Chunk 2

2.

What attracts me to Ryan’s poetry are its compression, its meatiness, its intelligence, its humor. Hers is a poetry that forces the reader to consider each word in an age that values the prolix polemic (or open-mic “rant”). Elsewhere, Ryan has written that the poet’s job is to remediate clichés. Take a look at “Felix Crow” (5):
Crow school
is basic and
short as a rule–
just the rudiments
of quid pro crow
for most students (ll. 1-6).

This gives you an idea of the sort of humor we’re dealing with here. Yet she’s not merely after the laugh. She wants you to look at the mundane in new ways, to take a moment and turn over the shiny bits for the fun of it, the way a crow might:
Then each lives out
his unenlightened
span, adding his
bit of blight
to the collected
history of pushing out
the sweeter species;
briefly swaggering the
swagger of his
aggravating ancestors
down my street.
And every time
I like him
when we meet (ll. 7-20).

You might say that Ryan anthropomorphizes the crow’s behavior to create a metaphor for human nature. Or, if you are prone to address the various creatures that you cross paths with, you might say, “Hey! She looks at crows like that, too!” While the vocabulary is likely accessible to any smart second-grader, the ideas it expresses—human arrogance, vita brevis, and the ability to laugh appreciatively at such weaknesses rather than to get sanctimonious about them—are not simplistic ones.

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