Kay Ryan’s School of Odd Knocks

Elaine Bleakney
July 21, 2008
Comments 1

Kay Ryan

Hooray for Kay Ryan, our new Poet Laureate, who packs her force in a thimble, articulating dreams and philosophies in just a sliver of serrated lines.

Ryan is one to seize Dickinson’s barefoot rank in her work, tossing and turning in it to create her fixtures. Here’s “Chinese Foot Chart,” from her sixth and most recent collection, The Niagara River:

Chinese Foot Chart

Every part of us
alerts another part.
Press a spot in
the tender arch and
feel the scalp
twitch. We are no
match for ourselves
but our own release.
Each touch
uncatches some
remote lock. Look,
boats of mercy
embark from
our heart at the
oddest knock.

Built to be odd: how the expectant pressure of “dock” in her last sentence weighs in on the “knock,” making it felt. Her odd knocks are good medicine. I will rest easy knowing she’s at the helm, perhaps cringing in bookstores with organizing principles like this:


And having witty, Kay Ryany things to say about it.

If you are in D.C., catch her at the Library of Congress National Book Festival on September 27 or at her formal reading there on October 16. If autumn in New York City is in your stars, Ryan will be part of the Academy of American Poets’ Poets Forum, November 6-8.

[Kay Ryan photograph courtesy of Jennifer Loring.]

One thought on “Kay Ryan’s School of Odd Knocks

  1. Pingback: World Class Poetry Blog » Blog Archive » Poetry Potpourri, Volume 8

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