Thursday, February 17, 2005

More Kay Ryan

The Kay Ryan reading was terrific. She is a very handsome woman, and so funny. She mentioned during the reading that she wanted to be a stand-up comic when she was young. As I listened to her delightful in-between poem chatter, I thought: Oh My God! She is the love-child of Bea Arthur and Ellen DeGeneres!
She read a few poems each from her first book, and from Elephant Rocks and Say Uncle, and some new work from a forthcoming book called The Niagra River (the wonderful title poem is funny, and grim, all at the same time; how we are all floating along on the river, not even thinking of the falls). I had not realized it before, but her work is very much akin to that of Emily Dickinson, in it's concision, density, philosophical bent, and musicality.
The brief after-reading interview was actually pretty good this time (thank god the interviewer seemed to at least be familiar with the poets work, for once). Kay is very self-deprecating, doesn't take herself too seriously, but is out and proud of what she has accomplished. I love how she is not an academic in the negative sense (she teaches basic English skills to immigrants, if I am not mistaken).
A group of us went out after to Ten for salads and martinis: a perfect end to a wonderful nite of poetry! Here's a poem she says has been read at several weddings:

A Plain Ordinary Steel Needle Can Float on Pure Water
-- Ripley's Believe It or Not!

Who hasn't seen
a plain ordinary
steel needle float serene
on water as if lying on a pillow?
The water cuddles up like Jell-O.
It's a treat to see water
so rubbery, a needle
so peaceful, the point encased
in the tenderest dimple.
It seems so simple
when things or people
have modified each other's qualities
we almost forget the oddity
of that.



Jennifer said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I'm trying to collect poems on marriage that don't veer over either edge into schmaltz or despair, for my parent's 40th. This will go on the list, surely. Glad a good time was had by all.

Kells said...


Thank for posting this. I missed Kay last night and was hoping to read how it went.

It sounded great.