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This Morning Hardcover – March 13, 2012

3.9 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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About the Author

Michael Ryan is the author of four volumes of poetry, two memoirs, and a collection of essays. He is a professor of English and creative writing at the University of California, Irvine, where he lives with his wife and daughter.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

If in the men’s room of our favorite restaurant
while blissfully pissing riserva spumante
I punch the wall because I am so old,
I promise not to punch too carelessly.

Our friend Franco cooks all night and day
to transform blood and bones to osso buco.
He shouldn’t have to clean them off his wall
or worry that a customer gone cuckoo

has mushed his knuckles like a slugger
whose steroid dosage needs a little tweaking.
My life with you has been beyond beyond
and there’s nothing beyond it I’m seeking.

I just don’t want to leave it, and I am
with every silken bite of tiramisu.
I wouldn’t mind being dead
if I could still be with you.


Although he’s only seven, you can pick him out
from other first-graders: he’s the one wearing
a smirk that says, “What are you afraid of?”
maybe also to himself, if he already suspects his fear
won’t ever be crushed no matter what he does.
But he’s got to try. He snatches spiders bare-fingered
to wave in girls’ faces, bites a worm in half
dangling the two ends from his mouth like fangs,
somersault-dismounts from the jungle gym
the other kids climb off of when he climbs on,
and when he lands unhurt there’s that smirk again
that mocks us for our cowardice.
Don’t hate him for it. It is his only happiness.


Where am I going? The grave.
Who am I being? The slave.
What am I leaving? The fun.
Who will be grieving? No one.

How can I touch you? No way.
Will I ever reach you? Someday.
Why do I need you? Ho ho.
Where will I meet you? You know.


What she couldn’t give me
she gave me those long nights
she sat up with me feverish
and sweating in my sleep
when I had no idea whatsoever
what she had to do to suffer
the pain her body dealt her
to assuage the pain in mine.

That was a noble privacy —
her mothering as a practice of patience.
How deeply it must have stretched her
to watch me all night with her nerves
crying for rest while my fever
spiked under the washcloths
she passed between my forehead
and her dishpan filled with ice.

That was a noble privacy.
But even then there was so much
unsayable between us,
and why this was now looks so
ludicrous in its old costume of shame
that I wish not that she had just
said it but that I hadn’t been
so furious she couldn’t.


The jolt that opened me to you
and shook me to my toes
needs no implanted seismograph
to read how deep it goes

because it’s still rattling me
into this surprise
that the real dream begins
when I open my eyes

to see you so improbably here
and so entirely true
with all our random ducks lined up
for me to marry you

quacking a glorious Gloria
(transcribed into Duck)
to sexy earthy unnerving love
and astonishing good luck.



Product Details

  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (March 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547684592
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547684598
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,264,837 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
'This Morning' is my first encounter with Michael Ryan's poetry and I selected it because it explored themes I enjoy. When I finished it the first time, I pondered it. Then I read it a second time and I came by my overall rating by averaging the ratings I gave to each poem. And there was definitely a range. Only two received 5 star ratings; three received 1 star; a handful received 4 stars; and the majority received 3 stars. For another reader, though, the results might skew differently.

The thing with poetry is that it's truly a personal experience. One reader may connect with a certain turn of phrase whereas another might consider it trite. And when I read poetry, I try to rate it on its own merits rather than saying one poet or poem is like another, so it might help to know what I look for in poetry.

I prefer poetry that has a steady underlying and unmistakable heartbeat, not necessarily achieved through lyricism, but through syntactical choices. This draws me into the poem. That is where some of Ryan's poems lost me--they had what I'd call chronic cardiac arrhythmia. In some instances it worked for the poem--this slight devation in rhythm--to bring attention to a particular point or theme. But it didn't work in others.

Issues of rhythm aside, I also enjoy lyricism and wordplay. Ryan was masterful at painting a scene and a moment with broad brush strokes as in 'Melanoma Clinic Infusion Center Waiting Area' and 'Here I Am'. A few of his poems were thought-provoking like 'In the Mirror' and clever like 'Mug' and poingnant like 'My Young Mother'. Though a few other poems did graze the surface of gratuitous vulgarity (which is where I say that people either annoyed by or who would rather avoid profanity should skip this collection).
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Many poets nowadays are wary of writing or reading about the urbane, the ordinary, the middle class (even though a great deal of them are all three) but not Michael Ryan. Like Robert Duncan or Charles Bukowski he is frank about where he comes from and who he is, no affectation involved. Being one of those fantastique aforementioned poets myself I found it difficult to say anything in praise or blame of this collection, though I can definitely say it expanded my horizons. The most effective poem in this sparse, extremely accessible collection was the poet's elegiac piece on his mother:


'live your values' said a voice
that wasn't a voice at all.
although I heard it on the phone
when I picked up the phone to call

my mother, who died
six months ago.
What was I thinking of?
I know

she's dead. I touched her hands
(a knuckle, really - and very lightly)
as she lay in the silk-lined box.
I absolutely

couldn't kiss her sunken face goodbye
as others were able to.
After I knelt near her a while,
there was nothing else to do

because she needed nothing form me.
How can a life be 'done'?
Done also what life was to her
alone, which no one

else can comprehend,
even (or especially) her son.
Is this why I forgot she's dead
and picked up the phone

to punch in her number
believing she'd answer,
and my brain said what she'd say
to me? Is she not done with me?

This is a formidable piece and a meditation on mortality which I will certainly never forget. Though I admittedly prefer poetry from the aether as they say, I will be on the lookout for what Michael Ryan does in the future.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Michael Ryan has garnered a lot of attention from his previous books of poetry as well as his published memoir, autobiography and essay collections. After being introduced to his talent in this collection THIS MORNING the next order of business is to search for more. This is a man who can plumb the depths of dark emotions, deal with issues of death and dying, sexual probings, and still celebrate the tongue in cheek humor of human frailty - including his own. He mixes his style of writing, at times incorporating obvious rhyme and at other times hiding the rhyming words in places with one poem that makes them jump off the page and give another reason to immediately re-read that poem again.

On attribute of his that is particularly unique and refreshing is his ability to take a subject that is loaded with historic response and switch the emphasis so that the reader takes a different journey with him. For example, in his poem DACHAU we feel ready to revisit the horrors of the camps, but instead the port simply walks though the little village where the inhabitants are more engaged with life as it is now. He inserts the following: 'It means humans can do anything/to one another and go on living' and then he reflects on reading about Iraq and Guantánamo tortures and his subtle point is made.
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