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(24 reviews)
3.9 out of 5 stars
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  1. 2 of 2 people found this review helpful
     Tinkling platitudes 30 May, 2013 On
    Philosophy for infants ('Where is is/when is is was?'), this is both cutesy and prosaic. Take away the line breaks and what do you get? 'She seems unnatural by nature - too vivid and peculiar a structure to be pretty, and flexible to the point of oddity.' (That's six lines in the original.) 'No unguent can soothe the chap of abandonment' - why three lines? But portentous however you slice it. But I guess she's stuck with her shtick - a bit Williams, a bit Moore, more than a bit Dickinson. She's read - but has the woman lived? What she thinks musicality reeks of preciousness and shrieks constriction. (I'm even picking up her tinkling mid-line rhyme tic, which manages to trip you up while rendering bland*. Some feat.) '[W]ild horses.. are stretched by hills.' How so, ma'm? Only at page 37 still - and I'm gagging for Billy Collins. Sentimental to set your teeth on edge ('A certain kind of Eden holds us thrall'; some goddamn animal 'whom God protects'), Victorian without irony ('The idle are shackled/to their oars'). Our collective death-wish is impossible to survive without irony. Is that perhaps her trouble? The ones accepted by Poetry (Chicago) that gave Ryan cred in the first place are not included here. Curious..

    * or 'blandening' - Ryan's coinage
  2. 0 of 5 people found this review helpful
     poems over my head 1 February, 2012 On
    Format:Kindle Edition
    I have written some short primitive poems and thought I would find this book of value. I did not. It is probably world class to those with a greater intellect but I found very little to like. I could not finish the book.
  3. 4 of 7 people found this review helpful
     Disappointing after the first poem. 4 November, 2011 On
    Yep, you read right--the first poem. I bought this book solely based on the first one, "Odd Blocks," because it had a lot of depth to it, a ton of metaphor and distinction and self-awareness that makes you think about all those "monuments to randomness." Beautiful, thoughtful, poignant; couldn't ask for a better poem. I was surprised! Why had I never heard of this Kay Ryan before? Indeed, after buying it I was going to write a review which began, "It's rare that you feel you got your entire money's worth from a book just on the first page."

    Unfortunately that turned out to be a little too true. Little did I know that the rest of Kay Ryan's poems did not follow in the footsteps of this one. Most often they are subtle observations, but not simple in a good way, it's the simplicity on *this* side of complexity if you catch my drift; simplicity without meaning, simplicity without understanding, and a rhyme here and there almost as if it were the purpose. I initially spent a great deal of time looking, searching, digging; trying to find anything under the surface of each poem. Eventually I gave up. Oh yes, that's a tree. And now you're writing about your pen, and just your pen, oh and how your pen writes, and how one once compared it to a sword (oh, never read that before). Apologies for being cynical, but I really tried, and couldn't find, any value in most of these poems. They just left me with sort of a "huh" feeling, and eventually as though I had wasted my time. There are a lot of great poets out there elucidating ideas you never knew existed in ways you never thought possible, and they are worth your time; Kay Ryan appears to be a simple poet shedding light on what is already lit in tried and true ways. What's the point?

    Except for in that first one. And you can read it right here--click "First Pages" below the thumbnail above, and you'll be taken right to it. "Odd Blocks" is the best, and only good poem in this entire collection. Save your money and just read that one. Almost makes me wonder if she stumbled on that metaphor by mistake. If she were trying surely she would have succeeded a good three or four more times, but that's not the case in this collection. Sad.
  4. 6 of 14 people found this review helpful
     The Best of It--just isn't 18 June, 2011 On
    Poetry needs to be more than witty. It needs to be compelling and heartbreaking, inspiring, and soaring. Expecting to be inspired, to be tearful, to be moved, I wasn't. Ech. This poetry just leaves me thinking the author has a head but no heart. [Now, her poetry is published, and most of mine isn't, so she might know something more than I do. However, other poets move me to tears, inspire me, write phrases that live forever present in my life.] But this book all seems too heady, lacking heart, and too predictable. Reading in the poem,

    "A blue stain
    creeps across
    the deep pile
    of the evergreens."...

    seemed jarring as evergreens have never looked like deep pile--even metaphorically-- nor does this admittedly clever poem do anything but display the author's thinking to me. It's too cute. Expecting to be captivated by "Bait Goat" met disappointment of the same magnitude.

    After about 5 poems, I gave up. The poet doesn't move me. When reading poetry is an effort and leaves me annoyed, it's time to stop.
  5. 7 of 17 people found this review helpful
     Versifier makes New & Selected 22 October, 2010 On
    Kay Ryan has been taken up by the poetry "establishment." How/why this happens is at times a mystery: some deserve accolades, others just receive them. Ms. Ryan is a perfectly good versifier, the sort in an earlier age who would have appeared in small-circulation regional magazines. There's seldom much that's stimulating or thought-provoking, or fresh, but she's taken up: good for her. It's wise to recall that poets of earlier times now much revered were often unknown or neglected; Hopkins, Whitman, and Dickinson will serve to illustrate. I'm not saddened that Ms. Ryan should be taken as seriously as she is, but I am mystified.
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