The Niagara River

The Niagara River In the citation accompanying Kay s recent award of the prestigious Ruth Lilly Prize Christine Wiman wrote Kay Ryan can take any subject and make it her own Her poems which combine extreme concision a

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  • Title: The Niagara River
  • Author: Kay Ryan
  • ISBN: 9780802142221
  • Page: 107
  • Format: Paperback
  • In the citation accompanying Kay s recent award of the prestigious Ruth Lilly Prize, Christine Wiman wrote Kay Ryan can take any subject and make it her own Her poems which combine extreme concision and formal expertise with broad subjects and deep feeling could never be mistaken for anyone else s Her work has the kind of singularity and sustained integrity that are veIn the citation accompanying Kay s recent award of the prestigious Ruth Lilly Prize, Christine Wiman wrote Kay Ryan can take any subject and make it her own Her poems which combine extreme concision and formal expertise with broad subjects and deep feeling could never be mistaken for anyone else s Her work has the kind of singularity and sustained integrity that are very, very rare It s always a dicey business predicting the literary future but for this reader, these poems feel as if there were built to last, and they have the passion, precision and sheer weirdness to do so Salon compared the poems in Ryan s last collection to Faberg eggs, tiny, ingenious devices that inevitably conceal some hidden wonder The exquisite poems in The Niagara River provide similarly hidden gems Bafflingly effective, they seem too brief and blithe to pack so much wallop Intense and relaxed at once, both buoyant and rueful, their singular music appeals to many people Her poems, products of an immaculately off kilter mind, have been featured everywhere from the Sunday funnies to New York subways to plaques at the zoo to the pages of The New Yorker.

    One thought on “The Niagara River”

    1. I know, I know. Kay Ryan is the current U.S. poet laureate, which, in terms of street cred, is equivalent to your favourite little indie band winning a Grammy and licensing their songs to Volkswagen. It also doesn't help that she writes these itsy-bitsy poems that look, on the page, like W.C. Williams' discarded Post-it notes. But once you take the (minimal) trouble to actually read her stuff, you discover that, under the girlish cuteness, there’s a very tough, very grown-up intelligence at wo [...]

    2. Prescription for reading this book: Read in a half-baked way, half-listening to your husband tell you about something-er-other, then leave on bedside table for, oh, six months or so. Then have insomnia for a month straight. Be in the middle of reading Good Morning, Midnight but decide to read poetry instead. Then read this book at 2 a.m and read it again right after. Then, because you still can't sleep, you'll be compelled to write this: How does she do it? How does she manage to make my heart s [...]

    3. Just beautiful. I don't know when was the last time I read a book of poetry but this one was just lovely and I'd recommend it to anyone the least bit interested in poetry or just the sound of language well-put together. Here's the poem that got me hooked into buying the book, in the first place:Hide and SeekIt's hard notto jump outinstead of waiting to befound. It'shard to bealone so longand then hear someone comearound. It'slike some form of skin's developedin the airthat, ratherthan have torn, [...]

    4. She is ridiculously good. These queer little poems, which seem simple at times, reward close reading. She is so precise she can devastate or move or cheer with a single phrase.

    5. This was a pleasant collection of poetry written by a Poet Laureate. As I had said in the previous book I reviewed, a collection of Sappho's poetry, while I read a great deal of poetry growing up it has been a long time since I returned to those waters. Sappho's poetry spoke to me in a way I'd not been spoken to in some time - the meaning behind the poem fragments relatively easy to parse.The Niagra River was a different beast. While it wasn't as oftentimes vague and muddied asWar of the Foxes w [...]

    6. Friend and I were having a conversation today in which she admitted that a Haruki Murakami book is her idea of literary foreplay.Wait, what?Let me enlighten you.Said friend and I sat around a fondue pot, waxing literarily about David Sedaris books and how I should read more David Sedaris books, when said friend said that she hadn't read in awhile, which meant she needed to read a Murakami book.I said, "Wait, what?"And she said, in a way that was most enlightening, that Murakami books just get he [...]

    7. I do enjoy Kay Ryan but better piecemeal. Over the course of a book these short, funny and thoughtful, but maddeningly one-note and too-too-clever poems begin to blend one into another, lessening the effect (and surprise) from reading each separately.

    8. I have to return this book to the library without finishing it, it's due today. I love Kay Ryan's poetry and will continue to read her.

    9. I'm going to take it as an ironic commentary that a book with this many short poems is named after a long river. I found myself longing to hear this poet say more in this book.

