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Elephant Rocks

3.9  ·  Rating details ·  257 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
Elephant Rocks, Kay Ryan s third book of verse, shows a virtuoso practitioner at the top of her form. Engaging and secretive, provocative and profound, Ryan s poems have generated growing excitement with their appearances in The New Yorker and other leading periodicals. Sometimes gaudily ornamental, sometimes Shaker-plain, here is verse that is compact on the page and expa ...more
Paperback, 96 pages
Published August 19th 1997 by Grove Press (first published 1996)
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Nov 05, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-poetry
While I am waiting until I meet with my poetry reading group to pass final judgment on this early Kay Ryan book, I was a bit disappointed in it.I enjoyed the Niagra River much, much better.

In Elephant Rock's I sometimes found her wordplay and quirky rhyme schemes more annoying than elucidating--distracting and pulling me out of the poems.

There were some poems I rather liked, such as her piece "Hope" where her wordplay comes up with some new and wonderful ways of looking at the concept hope "the
Joseph Dante
Aug 20, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: poetry
This was my introduction to Kay Ryan. I found this book in perfect condition, hard copy, at my favorite used bookstore for $1. So why not, I thought.

These poems are aphoristic and overly didactic, written in a way that claims to have all the Big Truths about Everything Ever. Throughout my reading, I kept imagining a very old man making proclamations atop a mountain, as if it were Moses and the Ten Commandments. If this wasn't written on a stone tablet, it was definitely written on a scroll. Here
Jun 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, favorites
Why Isn't It All More Marked

Why isn't it all
more marked,
why isn't every wall
graffitied, every park tree
stripped like the
stark limbs
in the house of
the chimpanzees?
Why is there bark
left? Why do people
cling to their
shortening shrifts
like rafts? So
Not why people are;
why not more violent?
We must be
so absorbent.
We must be
almost crystals,
almost all some
neutralizing chemical
that really does
clarify and bring peace,
take black sorrow
and make surcease.
Jul 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
While the random hard rhyming,
that didn't seem to follow much of a pattern
or hold much of a reason to be there,
did throw me off a bit, still,

I do have to say that there are veins of gold
to be found among these rocks.

Keep looking. Read them twice. Or more.
May 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: lovers of turns of phrase
Shelves: poetry
interesting, how a thought thinks
May 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
I found this little title randomly while searching my local Half Price Books for old Billy Collins' collections. Kay Ryan's name was new to me, but I quickly learned of her ridiculous list of accolades - including serving as US Poet Laureate and receiving the Pulitzer - so I thought, eh, why not give her a chance. So glad I did. Ryan's poems are deceptively short and simple little pieces that are actual gold mines of wisdom and imagery. I've easily read this entire book twice over the past week, ...more
Feb 01, 2014 rated it liked it

I really enjoyed the way this poet thinks and plays with words and thoughts, the ideas that no one else has ever thought, or it seems that way. How time could reverse, and gather up the grains of sand and restore them to the rock then the cliff then the bedrock of the continental plates. No "half-measure," and isn't that the way to live your life? She asks 'Not why people are violent', why aren't more people violent or why aren't they more violent, or why isn't the world scarred and marked to i
Feb 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
This was my first exposure to Kay Ryan -- I got it after hearing her on NPR after she became poet laureate. I was moved by the poem "Niagara" on the radio, which is indeed quite a nice poem.

There are a number of very nice poems in this book -- she has a sense of dark humor undergirding her writing that I very much appreciate (it reminds me of another favorite of mine -- Mark Strand).

The one complaint I have with her is her occasional use of overt rhyme, which just felt sloppy to me. Like many mo
Gabriel Thibodeau
Before this book I was a respectful poetry appreciator. Napkin on the lap, always using the proper utensils and whatnot--yes, mmm, nice rhyme structure, interesting rhythm, etc. etc. Post-Elephant Rocks, I devour poetry. I tear it apart and lick the plate clean. Why use a fork when you can eat with your hands?

