. I revisit this often with much pleasure.

  • Jennifer
    2019-01-30 12:45

    Lets face it, poetry is the wheat grass juice of literature. Everyone says that it's great for you (and it is) but it smells like your lawn and tastes like gritty pond scum.When someone wants to look too smart for the room, poetry is the stick they beat you with. When someone wants to show how dramatic, artsy and depressed they are, it's the prop of choice. Emo kids love it. As do the elderly.For me, poetry was in the same catagory as the advanced Maths: I know they exist and I'm sure someone else is taking care of it. Kay Ryan's work is not something I read to impress anyone or to make myself feel smarter. I read an essay on her work and it made want to try it. I fully expected to skim or quit after four or five pages. I surprised myself. It took some adjustments on my part. Normally, I read quickly, but I kept getting lost and tangled up. My brain couldn't get the beats right in the rhyme scheme. So, I read the poems outloud and slowly. It's not like any other reading I've done.I've seen some of the Goodreads reviews of this book and some people (who are much more familiar and literate with poetry) have complained that the collection isn't deep or revelatory or whatever. They may be right, I'm not qualified to answer that. I just know that many of them made me laugh or think or feel a little sad.So I'm now one of those annoying people that could, if they wanted to, discuss poetry. I guess stranger things have happened; although I bet it's a pretty short list.

  • Joan Winnek
    2019-02-01 17:57

    I'm going to return this book to the library, then request it again. A list of poems I especially like: Shift, Spiderweb, Leaving Spaces, Force, Persiflage, Caught. And here is a short poem that exemplifies what I like about Kay Ryan.EMPTINESSEmptiness cannot becompressed. Nor can itfight abuse. Nor is therean endless West hostingelk, antelope, and thetough cayuse. This istrue also of the mind:it can get used.3/31/12I love this book so much that it's hard to mark it read, as I'm sure it will stay on my reading table for me to dip into time and time again. So many of the poems have personal meaning for me. I have read one at a time when it directly informed my inner life--more than once.

  • Jee Koh
    2019-02-05 14:50

    Smart, inventive, observant, the poems of Kay Ryan are a genuine delight. The lesser poems in this New and Selected are the fallouts of her strengths. When the love for epigram trumps the fire of imagination. When the final rhyming pair clicks shut but the box is empty. "Things Shouldn't Be So Hard" affords a rare glimpse into the private life. It leaves me wanting more, not for the sake of voyeurism, but for the sake of the complete victory.

  • Mike Lindgren
    2019-02-14 16:02

    The poems in Kay Ryan's astonishing collection "The Best of It: New and Selected Poems" are so crisp and immediate that they seem effortless. It is only upon closer inspection that these little miracles of compression begin to give up their secrets, their engaging surfaces gradually yielding ever more layers of nuance.Ryan's verse reminds one not so much of conventional narrative poems as of some cunningly made artifacts, like those tiny Russian nesting dolls, or an exquisite enameled box that, unsprung, yields an interior vista of startling clarity."The Best of It" collects four previous volumes, going back to 1994, and adds 24 new poems. The trajectory of a poet's career in this country, today, does not usually conform to a smooth, triumphalist incline, so it is satisfying to know that Kay Ryan is serving as the U.S. Poet Laureate -- a kind of ambassador for the art.Taken as a whole, "The Best of It" displays an astounding consistency of tone and quality, with the later work and the new poems perhaps shading a bit toward an elegant midcareer austerity.One of the many charms here is accessibility: the poems tend toward the bite-size (only a few spill over onto a second page), and their initial effect is of a pleasing briskness, free of the dense opacity and deliberate "difficulty" that makes so much contemporary poetry into the readerly equivalent of a trip to the dentist.Ryan crafts startling rhymes ("hibiscus / to kiss," and "cracked / exact") and jittery rhythms that often stop short or feature a stress falling on an unexpected syllable, with a sideways hop. They are little exploders of cliche: "A bitter pill doesn't need to be swallowed to work," begins one, while waiting for "The Other Shoe" to drop wouldn't be so bad "if the undropped / didn't congregate / with the undropped . . . acquiring density / and weight."This is not to say that Ryan's poems are glib or facile; on the contrary, they often address abstractions and proclaim paradoxes with vigor, as in "Forgetting":"Forgetting takes space. Forgotten matters displace / as much anything else as / anything else." For all their colloquial style and down-home wit, Ryan's poems tend to circle deeply philosophical issues."Whatever is done," states one, "leaves a hole in the / possible." Ryan's words mirror her mind, in the sense that both are quick and idiosyncratic, likely to land on the unlikely but inspired thought.These gifts call to mind some illustrious predecessors, including Emily Dickinson, Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore and Robert Frost. Despite the echoes, though, Ryan is so arresting and genuinely original that her book stays in the mind in a way unlike much contemporary poetry, so often impenetrable and self-absorbed. In today's world of exploding self-expression and relentless ephemera, Kay Ryan sticks.FROM THE CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER, April 13, 2010.

  • James Murphy
    2019-02-15 17:45

    I was steered toward reading Kay Ryan by a critical appraisal comparing her to Dickinson. I think the comparison fitting. Ryan's poems, too, are short, stabbing darts which are deceptively simple and easy. The brevity of her form helps to create the deception, but held within the rind of that simple form is a denser, meatier thought. The reader's task, as with all poetry, is to peel away the rind to get at the pulp within. Each of the poems in The Best of It, like Dickinson's poems, is a radiance. They take as their subjects the everyday and the common. Simple, basic titles like "Cloud" and "Coming and Going" and "How Birds Sing" head each page like branches from which is hung ripe and philosophical fruit. They're difficult and opaque but Ryan isn't as Delphic as Dickinson. She tells it slant just as Dickinson famously did--in fact, a poem here carries that title, "Slant"--but she's sleek and streamlined for our times, and I think that the elegance and nimbleness of her expression and rhyming helps to illuminate her work. Sometimes a Ryan poem will light its own way, will throw a beacon to guide the reader. This was my first experience with Ryan. Now I want to read the rest of it.

  • Heather Hasselle
    2019-02-02 12:04

    I ate these poems in a night. They're small and contain a satisfying crunch, like cereal. With every spoonful of a poem, you'll crave more. When at the end, you've consumed them all, pour yourself another bowl and do it all over again.

  • Roxanne Russell
    2019-02-19 12:47

    It's her politenessone loathes: how sheisn't insistent, howshe won't impose, hownothing's so urgentit won't wait. Likea meek guest you tolerateshe goes her way--the museyou'd have leap at your throat,you'd spring to obey.Kay Ryan really knocks me out. Even with a conscious effort to show some restraint, I flagged 18 poems in this collection. Every poem is a tiny little juggernaut of language mastery and universal insight.She never uses first person, yet these poems can be intensely personal. Her entry points and tricky exits taught me more about composition than all the years I taught ENG 101.

  • Chiuho
    2019-02-20 14:56

    This is the one of book I enjoyed the most in my recent poetry marathon.on the review of the cover stated that great poetry inspire us with the music of language and force of wisdom. I felt that about this collection.LossesMost losses add something - a new socket or silence,a gap in a personalarchipelago od islands.We have that difference to visit - itselfa going -on of sorts.But there are other lossesso far beyond reportthat they leave holesin holes onlylikes the ends of the long and lonely livesof castawaysthought dead but not..

  • C
    2019-02-21 19:09

    murakami deals with this and gets it right, 'just once i'd like my fill of love' we exist in our core, those living ones of us, who would enter my republican "we" willingly, as insatiable both through a base insatiability but also through our ineffable ability for the ineffable in our own personal fantastic constructionsdon't read these poems

  • Sarah
    2019-02-20 14:02

    In my bookcase for a few years - the bookcase closest to my bed. A collection I keep returning to.

  • Mandy
    2019-02-04 13:50

    I had a lot of things to do today, but none of them got done. These are short, crisp poems that seem like they’d be easy to breeze through, acerbic little bites that are often more cerebral than emotional. But I lingered over them, re-reading them and, when I’d finished the book, flipping back to the beginning to read them again. I also spent a good deal of time trying to foist them on other people. I’m not sure how successful I’ve been, so here: I’ll take a stab with you, too.LosslessMost losses add something —a new socket or silence,a gap in a personalarchipelago of islands.We have that differenceto visit — itselfa going-on of sorts.But there are other lossesso far beyond reportthat they leave holesin holes onlylike the ends of thelong and lonely livesof castawaysthought dead but not.Glass SlippersDespite the hard luckof the ugly stepsistersmost people’s feet will fitinto glass slippers.The arch rises, the heeltapers, the toes alignin descending orderand the whole thing slideswithout talcum powderinto the test slipper.We can shape to thedreams of another; we areeager to yield. It is amutual pleasure to the holderof the slipper and to thefoot held. It is a singularmoment — tender, improbable,and as yet unclouded by theproblems that hobble the pairwhen they discover thatthe matching slipperisn’t anywhere, nor doesthe bare foot even sharethe shape of the other.When they compare,the slippered foot makesthe other odder: it lookslike a hoof. So many miraclesdon’t start back far enough.TurtleWho would be a turtle who could help it?A barely mobile hard roll, a four-oared helmet,she can ill afford the chances she must takein rowing toward the grasses that she eats.Her track is graceless, like dragginga packing-case places, and almost any slopedefeats her modest hopes. Even being practical,she's often stuck up to the axle on her wayto something edible. With everything optimal,she skirts the ditch which would converther shell into a serving dish. She livesbelow luck-level, never imagining some lotterywill change her load of pottery to wings.Her only levity is patience,the sport of truly chastened things.DoubtA chick has just so much timeto chip its way out, just so muchegg energy to apply to the weakest spotor whatever spot it started at.It can’t afford doubt. Who can?Doubt uses albumenat twice the rate of work.One backward look by any of uscan cost what it cost Orpheus.Neither may you answerthe stranger’s knock;you know it is the Person from Porlockwho eats dreams for dinner,his napkin stained the most delicate colors.

