Bonnie Larson Staiger

View from up here (46.9 N Latitude). Poetry, musings, and events. Come on in!

In the noise and busyness of life, here are a few from Kay Ryan, who boasted about living a quiet life and having a blank history. She says, “My poems talk about that palpable silence – a creamy, latexy kind of silence, that when we’re experiencing it, is as a dream luxury.”

And this quote from Christian Wiman’s introduction to Ryan’s new book, Synthesizing Gravity:

Her work is meticulously handcrafted with tightly-whittled lines that surprise and delight.  She accomplishes this effect through the use of what she calls “recombinant rhyme.”

“Recombinant” is a word used to describe the double ladder structure of DNA.  It is as if the genetic code of all rhyming words has been written in Ryan’s being, and her role is to use her poetic superpowers to decode it.  She searches to uncover rhymes wherever they may be hiding, usually somewhere in the middle of things.  On her path to genetic discovery, she comes across rhyme cousins, like: margins/denizens/raisins.

The First of Never

Never dawns
as though
it were a day
and rises.

Our day-sense
says a day
can be out-waited.
So we wait.

That’s the
only time
we’ve ever known:

it should be
getting late;
she should be
getting home.

Ideal Audience

Not scattered legions,
not a dozen from
a single region
for whom accent
matters, not a seven-
member coven,
not five shirttail
cousins; just
one free citizen–
maybe not alive
now even–who
will know with
exquisite gloom
that only we two
ever found this room.


From other
angles the
fibers look
fragile, but
not from the
spider’s, always
hauling coarse
ropes, hitching
lines to the
best posts
possible. It’s
heavy work
fighting sag,
winching up
give. It
isn’t ever
to live.


Action creates
a taste
for itself.
Meaning: once
you’ve swept
the shelves
of spoons
and plates
you kept
for guests,
it gets harder
not to also
simplify the larder,
not to dismiss
rooms, not to
divest yourself
of all the chairs
but one, not
to test what
singleness can bear,
once you’ve begun.

THINGS SHOULDN’T BE SO HARD  (about her mother -from whom Kay inherited her need for silence and a quiet life)

A life should leave
deep tracks:
ruts where she
went out and back
to get the mail
or move the hose
around the yard;
where she used to
stand before the sink,
a worn-out place;
beneath her hand
the china knobs
rubbed down to
white pastilles;
the switch she
used to feel for
in the dark
almost erased.
Her things should
keep her marks.
The passage
of a life should show;
it should abrade.
And when life stops,
a certain space—
however small—
should be left scarred
by the grand and
damaging parade.
Things shouldn’t
be so hard.


The light of interiors
is the admixture
of who knows how many
doors ajar, windows
casually curtained,
unblinded or opened,
oculi set into ceilings,
wells, ports, shafts,
loose fits, leaks,
and other breaches
of surface. But, in
any case, the light,
once in, bounces
toward the interior,
glancing off glassy
enamels and polishes,
softened by the scuffed
and often-handled, muffled
in carpet and toweling,
buffeted down hallways,
baffled equally
by scatter and order
to an ideal and now
sourceless texture which,
when mixed with silence,
makes of a simple
table with flowers
an island.

Poetry is a Kind of Money

Poetry is a kind of money
whose value depends upon reserves.
It’s not the paper it’s written on
or its self-announced denomination,
but the bullion, sweated from the earth
and hidden, which preserves its worth.
Nobody knows how this works,
and how can it? Why does something
stacked in some secret bank or cabinet,
some miser’s trove, far back, lambent,
and gloated over by its golem, make us
so solemnly convinced of the transaction
when Mandelstam says gold, even
in translation?

And this YouTube interview by Dana Gioia

3 thoughts on “Favorite Poems by Kay Ryan

  1. Katherine Cram says:

    Poetry. Could not be a better way to start the day – thoughts reaching my emotional depths. Thanks, Bonnie, for your gift.

  2. DIANE BRENNER says:

    All beautiful. I’ve now read your book, Destiny Manifested, cover to cover 8 times and truly love it. Can’t pick out a favorite piece though. Do you have one? Bravo, Bon. So proud of you.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: