Selected Proseby Kay Ryan
The first-ever collection of essays by one of our most distinguished and distinctive poets, Pulitzer Prize-winner and former Poet Laureate of the United States Kay Ryan
Synthesizing Gravity gathers for the first time a thirty-year selection of Kay Ryan’s probings into aesthetics, poetics, and the mind in pursuit of art.
A bracing collection of critical prose, book reviews, and her private previously unpublished soundings of poems and poets—including Robert Frost, Stevie Smith, Marianne Moore, William Bronk, and Emily Dickinson—Synthesizing Gravity bristles with Ryan’s crisp wit, her keen off-kilter insights, and her appetite and appreciation for the genuine. Among essays like “Radiantly Indefensible,” “Notes on the Danger of Notebooks,” and “The Abrasion of Loneliness,” are piquant pieces on the virtues of emptiness, forgetfulness and other under-loved concepts. Edited and with an introduction by Christian Wiman, this generous collection of Ryan’s distinctive thinking gives us a surprising look into the mind of an American master.
“Synthesizing Gravity is a delight, if a tart and idiosyncratic one… There is no mystical bombast here whatsoever. Indeed, there is very nearly the opposite, delivered by a writer with a full command of the English sentence and an electric talent for metaphor… If Ryan gives us a view through a keyhole, it’s a view often made richer by its constraints.”—New York Times
“Reading Ryan’s writing will charge and recharge the mind. This is the first collection of nonfiction from Ryan, a national treasure… [and] a wonderful entry point to her work.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Brilliant… For poetry enthusiasts and skeptics alike, this will be an inviting portal into the mind of one of America’s greatest living writers.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Damn fine prose… What a wonderful voice [Ryan] displays… She’s a kind of wisecracking philosopher, a truly original thinker, a quantum physicist of space who also, clearly, knows how her own clear voice sounds better than when alone.”—John Freeman, Lit Hub’s Most Anticipated Books of 2020
“[Ryan] has the uncanny ability to construct a tiny word-mechanism that produces the experience of genuine wonder.”—Washington Post
“Everything [Ryan’s] eye falls upon takes on a brisk, beautifully complete clarity. Her tidy lines disguise an enormous intelligence and tonal warmth: a ferocious capacity for finding the essence of things.”—Los Angeles Times
“Ryan’s poems are consistent delights. . . [they] are what Robert Frost said all poems must be, momentary stays against confusion.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“[Ryan] excels at aphoristic wit, yet reveals an intensity of emotion . . . You won’t find any clutter in her work, which never fails to surprise, enlighten and delight.”—Newsday
“You can’t help consuming [her] poems quickly, the way you are supposed to consume freshly made cocktails: while they are still smiling at you. But you immediately double back—what was that?—and their moral and intellectual bite blindsides you.”—New York Times
“Ryan’s poems are witty, reserved, unprepossessing, impersonal, small-scale, as well as short-lined, practical rather than spiritual, never boastful.”—Guardian
“Melancholy lucidity is Ryan’s greatest gift.”—New Yorker