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Elephant Rocks: Poems Paperback – August 19, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (August 19, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802135250
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802135254
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,483,979 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ryan's third book of poems, following Flamingo Watching (1994), is a meditation on a quirky, quixotic natural world full of animal-shaped rocks and other oddities ("There could be an island paradise/ where crustaceans prevail"). In a style characterized by formal elegance and extreme economy of language ("As some people age,/ they kinden"), Ryan's work is a unique blend of careful observation of the external world of sensation and a faithful documentation of the inner world of thought. Her work recalls Dickinson's in substance as in directness: "We know it is close/ to something lofty./ Simply getting over being sick/ or finding lost property." Although at times her terse, rhyming verses have the patness of nursery rhymes ("A thought is dumb,/ without eyes, ears,/ opposable thumb,/ or a tongue"), her best poems are resonant and memorable precisely because they are so compressed and because the images they contain are so insightfully and provocatively given: "The grains shall be collected/ from the thousand shores/ to which they found their way,/ and the boulder restored."
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Once an object or a word becomes familiar, it may be difficult to interpret it freshly. Ryan is remarkably dexterous at slanting the poetic light upon commonplaces to disclose previously unknown contours. Nothing is too prosaic for her, but she likes words best, for they are especially subject to a chemistry "which dissolves / or doubles / their strength." Her short lines and plain speech underline her researchlike diligence with a simplicity of statement that belies the depth of her poems, which is greater than a first glance sees, as when contemplation of the word crib leads to questioning of humanity's worthiness of the baby Jesus: "Note, for instance, in our / annual rehearsals of innocence, / the substitution of manger for crib--/ as if we ever deserved that baby, / or thought we did." Under Ryan's scrutiny, words definitely double their strength, and the ordinary dissolves. Elizabeth Millard --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Xworders@aol.com on May 26, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Once every couple of generations, an original thinker manages to refresh an art form that had seemed exhausted. Kay Ryan has done this with poetry. Her poems rhyme--but not in the ways and places you expect. They're metrical--but only according to the author's own quirky standard. They're short, tight, and disciplined--and yet they allow language to sprawl and luxuriate. Best of all, they're musical. Not a single one of them bounces along in a stanzaic quatrain the way a traditional lyric would; instead, these poems are densely packed, with beautiful interior rhymes and echoes chiming away in a miniature space.
One final paradox: Although these poems are not confessional (they do not contain personal remembrances, hurts, or hopes), they gradually reveal an intensely individual mind--a lucid, generous, and humorous one.
In my opinion Kay is the best, most beautiful poet working in the English language today. She has quietly reinvented rhyming poetry according to her own peculiar--but very logical--rules. I consider her best poems to be miraculous.
In admiration,
Henry Rathvon
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Katha Pollitt on November 29, 1998
Format: Paperback
I loved this book. Kay Ryan's poems are very short, but they pack so much ambiguous meaning in a few lines. They're quite unusual among contemporary poetry: epigrammatic, terse, very accessible, almost light verse, but with shadows flickering all around. I give this book to friends who say they "don't get modern poetry" and that modern poetry makes them feel stupid. If you like Stevie Smith or the short verses of Robert Frost, you'll love Elephant Rocks. Here's a short one, called "Silence":
Silence is not snow./ It cannot grow/ deeper. A thousand years/ of it are thinner/ than paper. so/ we must have it/ all wrong/ when we feel trapped/ like mastodons.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A. MacFarlane on November 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had to stop reading this book on the bus because it caused me to blubber like a baby! Ms. Ryan's words pour into your soul like water, filling you up and spilling over your face. Seldom does a writer have such a command over both sound and sense--that's what makes her a true poet. And, like the best poetrty, this book should be enjoyed in a quiet, intimate environment, read aloud to the one you love best. An absolutely wonderful book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By From Elder on October 21, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The language is direct, the imagery strong. Further, unlike too much of modern verse, it doesn't pomp itself with convolution or obscurity. Each piece warrants a second and third reading, each time revealing a bit more of the mind that enscribed it. Highly recommended.
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