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Lions Roar : November 2014
IntentIon intention doesn’t sweeten. it should be picked young and eaten. Sometimes only hours separate the cotyledon from the wooden plant. then if you want to eat it, you can’t. about a Poem: Sherab Chödzin on the Poetry of Kay Ryan attentIon as strong as the suction cups on the octopus are the valves of the attention. if threatened or pulled off they leave welts and pink rings but also can unstick unfelt from things. weaK ForCeS i enjoy an accumulating faith in weak forces— a weak faith, of course, easily shaken, but also easily regained—in what starts to drift: all the slow untrainings of the mind, the sift left of resolve sustained too long, the strange internal shift by which there’s no knowing if this is the road taken or untaken. there are soft affinities, possibly electrical; lint-like congeries; moonlit hints; asymmetrical pink glowy spots that are not the defeat of something, i don’t think. a ball rollS on a PoInt the whole ball of who we are presses into the green baize at a single tiny spot. an aural track of crackle betrays our passage through the fibrous jungle. it’s hot and desperate. insects spring out of it. the pressure is intense, and the sense that we’ve lost proportion. as though bringing too much to bear too locally were our decision. ROM THE TIME humans first learned the trick of it, writing has cast a spell. you give your mind over to the inscribed characters and tumble into their conspiracy of meaning. Shopping lists capture you utterly for a minute. Russian novels cast long, heavy spells. Kay Ryan’s poems weave diminutive enchantments that lead you by sneaky means onto a higher ground in your mind where you see subtle and penetrating things that ordinarily you don’t or won’t. Her poems are elf tricks. Having caught your mind, the elf says, “Ha! i fooled you into my world.” What conspiratorial means does Ryan (a former u.S. poet laureate and a Pulitzer poetry prize winner) employ? one means is what she calls “recombinant rhyme,” which is rhyme hidden in the middle of lines, partial rhyme, sneaky rhyme, and assonances suggestive of rhyme. of course, she also uses rhythm, meter, partial meter, and meter that falls apart in an interesting way, often to allow a punch line to detach itself from the text and fall into the defenseless reader’s lap. Ryan’s poems play with each other, and they have a cumula- tive effect. Let’s take a look at “Weak Forces.” this poem, which F seems at first almost innocent of rhyme, is in fact riddled with it. We have forces and course; we have shaken, taken, untaken; drift, sift, shift; affinities, congeries; lint, hints; pink and think. i leave you to sleuth out the rhymes and assonances in the other poems, but i can’t help pointing out that in “attention,” we have “the suc- tion cups / on the octopus.” Not only are those lines metrically deft, but in Ryan’s view “cups” rhymes with “octopus.” Just look at the two words and you’ll see what she means. as you read, your mind subtly picks up this kind of mysterious resonance, whether you identify it or not. this is an example of the sort of (usually) unseen ploy that produces Ryan’s exquisite results. Read these four poems and see if you don’t agree that in each one of them the poet, without leaning on you heavily, has sprung into view a subtle insight, a glimpse of something that nests quietly in the way you are. and she has done it with humor and humility. ♦ An author, editor, and translator, SheRaB chöDzin kohn was for many years a close friend, student, and employee of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. SHAMBHALA SUN NoveMBer 2014 88