New and Selected Poemsby Michael Ryan
Michael Ryan’s New and Selected Poems is the first collection to appear in fifteen years from this acclaimed and masterly poet. Comprising fifty-seven poems from three award-winning volumes and thirty-one brilliant new poems, it displays the wit and passion he has brought to universal themes throughout his career. In both dramatic lyrics and complex… See more details below
Michael Ryan’s New and Selected Poems is the first collection to appear in fifteen years from this acclaimed and masterly poet. Comprising fifty-seven poems from three award-winning volumes and thirty-one brilliant new poems, it displays the wit and passion he has brought to universal themes throughout his career. In both dramatic lyrics and complex narratives, Ryan renders the world with startling clarity, freshness, and intimacy.
Ryan’s poems are filled with the stuff of everyday life: What-a-Burger, Space Invaders, “the hood ornament / on some chopped down hot rod of the apocalypse.” He observes his subjects in carefully wrought detail and with a fierce compassion, describing “stupid posters of rock stars” in the bedroom of a murdered teenager, or a homeless boy “straggle-haired, bloated, / eyes shining like ice.” As Ryan writes of others, in a final “Reminder” to himself: “their lighttheir light/ pulls so surely. Let it.”
This long-awaited collection shows Ryan at the height of his powers. As William H. Pritchard said in The Nation, “Unlike too many poets who tumble into print at the first twitch of feeling, Ryan takes time to listen to himself, and such listening contributes immeasurably to the subtlety of his address to the reader . . . [He] reminds us on every page that poems can be about lives, and about them in ways most urgent and delicate.”
- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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- 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.38(d)
Read an Excerpt
Threats from Instead of Trees
I’m speaking again as the invalid in a dark room.
I want to say thank you out loud to no one.
I want to suck my cracked lips in on the sound, as the sound dissolves slowly like a man living.
I’m painfully grateful there’s breath to make noise with, and many words have meaning. I feel lucky when hello doesn’t hurt.
On a bus, I could love anyone.
It’s not terrible to be alone.
Last night I talked to a person so haltingly I might have been looking for a word that wouldn’t change.
That made her misconstrue everything.
Did she feel what I thought she was feeling?
Did she feel me concealing the pleasure that keeps me going, as I circled that pleasure like a dog around its master?
This pleasure, for me, is speaking, as if words enclosed the secret in myself that lasts after death.
The Myth For a long time, nothing happened.
Then ancestors whispering, then fragments of a forgotten life disturbing ordinary actions: handling a stone, or bathing, you might think of the brain as a diamond.
Even thought was clear, like watching your lover explore the bottom of a deep lake.
Everyone became friends, mirroring one another’s most personal gestures.
The leaders said this happiness is round like bowls, and devised simple rituals in which touch wasn’t a form of searchinga ﬁnger’s curving could articulate anything.
Still, some looked for damage in the hard scars on our bodies.
They reminded us of the years of pain, when anticipation meant only disappointment, and any object we desired would cut brutally through the skin.
Shouldn’t we be ashamed?
Isn’t this history we imagine in that one’s ugly movement of his arms? Her clumsy legs?
Reverting to privacy, we began to see less distinctly.
Sometimes, during an intimate talk, you’d swear you caught your best friend closing his eyes, as in sadness at his own reﬂection.
So we tried exhaustion, swimming alone for days. Slowly we noticed our bodies becoming smooth and beautiful, and the air seemed less necessary the deeper we dove. Maybe we forgot we were actually underwater, forgetting, as we did, all harm done, all we couldn’t be for one another.
Copyright © 2004 by Michael Ryan.
Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.
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