Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Private Persuasions of Poetry: "Ideal Audience" by Kay Ryan

Kay Ryan is the newly named Poet Laureate of the U.S.
This poem succinctly sums up how I feel about writing, reading and being read:

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 the collection The Niagara River, Grove Press, 2005.

I love Ryan's sly, sparse style: her economy of words reminds me of Mark Strand's work; he's one of my favorite poets of all time.

This poem, referring to the imaginary meeting of minds that occurs when reader and writer connect, out of time, out of physical space, sums it up so perfectly that I can add nothing. It epitomizes what Ryan calls the "private persuasions of poetry."

Most of the writers I've loved were long dead when I was born and I've felt that "exquisite gloom" when I discovered them. It's out of reality yet it's the most authentic feeling I've ever had.

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