The Best of It: New and Selected Poems

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Kay Ryan’s recently concluded two-year term as the Library of Congress’s sixteenth poet laureate is just the latest in an amazing array of accolades for this wonderfully accessible, widely loved poet—her awards include the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation, four Pushcart Prizes, and a Guggenheim fellowship. Ryan’s The Best of It: New and Selected Poems has garnered lavish praise. The two hundred poems in The Best of It offer a stunning retrospective of her work, as well as a swath of ...
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The Best of It: New and Selected Poems

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Overview


Kay Ryan’s recently concluded two-year term as the Library of Congress’s sixteenth poet laureate is just the latest in an amazing array of accolades for this wonderfully accessible, widely loved poet—her awards include the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation, four Pushcart Prizes, and a Guggenheim fellowship. Ryan’s The Best of It: New and Selected Poems has garnered lavish praise. The two hundred poems in The Best of It offer a stunning retrospective of her work, as well as a swath of never-before-published poems—all of which are sure to appeal equally to longtime fans and general readers.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Ryan, the current U.S. poet laureate, may well be the oddest and wisest poet to hold that prestigious post. Her tiny, skinny poems pack a punch unlike anything else in contemporary poetry, though not unlike haiku, if haiku could be cut with a dash of Groucho Marx. This, her first retrospective volume, which also contains a book's worth of new poems, is a much-needed introduction to the work of one of our best and most accessible poets. She asks the necessary questions hiding just beneath the obvious ones: “Why isn't it all/ more marked,/ why isn't every wall/ graffitied, every park tree/ stripped/... / Not why people are; why not more violent?” Odd rhymes draw crystal clear relations between disparate thoughts we never realized had always gone together: “As/ though our garden/ could be one bean/ and we'd rejoice if/ it flourishes, as/ though one bean/ could nourish us.” Pithy poems manage to encapsulate far more than their few words should be able to hold, as in “Bitter Pill,” a new poem: “A bitter pill/ doesn't need/ to be swallowed/ to work. Just/ reading your name/ on the bottle/ does the trick.” Sassy, smart, and deep as they are hilarious, Ryan's poems are among the best. (Mar.)
Dwight Garner
Kay Ryan's poems are as slim as runway models, so tiny you could almost tweet them. Their compact refinement, though, does not suggest ease or chic. Her voice is quizzical and impertinent, funny in uncomfortable ways, scuffed by failure and loss. Her mastery, like Emily Dickinson's, has some awkwardness in it, some essential gawkiness that draws you close…The Best of It is a generous and nearly career-spanning collection of her verse (it omits poems from her earliest books), a greatest-hits album of a sort.
—The New York Times
Steven Ratiner
When [Ryan's] at the top of her game (and, happily, the section of new work contains some of the book's strongest material), she has the uncanny ability to construct a tiny word-mechanism that produces the experience of genuine wonder…In the utter complexity of her vision and lyricism, I'm reminded of those mechanical devices of the ancient world meant to show us our place among the stars and help us navigate the uncharted darkness beyond. And in the very best examples, Ryan's poems do precisely that.
—The Washington Post
Library Journal
In her new book, current U.S. poet laureate Ryan (Elephant Rocks) gives readers a panoramic view of how her poetry has evolved. Throughout her career, Ryan has used a compressed and condensed language charged with playfulness and wit: "Wherever the eye lingers/ it finds a hunger/ The things of the world/want us for dinner/ Inside each pebble or leaf/ or puddle is a hook/ the appetites of the world/ compete to catch a look." She writes about anything, reviving the idea of poetry as a means of naming and actualizing things through the eyes of a poet/creator. The rhymes don't seem imposed but rather a natural manifestation of creating meaning, and her dense, fractured lines and the white space they create echo Dickinson. Ultimately, Ryan fuses science with myth in a language grounded in the concrete; she often opens with a plain image or even a cliché that soon develops into something far deeper and more detailed. VERDICT Ryan's poetry offers a fresh experience of seeing and knowing that all serious poetry readers will enjoy.—Sadiq Alkoriji, South Regional Lib., Broward Cty., FL
From the Publisher

2011 Pulitzer Price Winner for Poetry:
"Awarded to The Best of It: New and Selected Poems, by Kay Ryan (Grove Press), a body of work spanning 45 years, witty, rebellious and yet tender, a treasure trove of an iconoclastic and joyful mind." —Pulitzer.com

“Everything [Ryan’s] eye falls upon takes on a brisk, beautifully complete clarity. Her tidy lines disguise an enormous intelligence and tonal warmth: a ferocious capacity for finding the essence of things. The Best of It reveals that right before our eyes Ryan has become a classic American poet.”—John Freeman, Los Angeles Times

