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The experience of reading this collection is a little like going on a country walk with an exceptional guide; one who knows her landscape intimately because she's lived in it and watched it closely. Ryan will stop and point out what seems to be an ordinary-looking stone that suddenly, before our eyes, gets up and walks away. The poems are short, full of sly rhymes and wonderfully encapsulated descriptions.

Who hasn't seen a plain ordinary steel needle float serene on water as if lying on a pillow?

ISBN 13: 9780802115867

The water cuddles up like Jell-O. It's a treat to see water so rubbery, a needle so peaceful, the point encased in the tenderest dimple. It seems so simple when things or people have modified each other's qualities somewhat we almost forget the oddity of that. The pure fun Ryan's having here is infectious: rhyming "pillow" with "Jell-O"; using "cuddle" as a verb for water when we'd expect to see "puddle. The witty "peaceful" succeeds in reminding us that the needle is neither working at sewing nor piercing anyone with its sharp point. We're skewered sorry by the next image, though, which almost forces us to experience the needle's point, encased as it is "in the tenderest dimple.

Something of Marianne Moore's confident singularity and fearless willingness to grapple with a subject echoes in Ryan's work.

Ryan owes a debt to Emily Dickinson, too, with her compressed meanings and sudden wisdoms. Ryan takes a characteristic let's-get-to-work approach in "Doubt," a poem that tackles a problem familiar to every writer:. A chick has just so much time to chip its way out, just so much egg energy to apply to the weakest spot or whatever spot it started at.

It can't afford doubt. Who can? Doubt uses albumen at twice the rate of work There are many small, deft touches here: I especially love the sounds in the first line, with its short, stressed monosyllables mimicking the sound of the chick, and the way the third line, with its stresses on beginning syllables, slows the poem down and makes it seem like heavier work. But no line in these poems is not deliberate. This one suggests the disorientation that arises at the beginning a work; the not knowing where the vision or idea we've begun to spin out comes from. Is it a place of strength or of weakness?

RYAN, Kay 1945-

If it comes from weakness, will that prove fatal? Is our inability to know this, at least if we're trying to write something, the beginning of doubt? Some artists, Ryan seems to say in "Outsider Art," don't suffer from enough doubt. She means the ones who can't leave well enough alone, the ones who, with an unchecked zeal,.

We are not pleased the way we thought we would be pleased.

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The sonorous closing iambs stay with us; they have the force of a withering judgment without any attendant unkindness. Ryan's attention lingers on the work; she seems to ask larger questions about the nature of making art. What is this fury to transform?

Why isn't the impulse to beautify, God-given as it seems to be, enough to make something beautiful? By extension, how do we arrive at respect for our medium? How do we know when enough's enough? In "Bestiary," Ryan reminds us that we're probably not going to be remembered for what we do anyway, that we all know where nice guys or ordinary guys finish:. The mediocres both higher and lower are suppressed in favor of the singularly savage or clever, the spectacularly pincered, the archest of the arch deceivers who press their advantage without quarter even after they've won as of course they would Who can know which of an artist's words will live beyond this life?

That decision is left to the chemistry of time, which performs its own alchemy on words:. Sentiments which pleased drift down as sediment; iron trees grow from filament. The verb "to please" or its adjective "pleasant" recurs in these poems, and serves as a hallmark of their strengths as well as their weaknesses. Ryan is true to Stevens' dictum about poetry, that it must give pleasure.

We are charmed by the hidden art of the poems, by their deceptive and resonant simplicity.

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But Ryan does not, for example, say "we are not moved the way we thought we would be moved" or "delighted" or "changed. Please verify that you are not a robot. Would you also like to submit a review for this item? You already recently rated this item.

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Preview this item Preview this item. Engaging and secretive, provocative and profound, Ryan's poems have generated growing excitement with their appearances in The New Yorker and other leading periodicals. Sometimes gaudily ornamental, sometimes Shaker-plain, here is verse that is compact on the page and expansive in the mind. Allow this favorite library to be seen by others Keep this favorite library private. Find a copy in the library Finding libraries that hold this item Elephant Rocks, Kay Ryan's third book of verse, shows a virtuoso practitioner at the top of her form.

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