Category Archives: Kay Ryan


On the morning of the Fourth of July, I purchased a small packet of “colorful smoke bombs” at Target. Since the city of Chicago does not allow its citizens to purchase real fireworks–a memo which, based on the yearly volume of spectacular city-wide neighborhood displays, hundreds of individuals do not receive!–we are forced to purchase items like colorful smoke bombs; items which a baby kitten could safely consume in its small dish of milk without undergoing bodily harm. 

I got carded.

CASHIER: Yeah…They just started doing this a few days ago.
CASHIER + ME: [roll eyeballs all the way into the back of our heads until our whole eyeballs fall out of our heads]


I cannot purchase spray paint in Chicago. I am carded for buying a paper smoke bomb the size of an unshelled walnut.  I pay extra taxes when I want a bottle of water.



Oh, and sparklers! I can’t buy those, either.  Sweet, sparkly focus of a million childhood memories: Now I am a woman grown, and I cannot obtain you.


Do you think George Washington would be happy, knowing that I’m not allowed to buy sparklers? 

GEORGE WASHINGTON: Was it for thus that I forded the Potomac?


For about two years now, I’ve said, “I’m not going to Pitchfork again. They shall have to line Union Park with cupcake-bearing bald eagles. I shan’t stir one step.” And then…I go. I thought that when I said it last year, I meant it; meant it in the way that you mean the Pledge of Allegiance.  But I guess I didn’t, since here I go, there, again.

It’s summer, I think. You forget your need to be out in the summer sun while you can, at such events, such festivals and fairs, until they’re upon you. Then only the heedless could turn away. “I would rather sit at home in my snowsuit,” you might as well say, and you wouldn’t say that.


New in the world of poetry: A new poet laureate! Yoink! W.S Merwin!

You can find two of his poems here, in previous Wheat Dear blogs:

The Nails”


I enjoy W.S Merwin greatly, but I will miss Kay Ryan, poet laureate before him. [Click here and you shall see what I wrote about Kay Ryan, back when.] She is a magical lady, and sees clearly.

If you have the time, and the inclination, you must and must read a piece she wrote for “Poetry” several years ago [here]:

“I Go to AWP”

AWP is basically the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Annual Conference [something-or-other]. Kay Ryan went to their conference in Vancouver in 2005, and then she wrote about it; what she wrote about it is earth-shatteringly high on my Favorite O’Meter.

It’s got to be good, to register on the ol’ Favorite O’Meter. Sehr gut.


She writes:

“Make mine the desert saints, the pole-sitters, the endurance cyclists, the artist who paints rocks cast from bronze so that they look exactly like the rocks they were cast from; you can’t tell the difference when they’re side by side. It took her years to do a pocketful. You just know she doesn’t go to art conferences.”

I love.


Anywho, W. S  Merwin.

W.S apparently lives on the edge of a dormant volcano on Maui. [What?] From the New York Times:

“Although raised in the Western tradition, he said he feels more affinity with an Eastern one, ‘being part of the universe and everything living’. With that exhilarating connection comes responsibility, however. ‘You don’t just exploit it and use it and throw it away any more than you would a member of your family,’ he said. ‘You’re not separate from the frog in the pond or the cockroach in the kitchen.'”

These are the kinds of things I don’t need to know about the people whose writing I enjoy.

 [I am a jerk?]


Katie and Bridgid and I kept e-mailing each other lines from “The Nails” for a day or so, but I had to stop, eventually; there are only so many lines you can send your friends from “The Nails”, and receive from them in return, before you start crying your eyes out.

We’ll close with another Merwin poem. 

It gets the job done.



Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

W.S Merwin


Filed under I Do Not Know, Kay Ryan, Poetry, W.S Merwin

All In All

I was home for Easter last week; I’ve got a valid excuse for not writing. Celebrating the Risen Lord can certainly take the stuffing out of you.

