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The Niagara River (Grove Press Poetry Series) [Paperback]

Kay Ryan

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Book Description

17 Aug 2005 Grove Press Poetry Series
In the citation accompanying Kay's recent award of the prestigious Ruth Lilly Prize, Christine Wiman wrote: "Kay Ryan can take any subject and make it her own. Her poems-which combine extreme concision and formal expertise with broad subjects and deep feeling-could never be mistaken for anyone else's. Her work has the kind of singularity and sustained integrity that are very, very rare.... It's always a dicey business predicting the literary future...[but] for this reader, these poems feel as if there were built to last, and...they have the passion, precision and sheer weirdness to do so."
Salon compared the poems in Ryan's last collection to "Faberge eggs, tiny, ingenious devices that inevitably conceal some hidden wonder." The exquisite poems in The Niagara River provide similarly hidden gems. Bafflingly effective, they seem too brief and blithe to pack so much wallop. Intense and relaxed at once, both buoyant and rueful, their singular music appeals to many people. Her poems, products of an immaculately off-kilter mind, have been featured everywhere from the Sunday funnies to New York subways to plaques at the zoo to the pages of The New Yorker.

Product details

  • Paperback: 72 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press / Atlantic Monthly Press (17 Aug 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802142222
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802142221
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 14 x 1 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,267,724 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Ryan's poems make a singular, angular music that's not quite like any you've heard, with sharp edges, densities of sound and syntax that can acquire the most mysterious clarity, and rhymes that come at you in the same off-kilter way that the observations do. These poems feel as if they were built to last, and they have the passion, precision, and sheer weirdness to do so." -Christian Wiman, editor of "Poetry", from the citation accompanying The Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize

"Her poems are compact, exhilarating, strange affairs, like Erik Satie miniatures or Joseph Cornell boxes. She is an anomaly in today's literary culture: as intense and elliptical as Dickinson, as buoyant and rueful as Frost." -J.D. McClatchy

"Ryan's poems leave the reader elevated or changed or moved but at a loss to say exactly how this effect has been wrought. It's like arm wrestling with the scrawny kid in the schoolyard who pins you before you know what's happened." -David Yezzi, "Poetry"

"Full-brained poems in a largely half-brained world." -"Kirkus Reviews"

"It's not Ryan's logic that makes her poems breathe fire, it's her illogic, delivered with calm precision, like a masterful change-up pitch." -Kate Moos, "Ruminator Review"

"I can't think of another poet who makes me laugh as often as she makes me ponder the imponderables." -Laura Miller, "Salon"

"Ryan brazenly questions the extent to which we are in control of, and thus responsible for, our own and others' suffering. Her work . . . operates in an American tradition stretching from Dickinson through Stevens and Frost to Ammons and Bronk, where fidelity to the natural world works as a scrim for staging such self-exploration. . . . Empathic and wryly unforgiving of the human condition, the poems are equal parts pith and punch. The effect is bracing." --"Publishers Weekly"

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.9 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sublime 29 Aug 2006
By G. E. Melone - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am a big fan of poetry and this book did not disappoint me. I live in Australia, and therefore am not exposed to what is au courant in the US anymore [originally from the US]. I saw Kay Ryan on the Lehrer Report which is broadcast over here. She was reading from this book, and I decided to buy a copy.

The poems are earthy and touch places of the heart that elicit a sigh of recognition. It is good to read poetry that is open, uncoded and taps into our everyday experiences with such elegant simplicity.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The brief, free-verse vignettes cascade into defining, picturesque moments 10 Mar 2009
By Midwest Book Review - Published on
Prize winning poet Kay Ryan presents The Niagara River, the latest entry in the Grove Press Poetry Series. The brief, free-verse vignettes cascade into defining, picturesque moments, perfectly capturing a thought, mote, or moment of time before thundering onward like the Niagara River itself. The result is a treat for poetry lovers of all persuasions. "Thin": How anything / is known / is so thin- / a skin of ice / over a pond / only birds might / confidently walk / upon. A bird's / worth of weight / or one bird-weight / of Wordsworth.
27 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lyrical Modern American Poems 23 Feb 2006
By Larry G. Conner - Published on
The poetry is contempory and uses traditional elements, such as occational rhyme. Wonderful images and subjects that linger in the mind the day after reading them.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deep and poignant, but very readable 18 Oct 2011
By E. Strickenburg - Published on
Kay Ryan's poetry is deep without being overwhelming. Each poem is short, and even the lines within it are short - very readable and pithy. Most poems only occupy a single page and can be read several times and understood without spending a half an hour in deciphering them.

I love the way Kay Ryan plays with words and rhymes. Her poems don't rhyme in the traditional sense, but she throws in rhyming words in unexpected places. The rhymes add emphasis; they catch the reader off guard. Some of her poems are deep and poignant. Others are rollicking and funny. My favorites take an ordinary image and relate it unexpectedly to something quite extraordinary. Here's just a taste:

Hide and Seek

It's hard not
to jump out
instead of
waiting to be
found. It's
hard to be
alone so long
and then hear
someone come
around. It's
like some form
of skin's developed
in the air
that, rather
than have torn,
you tear.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great little poems 23 Nov 2012
By Marika - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Kay Ryan has crafted some wonderful poems here. Dainty with a little bite, these poems are sure to make you smile.
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