Writers' Corner

Kay Ryan

2001 Poetry

Author's Statement

Years ago I wrote a poem that went on too long but started well; it began, "If a fairy makes a fist/ who's impressed?/ How can lightness insist?" And that is what I would still like to know: how can lightness insist? In The Unbearable Lightness of Being Milan Kundera writes wistfully of the eponymous substance, describing how Beethoven once converted a perfectly inconsequential joke into a "serious quartet." Kundera contemplates how much more remarkable it would have been if Beethoven had achieved the reverse, making "heavy go light."I don't know why lightness isn't more talked about, more valued, more pursued in poetry. I suspect it is out of the fear that one will be"taken lightly." But I ask, is there a sensation more exquisite than the feeling of having the burden of oneself borne off by a poem? The burden only, note; not the self. One's atoms are mysteriously distanced from one another. That is to say, one still has all one's own atoms, but for the moment they are not the trouble they were.


If it please God,
let less happen.
Even out Earth's
rondure, flatten
Eiger, blanden
the Grand Canyon.
Make valleys
slightly higher,
widen fissures
to arable land,
remand your
terrible glaciers
and silence
their calving,
halving or doubling
all geographical features
toward the mean.
Unlean against our hearts.
Withdraw your grandeur
from these parts.


Not even waste
is inviolate.
The day misspent,
the love misplaced,
has inside it
the seed of redemption.
Nothing is exempt
from resurrection.
It is tiresome
how the grass
re-ripens, greening
all along the punched
and mucked horizon
once the bison
have moved on,
leaning into hunger
and hard luck.

Real Audio"Blandeur" and "Waste" read by the author