Poet Michael Ryan is director of the MFA program in poetry at the University of California and author of five books of poems and a collection of essays. He’s been a finalist for the National Book Award and the winner of several prestigious poetry prizes.
And in This Morning: Poems, he has assembled one of the oddest, funniest, bleakest, and craziest collections I’ve read. Sort of like a lot of life.
One doesn’t expect rhyme from a contemporary poet – but Ryan delivers a considerable amount of rhyme here. One also doesn’t expect a collection to include poems about a garbage truck, airplane food, Dachau, tapeworms, your mother, a melanoma clinic and a petting zoo to hang together in the same volume, but they do.
It’s a collection full of surprise, playful surprise. Some of the poems sound like children’s songs, like “Ill Wind:”
Two red birds
high on a wire
one said love
one said fire
Two black birds
deep in a tree
one said you
one said me
But wind came up
and tossed them away
no one hears
what they say.
Playful, yes, but Ryan, using simple words and rhyme, describes conflict and loss.
Poems like “Contentment” take a more familiar turn, but see how he develops his theme, which will sound familiar to almost anyone who grew up in the classic American suburb:
Fragile, provisional, it comes unbidden
as evening: the children on the block
called in to dinner that for tonight
is plentiful, as if it had cost nothing
either in money or worry about money.
Then evening deepens and the street
turns silent. There may be disasters
idling in driveways, and countless distresses
sharpening, but all that matters
most that must be done is done.
Odd and funny, light and dark, rhyming and not, these poems by Michael Ryan are a wonder.
Post by Glynn Young, author of Dancing Priest: A Novel
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