  • Tristan
    2019-01-21 12:04

    I bought this book solely based on the first poem, "Odd Blocks," because it had a lot of depth to it, a ton of metaphor and distinction and self-awareness that makes you think about all those "monuments to randomness." Beautiful, thoughtful, poignant; couldn't ask for a better poem. I was surprised! Why had I never heard of this Kay Ryan before? Indeed, after buying it I was going to write a review which began, "It's rare that you feel you got your entire money's worth from a book just on the first page."Unfortunately that turned out to be a all too true. Little did I know that the rest of Kay Ryan's poems did not follow in the footsteps of this one. Most often they are subtle observations, but not simple in a good way, it's the simplicity on *this* side of complexity if you catch my drift; simplicity without meaning, simplicity without understanding, and a rhyme here and there almost as if it were the purpose. I initially spent a great deal of time looking, searching, digging; trying to find anything under the surface of each poem. Eventually I gave up. Oh yes, that's a tree. And now you're writing about your pen, and just your pen, oh and how your pen writes, and how one once compared it to a sword (oh, never read that before). Apologies for being cynical, but I really tried, and couldn't find, any value in most of these poems. They just left me with sort of a "huh" feeling, and eventually as though I had wasted my time. There are a lot of great poets out there elucidating ideas you never knew existed in ways you never thought possible, and they are worth your time; Kay Ryan appears to be a simple poet shedding light on what is already lit in tried and true ways. What's the point?Except for in that first one. And you can read it right on Amazon or Google Books. "Odd Blocks" is the best, and only good poem in this entire collection. Save your money and just read that one. Almost makes me wonder if she stumbled on that metaphor by mistake. If she were trying surely she would have succeeded a good three or four more times, but that's not the case in this collection. Very unfortunate.

  • Jimmy
    2019-01-22 19:53

    I have to express a lot of disappointment reading this collection. I had to keep pressing my snooze alarm to prevent myself from falling asleep. It was quite telling to look down the list of titles in the Table of Contents. Not one caught my eye as something different or exciting. And the poems themselves were the same way: just very boring. Here's an example of one of the best: Drops in the BucketAt firsteach dropmakes itsown pockagainst the tin. In timethere is a thin lacquerwhich is layered and relayeredtill there'sa quantity of water with its own skinand senseof purpose, shocked at each new violation of its surface. And here's the title poem: The Best of ItHowever carved upor pared down we get, we keep on making the best of it as though it doesn't matter that our acre's down to a square foot. As though our garden could be one bean and we'd rejoice if it flourishes, as though one bean could nourish us. Nice poems, but there are no better ones, and plenty of worse ones. And they are mostly in the same style. If Kay Ryan made poet laureate, then I got a shot at winning the nobel prize for bleeping literature.

  • Jason
    2019-02-02 11:43

    Glaciers, ribbons, thieves. These are the reoccurring images from Ryan's poetry that stuck with me after reading this "best of" collection.For my taste, Ryan's poems are too philosophical in nature. Most lack driving images. It's like she's musing about life, breaking the lines after every other words and tossing in slant rhymes like Dickinson and normal rhymes like Frost. Ryan's poems are like little bitty nuggets. As soon as they start, they are over. Few of her poems have a turn.Too many times she relies on questions--e.g. "Don't you wonder / how people think / the banks of space / and time don't matter?" and "Nobody knows how this works, / and how can it?"Finally, I felt like she never developed as a a poet in this collection. The poems she published in 2010 could have easily appeared in his 1994 collection, and vise versa.Despite all this, I still found a few poems I liked:CribThe PharaohsSpiderwebGlass SlippersDrops in the BucketThe Well or the CupLighthouse Keeping

