Thursday, August 18, 2022

The Niagara River

Any time I read a poem or bunch of poems by Kay Ryan, I am blown away. This bunch, in The Niagara River (Grove Press, 2005), tipped me over the edge in a barrel! The cover art, which I had been staring at for a couple years maybe, and thought was a photograph, is a painting by Frederic Edwin Church from 1857. Kay Ryan amazes me with her pithy truths and fabulous serious humor in short lines, short poems, each one hard and shiny as a crystal. The first/title poem is surreal and super real at once, part of the crystalline quality. Current events in my family wamily make me want to text "Carrying a Ladder" to my son. And suddenly, on p.4, I found the coincidence of sharks, in "Sharks' Teeth." And teeth.

The phrase "quid pro crow" in "Felix Crow" made me smile.

The subtle and persistent internal rhyme also made me smile. As did the way she sees a bird on a beach. In "Expectations," I am amazed at how an abstract and widely applicable title attaches to a specific dry creek bed waiting for rain. And how she turns the landscape voluptuously human in 10 short lines in "Green Hills."

Is "Rubbing Lamps" also an ars poetica? The poet describing

     so odd and
     filled with promise
     for a minute
     that you spend
     your only wish
     wishing someone else
     could see it.

And I think I am her "Ideal Audience," a poet in the same room with her. "The Past" as a "frozen lake..breaking up" reminded me of the t-shirts for our family vacation: "The past is a bucket of ashes." (Carl Sandburg) And "Legerdemain" made me look up the word "legerdemain." There are poems that seem to be elegies and others that seem to be phiolsophy and poems that are dreams. A coincidence of Australopithicus. And a sad little lime of a poem at the end.

Sad as it is, August is a good month.

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