Starred Review. Ryan, the current U.S. poet laureate, may well be the oddest and wisest poet to hold that prestigious post. Her tiny, skinny poems pack a punch unlike anything else in contemporary poetry, though not unlike haiku, if haiku could be cut with a dash of Groucho Marx. This, her first retrospective volume, which also contains a book's worth of new poems, is a much-needed introduction to the work of one of our best and most accessible poets. She asks the necessary questions hiding just beneath the obvious ones: Why isn't it all/ more marked,/ why isn't every wall/ graffitied, every park tree/ stripped/... / Not why people are; why not more violent? Odd rhymes draw crystal clear relations between disparate thoughts we never realized had always gone together: As/ though our garden/ could be one bean/ and we'd rejoice if/ it flourishes, as/ though one bean/ could nourish us. Pithy poems manage to encapsulate far more than their few words should be able to hold, as in Bitter Pill, a new poem: A bitter pill/ doesn't need/ to be swallowed/ to work. Just/ reading your name/ on the bottle/ does the trick. Sassy, smart, and deep as they are hilarious, Ryan's poems are among the best. (Mar.)
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*Starred Review* This ample but representative collection should attract new readers curious about the work of America’s current poet laureate and should also satisfy those familiar with Ryan’s conversational but tightly wrought poems. Her strength lies in creating short-lined poems that slide past the reader like notes from a journal but that, unlike many such efforts, are not merely self-indulgent anecdotes or predictable bromides. Rather, readers find surprise arising from each incident or pondering, creating an effect like that of the classical Zen haiku that starts out commonplace and rises to philosophical heights. Ryan’s observation of a spider weaving begins with a comment on how “from other / angles the / fibers look / fragile,” then embeds itself in the spider’s own viewpoint, from which those fibers are “coarse ropes” requiring “heavy work” to get in place in the web. The point of this close reading of insect life reveals itself in the last lines: “It / isn’t ever / delicate / to live.” Ryan’s work is best read slowly and observing intervals between poems, for the similarity of form among them risks dulling the attention when they are read one quickly after another. Also, her work, consistently excellent as it is, deserves careful reading. --Patricia MonaghanSee all Editorial Reviews
the best of it: new and selected poems is a great read where less is definitely more. I can assure you this is paring down the words you need to say something profound. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Sueellen N. Byram
Some formal aspects of Kay Ryan's poetry have already been remarked upon a lot, e.g., the sporadic and imperfect rhymes (which are nice but can also be a little too much... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Eitan
This is standard practice for all written poetry - whether on paper or online. It's not hard to do - and shows poor conversion skills from paper to Kindle.Published 11 months ago by Hal
Ms Ryan has the ability to penetrate into the subtleties and nuances of ordinary experiences and relationships and deploy them to captivate the reader in a direct and homey way. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Sherab K
I love the the attention to the line in her poetry. I love the way she plays with rhyme, but the rhymes are not usually at line's end. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Louise T. Taylor
Philosophy for infants ('Where is is/when is is was?'), this is both cutesy and prosaic. Take away the line breaks and what do you get? Read morePublished on May 30, 2013 by Simon Barrett 'Il Penseroso'
lip-smacking poems, all of them ! Kay is a rollicking good read. Come and get it, you'll be glad you did.Published on February 26, 2013 by Rosemary Powell
Read from start to finish, then read it again. There is no poem that is not a delight to the mind, especially for those that hunger after great poetry. Read morePublished on January 25, 2013 by Cathy Jewell