  • John Pappas
    2019-02-03 13:55

    Ryan's immaculately measured voice occasionally dips into a dry wryness but always re-emerges to retain a deft control over her deceptively simple word-play. These poems about art, the natural world and scientific phenomena seem, at first glance, to be casually observational. A second, third or fourth look at each reveals much more.This collection, augmenting selections from previous works with new poems, is not only filled with superb work that stands alone, but many poems are arranged so that the work is juxtaposed with another poem that serves as a mirror, foil or analogue. Seeing each work in the light of others from her ouevre is enlightening and energizing.

  • Mike Jensen
    2019-01-27 19:49

    Is this worth reading? Well over 90% of these poems are not. There is nothing breathtaking in the language, and few of these poems have a governing idea that seems profound enough to write a poem about. I am baffled by her popularity and the high rating others have given this book. There are occasional poems, perhaps eight in this collection, which the author considers her best work, which express something in a very nice way. These were good enough that I make myself slog through the rest hoping for more. I guess it was worth it, but barely. Not to my taste, clearly.

  • Michael Vagnetti
    2019-02-02 13:49

    Formulaic, backhandedly accomplished poems from the former U.S. Poet Laureate. A remodeler of banalities, she chooses the most accessible, earthbound subjects. The modality is one of pause-and-reflect on a pinned and mounted object. There is a ceiling on the ambition of the poems, whose resolutions are catholic, and are padded out by styrofoam wisdom. Her prosody is ailing; the repeating cascades have nearly the same time value - each are about 15 lines. Her non-reading of the subject of "Outsider Art" is a litmus test for edginess, and it fails.

  • Kate
    2019-01-23 17:43

    This poet was recommended to me by my poetry TA after I had read Sylvia Plath's collected poetry. Suffice it to say that I do not like Kay Ryan nearly as much as Plath. I have to give her credit, though, because the poems I did like were clever and thought-provoking and some of them were pretty good. But overall, I don't think poets are as awesome as they used to be. I mean, Walt Whitman? He's an amazing poet and no one really writes like him anymore. Kay Ryan, though, is a good poet for her time and I definitely don't regret reading her collected works.

  • Scott
    2019-01-24 17:56

    Love this collection, for this poem in particular: The Edges of TimeIt is at the edgesthat time thins.Time which had beendense and viscousas amber suspendingintentions like beesunseizes them. Ahumming begins,apparently comingfrom stacks ofput-off things orjust in back. Aracket of claims now,as time flattens. Aglittering fan of thingscompeting to happen,brilliant and urgentas fish when seasretreat.

  • Heather Mize
    2019-02-18 19:55

    It's not what Kay Ryan does with language as much as what she does with simple and yet beautiful observations about life in general. In a somewhat witty, whimsical, and sometimes even soft way she takes the most casual yet unseen truths of our lives and shows them to us gently.

  • Delphine
    2019-02-12 17:50

    A refreshing collection of work. The gift of Kay's writing is not what's on the surface, but the many layers of genius embedded in each syllable, rhyme, and the linguistic etymology, then a reader is able to appreciate her astute logic and clever turn of phrase. I admire that the work doesn't speak down to its reader, but rather requires us as readers to think. This is not fluff & stuff inspirational quote/self help "poetry". This is the work of poetic craft mastered by a Pulitzer Prize & Laureate poet. Brilliant!

  • Lisa Rector
    2019-01-30 11:43

    Favorite poems - Failure 2, Drops in the Bucket, Mysteries, Three Street Musicians, Spiderweb, Flamingo Watching, Apology, A Certain Kind of Eden, Les Natures Profondement Bonnes Sont Toujours Indecises, So Different, Deer, Snake Charm, The Palm at the End of the Mind, Say Uncle, Mockingbird, Patience, That Will to Divest, Winter Fear, Beasts, The Pass, The Pieces That Fall to Earth, It's Always Darkest Just Before the Dawn, Cheshire, Great Thoughts, Bad Day, and Matrigupta.

  • John
    2019-01-26 16:59

    I have read several of Ryan's books individually. I love her poems. She is truly a modern day Emily Dickinson.This is a good collection that gives a sampling of all of her books, plus some new poems (at the time published).I think one of this country's greatest poets and would recommend her for the sheer brilliance, word play, insights, and depth.And she is easy to read and grasp.

