David Reads “Shark’s Teeth,” by Kay Ryan

Former U.S. Poet Laureate, Kay Ryan
Former U.S. Poet Laureate, Kay Ryan

I wasn’t planning on doing video today, but I went out to film the dogwood trees in my neighborhood, getting prepared for Earth Day’s reading of a Hoagland piece tomorrow, and then former U.S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan caught my eye. There she was in the King Street park, fin up, tail a-swish, passing by like a poet-shark. Okay, so maybe it was only the gold-fish in the fountain pond, but those orange (I swear they are not gold) little buggers, the park, the noise on the street, all got me thinking of this poem by Kay Ryan.

I missed Poem-in-Your-Pocket-Day this week. I think it was the 18th, but this poem was from a page I tore out of Poem in Your Pocket, a tablet-like publication from 2009 from the Academy of American Poets, complete with an introduction from Ryan herself. You got that right, I tore the page out. It’s that kind of book; no page numbers; the leafs flip up like an old-fashioned writing tablet (no, not that kind of tablet, the paper kind that you write on with an ink pen!), held together with glue at the top.

How the book works (photo credit: AbramsBooks.com)
How the book works (photo credit: AbramsBooks.com)

Even though this unique book of poetry was made for this, it was still hard for me to tear poems out at first. But that’s what you do. You rip them off and pass them around. Spread the poems. Eventually, when I finally convinced myself this was a poem tablet and not a volume of verse, I got to enjoy all the ripping, tearing, passing, taping, tucking into greeting cards and magnetizing to the fridge door. Get your hands on one and try it yourself. You needn’t wait for next year’s PIYP day.

My theories of line endings in my own work do not always jive with those of other poets I adore, and that can be a challenge when it comes to reading their work. In recording this poem, I did not listen to her version first, and the results were interesting. Sometimes I listen to multiple versions before recording, and other times I prefer to not be influenced and see what happens. This is one of those instances where the poet did the better reading.

No, it’s not always the case. Sometimes wonderful poets on paper do a poor job of performing their own work vocally. As I said, this isn’t the case here, and that seems to hold true for Ryan’s other readings too. She’s a good reader, and she keeps her audience’s attention. One of my favorite readings of hers is the one about the chickens coming home to roost, but I’ll let you go find that link on your own this time.  You can find her reading on YouTube by clicking here. I hope you enjoyed this little experiment at least a fraction as much as I did.

The scenes are from my neighborhood, and the building center stage about the time I say, “when silence reigned,” is the Joseph Priestly Memorial Library. Shhh. . .

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Jamie Dedes says:

    Engaging post. I do enjoy Kay Ryan as well … and, it is a lovely reading! 🙂


    1. Thank you, Jamie! Much appreciated.


  2. slpmartin says:

    Must agree with Jamie…an engaging post and another find reading…brought a smile as I listened.


    1. Thank you, Charles.


  3. PB Rippey says:

    I love this poem, at least as much as the chickens. So inventive. I listened/watched, then just listened as the scenery is so pretty I was distracted. You live in a beautiful city!


    1. Thank you, P! And I cheat really. It’s such a tiny little river town. More like a neighborhood than anything resembling a city. I live in a section that was the old bustling business area, but it’s only a couple of blocks in size. Most of the borough (that’s officially what it is) goes off into rows and rows of suburban houses with views of the river or the surrounding hills.

      I’m glad you like the poem. I adore this and the Chickens! 🙂


  4. angryricky says:

    I was going to say a few words about the vital nature of silence, but then thought it would be better to let them hang in the air, unspoken.


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