Sunday, October 18, 2015

In Cahoots

This is a little slice of autumn in Northern Michigan two years ago at the end of September.
The red maples come on slightly earlier than the sugar maples, at least at our place--
this one is always one of the most beautiful. At this time of year, 
turkeys are often nearly full-grown; but often still wander around 
in groups, perhaps of siblings. Mayne they are in cahoots. . .

In the late 1980s, my friend Paul introduced me to Bill Peters, 
who was teaching English at the College of Marin. 
When Bill found out that I wrote poetry, he kept asking me 
if I had met Kay Ryan, if I had read her poems. 
He asked again every time I saw him.
At this time, I think, only the book,
Elephant Rocks, had been published;
and I had not yet read it.
And then Bill was an early AIDS death
and so I never got to tell him
I finally had read her deceptively simple poems.
Since then, I have wished I had tried a little harder
to meet her; as I watched her win many awards,
a MacArthur genius grant, and be selected as
the US Poet Laureate.

And now she has a new selected poems
and this article in The San Francisco Chronicle.

Which is a fine article and I hope you read the whole thing;
here is the quote they used as a headnote,
which I really like!

“When you read a poem and it communicates 
to you, you feel that you half wrote it. 
You feel part of the making in a way. 
It’s a wonderful thing. You’re in cahoots. 
You’re in cahoots with the writer.”
Kay Ryan, interviewed in 
The San Francisco Chronicle

On the Nature of Understanding

Say you hoped to
tame something
wild and stayed
calm and inched up
day by day. Or even
not tame it but
meet it half way.
Things went along.
You made progress,
it would be a
lengthy process,
sensing changes
in your hair and
nails. So it's 
strange when it 
attacks: you thought
you had a deal.

Kay Ryan

Erratic Facts, Grove Press, 2015
Kindle location 211

When one writes a poem this compact, there is an obligation
to make every part count, and be just about perfect. Here, notice 
the difference between "half way" and "halfway" as one example.

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