  • Jennifer M. Hartsock
    2019-02-03 19:44

    Kay Ryan’s poetry is a blend of logical quirks and unexpected rhymes. We wouldn’t know it until later, but Ryan herself is full of wit and wisdom, as well. It took Ryan several years for her work to become recognized, beforehand self-publishing her first collection. Ryan is described as a “go-getter.” She knew what she wanted to gain through writing, and patiently waited until others finally noticed her talent. For many artists, instant gratification is always a motivator to keep going—but Ryan taught us that toughing out the unnoticeable years will pay off in the end if you stick to your craft. In Ryan’s poem “Spiderweb,” she uses what she calls “recombinant rhyme”—internal rhyme—as well as conveying a moral of persona and the inner self. For instance, the lines: “…always hauling coarse ropes, hitching line to the best posts…” and, “…wincing up give. It isn’t ever delicate to live,” are examples of internal rhyme. In the eye of the spider, it knows how secure and strong its webs are, though from the outsider’s point-of-view, we see a fragile web. We see a “delicate” life for the spider, but a spider’s life is full of “heavy work” that we don’t perceive is there. The moral here is not to judge a book by its cover—you’re often times wrong. There are uses of her internal rhyme in “Flamingo Watching,” as well, with: “goes, furbelows,” “nature, structure,” and, “legs, egg.” The moral of this poem has a different meaning for me than it does to some of my classmates. Ryan’s poem starts out with a description of a flamingo: “she seems unnatural by nature,” and, “…anything she does seems like an act,” and, “…she’s too exact and sinuous to convince an audience she’s serious.” I believe this to mean that those people who flaunt their faith—both being saved and for being a superior person because of it—are the ones who believe they’re the chosen ones. Ryan then writes: “The natural elect… would be less pink… less able to relax their necks… less flamboyant in general,” meaning that the people who give their entire life to humanity—aiding third world countries, donating to charities—living below means in order to spread love and compassion to others—would be the rightful “chosen ones.” The ones who do the right thing without broadcasting their good will, or wanting gratification for their work. Kay Ryan uses nature to touch on the ideals of life. She stays away from fragmented verse, she has created something entirely her own: shifty rhythm and interesting meanings. Ryan takes a lesson, looks at it from a different—a fresh—point-of-view and then applies word-play to convey her message. Whether or not my interpretations of her poems are correct or incorrect, the recognition for ay Ryan’s work, her ability to teach through passion, has finally surfaced.

  • S.D. Johnson
    2019-02-02 13:07

    I see one reviewer has compared Ryan's work to Fabergé eggs & I can see why. I was actually thinking her poems are like enjoying a good potato... They are compact, dense, & delicious. I was so struck with this feeling of them being like a snack that although I enjoyed them immensely I read only a few at a time usually, & since the poems are mostly one page & the books is over 260 pp., it stretched out for over a year. It was enjoyable though because it was more like the experience of encountering Ryan's poems in journals over the years, in which they stand out for their consistent craftsmanship and well-honed language. I was amazed and delighted when I heard that she had been awarded the Pulitzer prize. I never thought that someone consistently writing very compact poems would be so appreciated critically. She is a poet of many contradictions. At times, the languages & images having a very delicate feel to them, but there is also an immense strength here, both verbally and intellectually. Some poems I appreciated a lot more than others, but there were almost none which I found to be of no interest in thought or music. The voice is often quite humorous with a wide range of subject matter from natural history, language, the writing process, loss, daily life... Oh, & Ryan loves French, which is another thing I can appreciate about her. A poet's poet definitely... I shall leave one little jewel in its entirety here from amongst my favorites -ThinHow anythingis knownis so thin--a skin of iceover a pondonly birds mightconfidently walkupon. A bird'sworth of weightor one bird-weightof Wordsworth.

  • Neil
    2019-02-19 12:06

    Back in the day, in college and the years just after, I tried to make it as a poet. I had some degree of success, but without an MFA it didn't seem like a book was in the works and I got tired of the politics. Anyhooo, I think Ryan's process is very similar to what mine was, taking a smal,l quirky idea, often metaphysical, and teasing a little poem out of it. I often felt the need to pad my poems out more, tell more of a story, get more of an event out of it, but I admire her for sticking to her guns, keeping things small, but carving out intricate little layers, ingenious little linguistic tricks, subtle rhyme schemes. I don't think I'll remember these poems very well, but I truly enjoyed them while I read them. They are brimming with small wisdoms. It's a very unique style and one I'm glad to see somebody making a go of.