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The Best of It: New and Selected Poems

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  1,242 Ratings  ·  137 Reviews
Kay Ryan's recent appointment as the Library of Congress's sixteenth poet laureate is just the latest in an amazing array of accolades for this wonderfully accessible, widely loved poet. Salon has compared her poems to "Faberge eggs, tiny, ingenious devices that inevitably conceal some hidden wonder." The two hundred poems in Ryan's The Best of It offer a stunning retrospe ...more
ebook, 288 pages
Published March 1st 2010 by Grove Press (first published February 8th 2010)
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Mar 04, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to s.p by: Scott
Shelves: poetry, poet_laureate
The Best of It collects new and selected poems from sixteenth US Poet Laureate Kay Ryan’s career covering 1993-2005. A highly decorated poet, Ryan teaches English at the College of Marin in California (her partner Carol Adair also taught there until her death in 2009) and has released eight collections of poetry. Ryan write tight little poems teeming with figurative language and marching to a rhythmic beat to emphasize her rhyme schemes that marries the traditional poetry styles of old with mode ...more
Jun 27, 2014 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Miriam by: W.G. Sebald
Shelves: poetry
A life should leave
deep tracks:
ruts where she
went out and back
to get the mail
or move the hose
around the yard;
where she used to
stand before the sink,
a worn-out place;
beneath her hand
the china knobs
rubbed down to
white pastilles;
the switch she
used to feel for
in the dark
almost erased.
Her things should
keep her marks.
The passage
of a life should show;
it should abrade.
And when life stops,
a certain space—
however small—
should be left scarred
by the grand and
damaging parade.
Things shouldn’t
be so hard.
Dale Harcombe
Mar 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite winning the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2010 and being the United States Poet Laureate 2008-2010, this poet was unfamiliar to me as my knowledge of American poetry is not extensive. I was excited to discover her work and looked forward to delving into this collection of poems chosen by her as representative of her earlier and later poems. The book contains over 200 poems. That alone makes it worth investing time in.
I particularly liked Virga. In this poem I liked the use of internal rhy
Along with Anne Carson, Kay Ryan has long been my favorite contemporary poet, so I was pleased to see her become our Poet Laureate a few years back, and then delighted to attend a reading and lecture last year, which is where I picked up this collection. She signed it "for Jesse from the San Joaquin," as I had asked her where exactly she had grown up, and the location turned out to be as small and unknown as my own hometown (though only about 45 minutes apart, neither of us had heard of the othe ...more
Jul 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Lets face it, poetry is the wheat grass juice of literature. Everyone says that it's great for you (and it is) but it smells like your lawn and tastes like gritty pond scum.

When someone wants to look too smart for the room, poetry is the stick they beat you with. When someone wants to show how dramatic, artsy and depressed they are, it's the prop of choice. Emo kids love it. As do the elderly.

For me, poetry was in the same catagory as the advanced Maths: I know they exist and I'm sure someo
Joan Winnek
May 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm going to return this book to the library, then request it again. A list of poems I especially like: Shift, Spiderweb, Leaving Spaces, Force, Persiflage, Caught. And here is a short poem that exemplifies what I like about Kay Ryan.


Emptiness cannot be
compressed. Nor can it
fight abuse. Nor is there
an endless West hosting
elk, antelope, and the
tough cayuse. This is
true also of the mind:
it can get used.

I love this book so much that it's hard to mark it read, as I'm sure it will sta
Jee Koh
Jun 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Smart, inventive, observant, the poems of Kay Ryan are a genuine delight. The lesser poems in this New and Selected are the fallouts of her strengths. When the love for epigram trumps the fire of imagination. When the final rhyming pair clicks shut but the box is empty. "Things Shouldn't Be So Hard" affords a rare glimpse into the private life. It leaves me wanting more, not for the sake of voyeurism, but for the sake of the complete victory.
Mike Lindgren
Apr 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
The poems in Kay Ryan's astonishing collection "The Best of It: New and Selected Poems" are so crisp and immediate that they seem effortless. It is only upon closer inspection that these little miracles of compression begin to give up their secrets, their engaging surfaces gradually yielding ever more layers of nuance.

Ryan's verse reminds one not so much of conventional narrative poems as of some cunningly made artifacts, like those tiny Russian nesting dolls, or an exquisite enameled box that,
James Murphy
Nov 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was steered toward reading Kay Ryan by a critical appraisal comparing her to Dickinson. I think the comparison fitting. Ryan's poems, too, are short, stabbing darts which are deceptively simple and easy. The brevity of her form helps to create the deception, but held within the rind of that simple form is a denser, meatier thought. The reader's task, as with all poetry, is to peel away the rind to get at the pulp within. Each of the poems in The Best of It, like Dickinson's poems, is a radianc ...more
Heather Hasselle
Sep 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-poetry
I ate these poems in a night. They're small and contain a satisfying crunch, like cereal. With every spoonful of a poem, you'll crave more. When at the end, you've consumed them all, pour yourself another bowl and do it all over again.
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Poetry Readers Ch...: George's 2014 list 1 6 Jun 15, 2015 10:13AM  
  • The Shadow of Sirius
  • Versed
  • Walking to Martha's Vineyard
  • The Poets Laureate Anthology
  • Repair
  • Failure
  • Practical Gods
  • Delights and Shadows
  • Different Hours
  • Native Guard
  • Moy Sand and Gravel
  • Come, Thief
  • Alive Together
  • Time and Materials
  • Blizzard of One
  • Late Wife
  • Stag's Leap: Poems
  • Selected Poems
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
More about Kay Ryan...
There is a distance where magnets pull, we feel, having held them back. Likewise there is a distance where words attract. Set one out like a bait goat and wait and seven others will approach. But watch out: roving packs can pull your word away. You find your stake yanked and some rough bunch to thank.”

Birds that love
high trees
and winds

and riding
flailing branches
hate ledges
as gripless
and narrow,

so that a tail
is not just
no advantage
but ridiculous,
mashed vertical
against the wall.
You will have
seen the way
a bird who falls
on skimpy places

lifts into the air
again in seconds --
a gift denied
the rest of us
when our portion
isn't generous.”
More quotes…