Full of the energy and interest and nuance that crackles even sharper today.
Austin Wright
Jul 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I'm not one for books of Poetry; however, I've recently surprised myself by, by chance, picking up this book as well as "The House on Mango Street" both were attention=grabbing, with this one being more clever while Mango Street was more haunting--oh, and I'm trying to make a really long run-on sentence on purpose; thanks for reading!
Anna L  Conti
Aug 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry

Who writes those descriptions at the top of page? This does NOT show Ryan at the "top of her game." It's OK, but nowhere near her current work. It was interesting to see the kind of thing she's written in the past, but don't consider this an introduction to her work. I found the weird rhymes and rhythms to be distracting.
Apr 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book solidified my appreciation for Kay Ryan after being introduced to her through some random internet browsing. Her poetic style is succinct in presentation, but expansive in investigation. You should give her your attention.
Bill Keefe
May 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Elephant Rocks was the first book of Kay Ryan's poems that I've read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Excellent reading for both the sheer enjoyment of her mastery of the word and the strength of her thought.
Apr 03, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Kay Ryan is a clever, precise poet. Her poems are always short & crisp. She reminds me in a way of Mary Oliver. But her poems aren't beautiful like Oliver's, just clever. So, it's fun to read her poems, but I don't have to read them again & again like I do Mary Oliver's poetry.
Jul 18, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: own, poetry, read-in-2009
While I very much liked Ryan's style of poetry writing, I found this work a little uneven. The best piece by far is the poem for which the book is titled - "Elephant Rocks." It was wise to end with that poem because the reader then leaves with a positive impression of the book as a whole.
Rob the Obscure
May 18, 2009 rated it it was ok
I am a Ryan fan, generally. Her other books are very good. This one, however, didn't do it for me. I would attempt to say why, except that Donna (see her review) essentially took the words out of my mouth (or, should I say, my fingers.)
Feb 10, 2009 rated it liked it
Ms. Ryan, now the poet laureate of the US (PLotUS?) creates lovely imagery in her poems. Some are whimsical, and others more serious and pondering in nature. The book is a quick read, which and a nice reintroduction to poetry for someone who has not read much in a while.
Aug 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, read-in-2010
A Cat/A Future

A cat can draw
the blinds
behind her eyes
whenever she
decides. Nothing
alters in the stare
itself but she's
not there. Likewise
a future can occulde:
still sitting there,
doing nothing rude. poem
Mar 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is the second book of Kay Ryan's poetry that I've read, and again I appreciate the taut lines and imagery. Many of these poems invite multiple readings to think through the layers; a few seem veiled--with details so personal that they keep the reader from understanding.
Jan 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
The poems were quite elevated and the word choices were something I could appreciate. However, not a single poem made me feel like I could connect to it and not a single poem gave me any kind of emotional response.
Helen Hagemann
Sep 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviews
Just loving this poetry by Kay Ryan. Funny, quirky, short poetry that rhymes as well!
Aug 14, 2010 added it
Sometimes too didactic, sometimes too cutesy, sometimes too didactic in a cutesy way for added confusion, but when it works, it works for me -- "Hope," "Poetry in Translation."
Nov 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Unusual little poems. I feel like the conclusions always caught me by surprise. The last few lines of nearly every poem left me thinking, Oh, you're taking it THERE? I didn't see that coming.
May 21, 2010 rated it did not like it
If you haven't read this poet, you should
Nov 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This was my first foray into Kay Ryan's work. It's quirky and interesting. I admire her brevity. Many observations hit home as familiar and accurate. Fewer did I find emotionally moving.
Mar 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Uneven, but there are some great gems in there.
Mar 23, 2009 rated it liked it
Refreshing with some nice word play.
Apr 08, 2008 added it
read it.
Nov 30, 2008 rated it it was ok
I found this disappointing compared to Say Uncle and The Niagara River. Too much forced rhyme for my taste.
Jason Robinson
Nov 04, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 Stars. Mostly hits, but a few misses. Ms. Ryan has an expansive vocabulary.
Sep 29, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Kay Ryan is one of my favorite poets, but this is not her best book. Most of the poems fall flat, particularly the rhymes, which are not as sparkling or surprising as those in Say Uncle.
Oct 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Small obsession with her work.
Oct 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
what little jewels...
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Born in California in 1945 and acknowledged as one of the most original voices in the contemporary landscape, Kay Ryan is the author of several books of poetry, including Flamingo Watching (2006), The Niagara River (2005), and Say Uncle (2000). Her book The Best of It: New and Selected Poems (2010) won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

Ryan's tightly compressed, rhythmically dense poetry is often comp
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