    10. If you think you don't like poetry, give Kay Ryan a try. This collection was great, but get The Best of It if you want to be a glutton. The Well or the CupHow canyou tellat the startwhat youcan give awayand whatyou must holdto your heart.What isthe welland what isa cup. Somepeople getdrunk up. Ideal AudienceNot scattered legions,not a dozen from a single regionfor whom accentmatters, not a seven-member coven,not five shirttailcousins; justone free citizen--maybe not alivenow even-- whowill know [...]

    11. I recommend this book particularly to people who are new to poetry, who don't know how to approach it, and who need a tentative introduction to it. Ryan's tiny snippets--often only a couple sentences--combine well-crafted poetic techniques with accessible messages. The themes are familiar, or at least recognizable. The insights are charming and sometimes amusing.

    12. Twice, I read this, since the first time I read too quickly and missed it all. The second time, I had some sweet leisure, in sunshine, and was able to slow down enough to hear what this witty, concise, non-sentimental woman has to say. I love her. She is the opposite of me in all ways, maybe, but her outspoken heart is able to talk to mine and be received. For some reason, I thought she was this indie, community college teaching, earthy non-conformist, which she is, but she also was poet laureat [...]

    13. A book of over 60 poems. I feel a bit mixed. On the one hand, I think Ryan creates unique images from (extra)ordinary life things, a flow of words that's sometimes interesting and sometimes quite pretty. On the other hand, her poems - as a whole - didn't nestle inside of me in a way that makes me want to get another collection of her poems. It's hard for me to even say why. Still, a handful did work some magic for me:p 21, Green Hills: "Their green flanks / and swells are not / flesh in any sens [...]

    14. Kay Ryan is dead on; economical; recurring themes remind you, she has been thinking and rethinking what are the only things to say that are true about self-preservation and comprehending Nature in a non-anthropocentric way - if that's possible. Some of my favorites from this collection (I'll let these clipped pieces speak for themselves):The Well or the CupHow canyou tellat the startwhat you can give awayand whatyou must holdto your heart.What is the well and what is a cup. Some people get drunk [...]

    15. I enjoy Ryan's short, terse poems, packed with a punch! Several favorites from this collection:"The Past"Sometimes there'ssuddenly no wayto get fromone part toanother, as thoughthe past werea frozen lakebreaking up. Butnot from thetop; not becauseit's warmerup here; it's not.But from underneathfor some reason -perhaps some heattrapped on its ownfor so long it'sdeveloped seasons.(p. 42)And . . . "Least Action"Is it visionor the lackthat brings meback to the principleof least action,by which in on [...]

    16. I like this review I saw on the back of the book. "Her poems are compact, exhilarating, strange affairs like Erik Satie miniatures or Joseph Cornell boxes. She is an anomaly in today's literary culture: as intense and elliptical as Dickinson, as buoyant and rueful as Frost." – J.D. McClatchyKay Ryan's poems are indeed compact and delightfully easy to read. Though she occasionally drops in a tri + syllabic word that has the effect of stopping the flow. Still I found them visual and intriguing. [...]

    17. Superb.This is a short book of short poems full of tension. Anticipation of tension, causes of tension, preliminary tension, increased tension, sustained tension, release of tension everything in this book is holding its breath, waiting to relax, but not quite thereE OTHER SHOEOh if it wereonly the othershoe hangingin space beforejoining its mate.If the undroppeddidn't congregatewith the undropped.Butnothing canstop the midaircollusion of theunpaired above usacquiring densityand weight. Wefe [...]

    18. Former Poet Laureate Kay Ryan is a very original contemporary. She is known for her "compact" poems that read like rhythmic punches to the brain. I keep reading that Kay Ryan has a "sly wit" and possesses "off-beat wisdom". Her tone and voice seem to be so, but when I logically try to make sense of the ideas, relationships, and happenings in her poems, I think I may be "doing it wrong". Almost every poem in this book left me bereft of anysponse. But I do have an overall response: kudos. Many peo [...]

    19. Kay Ryan’s poetry is deep without being overwhelming. Each poem is short, and even the lines within it are short – very readable and pithy. Most poems only occupy a single page and can be read several times and understood without spending a half an hour in deciphering them. I love the way Kay Ryan plays with words and rhymes. Her poems don’t rhyme in the traditional sense, but she throws in rhyming words in unexpected places. The rhymes add emphasis; they catch the reader off guard. Some o [...]

