Friday, June 4, 2010

Thoughts on The Best of It: New and Selected Poems

I'm a new reader of Ryan's work….but thankfully her book of poems is available at my local library. From the beginning I was completely wowed by her very fresh voice and spin on poetry in The Best of It: New and Selected Poems.

"The only justification/ for extraordinary lengths/is extraordinary distances.
You don't find this in the majority of instances." (p. 35)

At first glance, I wouldn't guess that her poems would be celebrated. They are short, use common words and often rhyme. But oh, don't be deceived. To read Ryan's poetry is to have a bit of your brain kidnapped by the incredible and thought provoking questions she paints in stark images. For example the poem Among English Verbs:

"Among English verbs
to die is oddest in its
eagerness to be dead," (p.189)

One must really think and work the muscle in the brain for new vocabulary. Words such as: grots, swards, nascent, fillip, persiflage, nacreous, lacunae, armature, congeries and many more pop up and nest easily against more every day speech. Ryan's poems are not obviously meant for children…..but they are rich sources of wonder for children as young as elementary school age to as old as ninety-nine. I would include this volume in a middle or high school library. This is a book I want to own for my personal library. The poetry is astoundingly good and Ryan's tenure as Poet Laureate of the United States is noteworthy as well.

Ryan, K. (2010). The Best of It. New York: Grove Press.

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