“Ryan’s poems are as slim as runway models, so tiny you could almost tweet them...Her voice is quizzical and impertinent, funny in uncomfortable ways, scuffed by failure and loss. Her mastery, like Emily Dickinson’s, has some awkwardness in it, some essential gawkiness that draws you close… you can’t help consuming [her] poems quickly, the way you are supposed to consume freshly made cocktails: while they are still smiling at you. But you immediately double back—what was that?—and their moral and intellectual bite blindsides you.”—Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“[Ryan] has the uncanny ability to construct a tiny word-mechanism that produces the experience of genuine wonder.”—Steven Ratiner, The Washington Post

“Kay Ryan [is] among the geniuses… celebrated…for her clear style that puts her in the company of Robert Frost.” —Nick Owchar, Los Angeles Times

The Best of It displays an astounding consistency of tone and quality…[Her] gifts call to mind some illustrious predecessors, including Dickinson, Stevens, Moore and Frost. Despite the echoes, though, Ryan is so arresting and genuinely original that her book stays in the mind in a way unlike much contemporary poetry, so often impenetrable and self-absorbed. In today’s world of exploding self-expression and relentless ephemera, Kay Ryan sticks.”—Michael Lindgren, Cleveland Plain-Dealer

“[Ryan’s] work is concise, exquisitely crafted, and explores the landscape of the mind…The Best of It lives up to its promise and has the potential to change the way many American poets think and write.”—Elizabeth Lund, Christian Science Monitor

“Pithy poems manage to encapsulate far more than their few words should hold…Sassy, smart and deep as they are hilarious, Ryan’s poems are among the best.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Droll, exquisite, weirdly stupendous poems…[they] are brief, seemingly offhand. But they go off in the head like firecrackers. Ryan’s on the zip line to Parnassus.”—Terry Castle, author of The Professor and Other Writings, San Francisco Chronicle’s “Summer Reading Recommendations”

“[Ryan’s] most startling discovery is that melancholy, with its tendency to brood and spread, is best contained in a form that is tight, witty, almost sprightly sounding. Her poems are often built on the logic of the pun, taking an ordinary word or dead cliché as a title and then jolting it to unexpected life.”—Adam Kirsch, The New Yorker

“Ryan is one of the few contemporary poets to have imitators because she is one of the few truly compelling stylists now at work. Her voice is authoritative, confident, unfussy, exacting…she is astutely reserved, watchful, and understands that no one is special in his or her grief…So many “new and selected” volumes come out each year, but The Best of It is rare in being truly the best of the poet’s work so far. Kay Ryan is so disarming, so fresh and original, that she has earned her recent reputation as one of the very best poets among us.”—David Mason, The Hudson Review

“If the job of poetry is to distill language and experience, there are few greater contemporary masters of the form than Ryan…[Her work] never fails to surprise, enlighten and delight.”—Carmela Ciuraru, Newsday

“Ryan is the poet of the possible, who keeps to the edges of words and thoughts, leaving emotions for others to find…[her poetry] is singular, playful as well as serious, forcing us to prick up our ears and listen.”—Bob Hoover, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802119148
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/23/2010
  • Pages: 270
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author


Kay Ryan served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 2008 through 2010.
She has long lived in Marin County, California.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2012

    Best Poetry I have read in a long time!

    Kay Ryan has a wonderful way of taking ordinary, mundane things and exploring them with her word choice. She takes things and changes the ordinary into art. I can't help but smile when I read her poetry!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 25, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Like Beautiful Marbles.

    Ryan's powerful descriptive voice is on full display in this Pulitzer prize winning collection. Short but evocative poetry.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 25, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Highly Recommneded

    This is an excellent anthology of Ms. Ryan's innovative and imaginative work. I am a new reader of Ms. Ryan's work. I wonder how I missed her. The book very much impressed me.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2013

    Fresh, insightful images abound

    Ryan's poems are like a delicious bowl of oatmeal and fruit for breakfast: simple and familiar at first, but with surprise twists, the poems tend to stick with you and nourish you throughout the day. A modern Emily Dickinson, in a slantendicular way. Compare "Success is counted sweetest" with Ryan's "Why We Must Struggle."

    I was a bit ambivalent about eReader formatting and poetry, but this book works perfectlly in an electronic format. I love having this anthology on my Nook so I can turn to one of Ryan's poems in odd free moments. I keep "New Clothes" bookmarked to read in checkout lines.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted May 8, 2011

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    Posted March 18, 2011

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    Posted August 30, 2011

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    Posted July 27, 2011

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