Probably my favorite new discovery from this semester is Kay Ryan. I love her short poems that are so cram-packed with rhyme and other delicious sounds. Her stuff is always fresh and interesting, even though she remains impersonal. (It's funny how this semester I became attracted to poets very different from me. I think that has helped me grow.)
You can find out more about her, as well as the link that led me to this poem, here.
by Kay Ryan
Who would be a turtle who could help it?
A barely mobile hard roll, a four-oared helmet,
She can ill afford the chances she must take
In rowing toward the grasses that she eats.
Her track is graceless, like dragging
A packing-case places, and almost any slope
Defeats her modest hopes. Even being practical,
She’s often stuck up to the axle on her way
To something edible. With everything optimal,
She skirts the ditch which would convert
Her shell into a serving dish. She lives
Below luck-level, never imagining some lottery
Will change her load of pottery to wings.
Her only levity is patience,
The sport of truly chastened things.
Just for the delight of it, I'd like to show you how Ryan chops up her lines so that the rhymes hide inside. Here are the first seven lines of her poem, "The Fourth Wise Man," which you can find in her collection Say Uncle.
The fourth wise man
disliked travel. If
you walk, there’s the
gravel. If you ride,
there’s the camel’s attitude.
He far preferred
to be inside in solitude.
And here they are, unbroken:
The fourth wise man disliked travel.
If you walk, there’s the gravel.
If you ride, there’s the camel’s attitude.
He far preferred to be inside in solitude.
Unpacking the lines reveals the end rhymes, the parallelism, the immense craft that has gone into each line. Ryan fits an amazing amount of rhyme and meaningful rhythm into tight spaces.
Anyway, I look forward to reading lots and lots of Ryan in the future. Oh, and she happens to be the current National Poet Laureate.