Recommended Reading: The Niagara River, by Kay Ryan

Back in late July, I featured a poem called “Thin,” by Kay Ryan.  I liked it so much that I went to the library that week to find a full-length book of hers, and the library obligingly provided The Niagara River. As a child, I spent many happy summer afternoons jumping into the Niagara River from my Uncle Bill and Aunt Mary Kay’s dock, so the whole thing seemed beshert.

Image courtesy of  George Stojkovic /

Image courtesy of George Stojkovic /

I love these poems. They’re unlike any others in my pretty extensive poetry library. They’re short, rarely flowing from one page onto another, and the lines are short as well, often just three or four syllables in length. I found the rhythm, and the occasional rhymes, jarring, but not unpleasantly so. Many of the poems end with a subtle twist, a line that forces the whole poem into sharper focus. These poems call for slow reading and then re-reading; I wanted to savor and remember them.

Some of my favorites in this volume are “Carrying a Ladder,” “Sharks’ Teeth,” “Green Hills,” “Ideal Audience,” “Hide and Seek,” and “The Well or the Cup.” I hope you’ll have a look at them for yourself.

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