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Wednesday, September 21, 2011 2:39 pm
Poet Kay Ryan officially a “genius.”
Posted by: Donna Seaman

Although Booklist has enthusiastically reviewed books by the newly designated MacArthur “genius” long form journalist Peter Hessler, most recently, Country Driving: A Journey through China from Farm to Factory, this year’s MacArthur Fellows include only one instantly recognizable literary name, that of poet Kay Ryan, a former poet laureate.

I’ll never forget the first time I heard Kay Ryan read at an ALA Conference (please don’t ask me to try to figure out which one). Her poems are short-lined and pithy, and use the ordinary as a conduit to the mysterious, and so Ryan read them twice, which was extremely effective and mesmerizing. It felt as though we were considering them with her, testing each word and silence. More recently, I listened to Kay Ryan talk about poetry with wry humility and striking insight as part of a power group at the new Poetry Foundation headquarters in Chicago along with Billy Collins, Sandra Cisneros, Robert Hass, and Edward Hirsch. 

Our reviewer, a poet herself, Patrician Monaghan,  gave Ryan’s The Best of It: New and Selected Poems, a starred review last year.

And here’s a poem by Kay Ryan:

“A Hundred Bolts of Satin”

All you
have to lose
is one
connection
and the mind
uncouples
all the way back.
It seems
to have been
a train.
There seems
to have been
a track.
The things
that you
unpack
from the
abandoned cars
cannot sustain
life: a crate of
tractor axles,
for example,
a dozen dozen
clasp knives,
a hundred
bolts of satin––
perhaps you
specialized
more than
you imagined.

Kay Ryan, “A Hundred Bolts of Satin,” from Say Uncle (copyright Kay Ryan, 2000)

One Response to “Poet Kay Ryan officially a “genius.””
  1. Phil Menger Says:

    I love Kay Ryan’s work


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