Kay Ryan 'The Best of It: New and Selected Poems' reading at Stanford 2010
Notes by J. Zimmerman

Books by Kay Ryan:
* The Best of It: New and Selected Poems (2010).
* The Jam Jar Lifeboat and Other Novelties Exposed (2008).
* The Niagara River (2005).
* Say Uncle (2000).
* Elephant Rocks (1996).
* Flamingo Watching (1994).
* Strangely Marked Metal (1985).
* Dragon Acts to Dragon Ends (1983).

Kay Ryan pre-publication reading at Stanford 2010
The Best of It: New and Selected Poems

Introduction by Eavan Boland

Boland praised Kay Ryan's work as being "indispensable in the poetic cannon", saying that her work is "profoundly reassuring and moving" with its "independence of spirit and accuracy of expression".

List of Poems Read by Kay Ryan

  1. "Dew" [From Elephant Rocks]
  2. "Extraordinary Lengths" [Start of the poems from Flamingo Watching]
  3. "The Table Is Freed"
  4. "The Things of the World"
  5. "Emptiness"
  6. "Apology"
  7. "When Fishing Fails"
  8. "The Working Cabalist" [This poem is not in The Best of It: New and Selected Poems]
  9. "I Marveled At How Generally I was Aided"
  10. "The Hinge of Spring"
  11. "Poetry as a kind of money"
  12. "Osprey"
  13. "Bestiary" [Continued poems from Elephant Rocks]
  14. "Whatever must be learned"
  15. "Le Petit Confiture" (Little Jams)
  16. "Age"
  17. "Any Morning"
  18. "Corners" [Start of the poems from Say Uncle]
  19. "Winter Fear"
  20. "Grazing Horses"
  21. "Help"
  22. "Crown"
  23. "The Best of It" [Poem from The Niagara River]
  24. "Train Track Figure" [Start of new poems from Elephant Rocks]
  25. "Ledge"
  26. "The Edges of Time"
  27. "Bait Goat"
  28. "Dog Leg"
  29. "Odd Blocks"
  30. "Pentimenti"
  31. "Easter Island"
  32. "Spider Web"
  33. "Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and Rose"

A few of Kay Ryan's comments between her poems or in responses to questions after her reading

Kay Ryan was asked what she has been discussing with students in the Stanford class she is teaching. She said:

Kay Ryan was asked to talk about accessibility. She said:

It is mad to work against it [accessibility]. Is one seeking more confusion in this world? 'Accessible' is taken erroneously to mean dimensionless. I strive to make my work as clear as I can. My effort is to make something accessible to me.

Kay Ryan was asked about the short length of her poems. She said: "Short poems are my natural length."

Kay Ryan was asked about humor in her poems. She said: "At first I wanted to be a stand-up comic. Then I wanted to write funny Hallmark cards. ... The comic is more difficult and exciting and more capable of carrying weight than the grave."

Kay Ryan was asked what she did as Poet Laureate. She said: "I didn't want to represent American poetry. And so I haven't." She was, however, encouraged to speak about and applauded for her Community College poetry project as Laureate.

Kay Ryan was asked about whether she had a daily writing practice. She said that she did initially because that is the way that a poet makes her work real to herself. She has to take herself seriously because at the beginning no one else does. Nowadays, she said, she writes irregularly and that to write a poem she takes 3 to 4 hours during which she writes 10 to 12 drafts.

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