Instead of attending Mass on Easter morning, my family and I went to the Easter Vigil on Saturday evening, which features, among many fine attributes:

-Seven different Old Testament readings, registering at varying degrees of grimness on the Old Testament Grim O’Meter™

 My brothers went out to obtain pizza to snack on pre-Vigil, during the Butler/Michigan State game. When they returned, and we began eating silly things at a very great rate–things like pepperoni-stuffed breadsticks–my mother said:

MY MOTHER: Boys, why did you get TWO large pizzas?
MY BROTHER BEN: The tomb is empty, Mom.


The next evening, “The Sound of Music” was on the T.V, and I am obliged to watch “The Sound of Music” if it is playing within sight or sound of my person. My mother joined me, and after a time, my father. Neither of them–to my very great astonishment–had ever seen the movie. They had only seen “The Sound of Music” on the stage, when my high school performed it my freshman year, and I played the Reverend Mother. Hahahahahahahahaha!

Anywho, I hadn’t seen the movie in some time, and my mother and I giggled over the Baroness Schräder’s dramatic and thinly-veiled ill will, Maria-ward. She was forever giving Captain Von Trapp or Maria the eyeball for being secretly in love with each other and stuff.


Then there was the scene with the puppetry.

MY MOTHER: This is weird.



On Sunday, my roommate and I decided to go to St. Hyacinth’s Basilica, which is basically the lodestone for Catholic Polish Chicagoans, and light a candle for Poland, and for everyone who died, and their families, and so on, and so forth.

It is a beautiful church.

We arrived right after a Mass had ended, and people were flooding out onto the sidewalk; everyone was dressed as though they had just attended a funeral.  The men wore suits and smoked. Later I would see a woman dressed all in red, with a white jacket, for Poland.

We made our way inside. The church has several side alcoves. In one of them, a baby was being baptized, in Polish.

When we finally seated ourselves in a front pew, and after we prayed, we looked around. People sat in the pews, talking softly, and so did we. We decided that we did not know what we would feel, were we the people of Poland. The closest I can imagine is how I felt after 9/11, the hot-edged this is the most terrible; but that is different.

In front of us, an elderly gentleman hung matted drawings of John Paul II on the wall. This is true.

Outside, news crews were filming. People were singing, but I don’t know what. The Polish national anthem?

The Polish national anthem, for the record, is entitled: “Poland Is Not Yet Lost”.


Around the block from the church is a Polish bar. They had the door propped open, and many voices floated out onto the street. “Dancing Queen” was playing.

JESSICA AND I: Everyone grieves differently!


We decided that JPII was waiting for the Polish delegation to arrive at the gates of heaven.

JPII: Comrades! Come and drink a cup of grog with me!

J/K, he would never call them comrades! He defeated Communism!


So! Science, right?

1. They’ve gone and discovered a new element! It doesn’t have a name yet, but it’s being called “ununseptium” until they do, which is, quoth the NYT, “a very unwhimsical Latinate placeholder that refers to the element’s atomic number, 117.”

ME: You’re nothing but an unwhimsical Latinate placeholder.
YOU: Boohoohhohhoohoo!

They discovered it by smashing calcium isotopes and the element berkelium together.


2. Need I say it?

The Large Hadron Collider is finally, sort of officially and at half-speed, up and running.


This week has been a real whopper already. A whirl-i-gig. A fiddle-stick.

YOU: A whoop-te-doozle?
ME: No.



Fountains, for instance,
have a periphery
at some distance
from the spray.
On nice days
idle people circle
all the way around
the central spout.
They do not get wet.
They do not get hot.

Kay Ryan


Filed under Kay Ryan, Math and Science: General, My Parents, My Roommate, Poetry, Stirring World Events

“And you were? Where were you this hour o’ need?”