    20. There are definitely--as the jacket cover suggests--ripples of Dickinson throughout this book:One does not stack.It would be likea mouse on the backof a mouseon a mouse's back.Courses of mice,layers of shiversand whiskers,a wobbling towermouse-wide,with nothing morethan a mouse inside.This book is jaunty, and therefore, at every line break, risks coming off as juvenile. Somehow, though, it resists such characterization. Its rhymes surprise, tucked into such slender forms--you rarely see them com [...]

    21. Poetry. Kay Ryan has a distinctive style. Narrow columns, sneaky rhymes, twisting sentences ripe with parentheticals, and a last line that makes you scroll your eyes back up to the beginning and read the whole thing again.She deals in the absurd -- chickens coming home to roost, literally; that sort of thing -- and the everyday, often at the same time, and with a kind of removed, wondering tone that really works for me.Some favorites: "Home to Roost," "Carrying a Ladder," "Atlas," "Tired Blood," [...]

    22. I love these poems. They're unlike any others in my pretty extensive poetry library. They're short, rarely flowing from one page onto another, and the lines are short as well, often just three or four syllables in length. I found the rhythm, and the occasional rhymes, jarring, but not unpleasantly so. Many of the poems end with a subtle twist, a line that forces the whole poem into sharper focus. These poems call for slow reading and then re-reading; I wanted to savor and remember them.Some of m [...]

    23. This is my 4th book of Kay Ryan's poetry. I could put it on my 'read' shelf and my 'currently reading' shelf. No other poet can put so much into so few words."We expect rainto animate this creek: these rocksto harbor gurgles,these pebbles tocreep downstream a little, . . .but no rain yet.""As thoughthe river werea floor, we positionour table and chairsupon it, eat, andhave conversation.As it moves along,we notice--ascalmly as thoughdining room paintingswere being replaced--the changing scenesalo [...]

    24. She writes poems that could easily fit into the margins of a page--short, wise, incisive, and witty. Ms Ryan has a light touch that belies thereverberating effect her poems have. The simple, elegant lines and careful, well-chosen images make the poems easy to remember and easy to meditate on. Insight and reflection pours out of each poem like clowns out of a miniature car. Very often ironic and humorous, there isn't a better poet to read for the sake of living well. Whenever I want to gobble up [...]

    25. Just not my style. I wanted to love her, being that she's the poet laureate and all. I loved a few lines. Overall, I felt like her poems had a template of sorts: all poems must have very short lines, all the exact same length, must include a smattering of strict rhyme to sound a little sing-songish, must be incredibly clever or somewhat witty, must attempt to end with a punch line. It was like she took poetry and squished it into a little scientific box and just couldn't break out of it. No disr [...]

    26. Although I enjoyed some singular poems in this collection, I didn't find it as incisive or as charming as Say Uncle. The collection seemed less cohesive than earlier ones, and the poems that were the most effective focused keenly on single concrete images, while much of the book dealt too much in abstraction for me. With lines that lean toward 2 to 3 words in length, and poems that are usually not longer than 12 -14 lines, it was disconcerting when a poem would go three or four lines with no con [...]

    27. Things shouldn't be so hardA life should leavedeep tracksruts where she went out and backto get the mailor move the hosearound the yard;where she used tostand before the sink,a worn-out place;beneath her handthe china knobrubbed down towhite pastilles;the switch sheused to feel forin the darkalmost erased.Her things shouldkeep her marks.The passageof a life should show;it should abrade.And when life stops,a certain space-however small-should be left scarredby the grand anddamaging parade.Things [...]

    28. I read this because I was going to hear Kay Ryan read at the Herbst Theater. She is the poet laureate and has some interesting nuggets of wisdom-generally a bit of a sarcastic voice--quick witted and almost flip, but there is definite beauty there. Her poems are spare, short and specific to a moment in time. Pieces about her mother are beautiful-more profound than many of the observation poems--or maybe I just am not reading closely enough. She hides a little too much behind jokes and inferences [...]

    29. I picked up this book of poetry because of the title. I have been to the Niagara River many times, and thought that it would be a book of themed poetry about the river. But it was not. Only the first poem is about the Niagara River, the rest are on miscellaneous themes. Each poem is short, in free verse, about a particular thought, image or feeling. When I was done reading the poems, I wanted to reread them to get more meaning out of them, and I think that's the sign of a good book of poetry, wh [...]

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