I spotted the words “Winner of The Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize” and snatched up Kay Ryan’s The Niagara River from my public library, published in 2005 by Grove Press. She also happens to be our current Poet Laureate and was born in 1945 in San Jose, California.
The first poem is titled “Niagara River” and lucky for us, I found it on Poets.org so please click the link below:
I love the lines “we position/our table and chairs/upon it, eat, and/have conversation.” Since it is such a tourist attraction you can picture taking for granted how truly marvelous this natural setting is by ignoring it for conversation and that’s the idea I get from her lines. She also uses the idea of taking the Niagara Falls for granted and presents it in the lines “We/do know, we do/know this is the/Niagara River, but/it is hard to remember/what that means.” What does the Niagara River mean? Is it only an attraction or a vital source? I love the simplicity of her lines and the simplicity of her point.
Another poem I enjoyed is titled “Weak Forces” where Ms. Ryan is succinct in sharing her idea with us in the beginning lines “I enjoy an accumulating/faith in weak forces--/a weak faith, of course/easily shaken…” then she moves into more elegant wording through “all the/slow untrainings of the mind,/the sift left of resolve/sustained too long, the/strange internal shift” which describe a weak faith’s inner workings. Her ending echoes the poem’s title which buttons up the poem perfectly: “There are soft/affinities…glowy spots that are not/the defeat of something,/I don’t think.” The entire poem is perfect in explaining itself from beginning to end while also appearing to meander in the middle but it seems merely a trick of this clever poet’s ability.
The other poems I wanted to share are so short that I can hardly find a way to quote them so I will have tell you to find this collection for yourself instead.
For a little more, here is a podcast of a poem titled “Crown” not included in this book but you can listen to Kay Ryan read this poem by clicking the link below:
Thanks for reading, please click in tomorrow for more Poems Found by Poet Hound…