One night early last week, I walked past my kitchen window. “Huh! What was that searing flash of white light in the sky?” I thought, and turned around to go back and look. Lo and behold–or “Aye and begorrah”–it was THE MOON. [“Good one, you cretin,” murmured my cerebral cortex]. Subsequently in the mood to look at lunar marias–and who among us has not been in the mood to look at lunar marias of an evening? Who, indeed?–I went into my room to get my telescope out of the closet. It wasn’t where I thought I’d left it, and I tried to recall the last time of its usage. “Pip pip,” I said at last; “it was the lunar eclipse, in February.” And I remembered how cold it had been, and how I had called my sister, and how when I got off the train that night, near-to-swooning with impatience to get home and set up shop, all the people waiting for the bus on the street-level were standing with their backs to the moon, and I wanted to tell them to look up look up look up, and to be the Paul Revere of exciting outer space moments visible to the naked eye.

A few nights after this ring-a-dingingly idiotic error, I was on the back porch, on the phone, and as I talked I watched a broad, luminous light shining through a tree in a backyard across the way. When I turned my head in a certain direction, the light transformed into a faint–but unmistakable–shade of blue. I couldn’t decide what this light was–had some well-intentioned dreamer of dreams mounted a newly-purchased lighthouse light in their window, to guide trawlers out on Lake Michigan? Had an extraterrestrial space vehicle docked on a roof?–and finally stood up to get to the bottom of things. Once again, it was THE MOON, rising behind the branches. A firm handshake to the person who can tell me why I mistook the moon for something else, not once, but TWICE in one week. Or formulate the best metaphor regarding same. That’s a thought! Man, I love metaphors. They droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven, you know what I’m sayin’?


In terribly exciting poetry news, James H. Billington, the librarian of Congress [I love saying “James H. Billington, the librarian of Congress” so much it gives me nosebleeds] has named our new poet laureate, Kay Ryan! La la la! Unacquainted with Kay Ryan, I set out to acquaint myself. A friend and I agreed that our initial reading forays were unsuccessful; we didn’t get her. And then–of a sudden!–we did, and we’ve been talking about her for days, up to and including this weekend in the merciless sun at Pitchfork Music Festival [another story entirely, and one that I’m too tired in the head to write]. I’ve included a Kay Ryan poem in its entirety at the end of this post, but others to read:

All Shall Be Restored


Paired Things

I look forward to you, Kay Ryan, and the things you’ll do and say! Already you have delighted me, Kay Ryan, in your e-mail exchange with a New Yorker writer on the day of your laureate appointment! The New Yorker writer wrote: “Your poem, “Things Shouldn’t Be So Hard”…begins with the lines “A life should leave/deep tracks.” Do you think that a poem can leave deep tracks?”

Her response: “A few poems, or a few bits of a few poems, leave tracks as deep as those of the pioneers’ covered wagon wheels crossing Utah.”



On the selfsame day that Kay Ryan was appointed the poet laureate, I discovered a poet named Brian Henry. I read his poem “Baited Sonnet” in the Boston Review, and I liked four lines of it very much, and looked for more Brian Henry poems, but they were never quite what I wanted them to be. In other words, it was not like reading Kay Ryan, where every new poem read reverberated, made good, kept getting better. But I liked those four lines, those Brian Henry lines, and they stuck in my head all day long:

And you were, where were you this hour o’ need?
By foot/by car/by bus/by train/online?
By where/what plane? Before/by whose design?
To flout us is to flout yourself, that past.

Annie Dillard writes: “I collected poems and learned them…I found Asian and Middle Eastern poetry in translation–whole heaps of lyrics, fierce or limp–which I ripped to fragments for my collection. I wanted beauty bare of import; I liked language in strips like pennants.”

I like “language in strips like pennants”. And so it’s all right to collect four lines of a poem and leave it at that.

But Annie and I part ways on the first point: I do need import in my beauty. I need import. Big time.

“Big Time Import” sounds like a shipping company with two different versions of the accounting books, if you know what I mean.

The Pieces That Fall To Earth
One could
almost wish
they wouldn’t;
they are so
far apart,
so random.
One cannot
wait, cannot
abandon waiting.
The three or
four occasions
of their landing
never fade.
Should there
be more, there
will never be
enough to make
a pattern
that can equal
the commanding
way they matter.

Kay Ryan


Filed under Annie Dillard, Brian Henry, Kay Ryan, Poetry