Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Kay Ryan was once "Green Behind the Ears"

On her blog Bareback Alchemy, poet and fictioneer Melissa Studdard has called for us to memorize a poem a week—for us to slide rhythms, stops, breaks, bounties, eruption of passion and word into our share of The Collected Unconscious so we can hang out with poets wherever we are, on line at the grocery store or at our desks, watching the clock.

Week One, she choose a poem by Li-Young Lee, prompting me to post one of his poems, "From Blossoms," and write about poet Marilyn Koren who had once insisted I read Lee. (This was in my blog posting on Lee, a few days ago.)  Melissa also knew Marilyn.

You can scroll through Bareback Alchemy for the poems to date and in the future, but I'll give up the line-up so far. Week Two was Emily Dickinson, Three was Rilke, Four was Mary Oliver.  For Week Five, she choose a poem by Adrienne Rich, in memory of the poet's recent passing onto the heavenly dancing glinting weeping joyous spheres. Now on Week Six she has chosen Rumi (speaking of heavenly dancing glinting weeping joyous).

Melissa's urged us to suggest poems, and some of that challenge is intellectual. When I read I now consider whether or not the poem wants in. So much of the decision is weighed against my wee American memory, as so many more poems are worthy.

Nonetheless, Kay Ryan's work does have a way of skipping off the page, of suggesting it needs to be memorized, if only because of a slight occasional aphoristic hint, and more often because the work has that Emily Dickinson succinct universality.  Here, by Kay Ryan, is one such poem.

Green Behind the Ears

I was still slightly
fuzzy in shady spots
and the tenderest lime.
It was lovely, as I
look back, but not
at the time. For it is
hard to be green and
take your turn as flesh.
So much freshness
to unlearn.
Kay Ryan. From The Niagara River (Grove Press), collected in The Best of It (Grove Press).


  1. You've got it, Sarah. Next week we'll all be "Green Behind the Ears." Thank you for the suggestion!

  2. You're welcome! She's so good and this is such a sweet and yet subversive poem.

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