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Posts Tagged ‘Kay Ryan’

A Corner of Paradise

December 16, 2013 | by

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The opening to Betsy Karel’s new book of photography, Conjuring Paradise, is a poem by Kay Ryan titled “Slant.” It wonders at the randomness of loss, suspecting that its arbitrariness may be otherwise:

Does a skew
insinuate into the visual plane; do
the avenues begin to
strain for the diagonal?
Maybe there is always
this lean, this slight
slant …

Her imagining of a plan behind loss has a theatrical cant—the man behind the curtain—but the poet’s conclusion that it’s perhaps wiser to let this observation go unnamed is a subtle riff on Emily Dickinson’s “tell all the truth but tell it slant.” Both poems imply that the truth of the matter is always set obliquely, and thus never fully seen. What, then, do we really understand of it?

Karel’s images follow the same principle, looking at paradise through the lens of loss. She visited Waikiki, on the island of Oʻahu, in 2004 with her husband, who was dying of cancer; he found solace and pleasure in the tropical resorts, his symptoms temporarily alleviated. After his death, Karel returned to the area to make the photographs in this book, and the images she captured reflect this uneasy enterprise. Torpid and tanned beachgoers, ocean-themed decor, gifts shops and bars, the aqua splendor of swimming pools—each scene feels caught between a facile, picturesque serenity and a jarring sense of unreality. Ryan’s impression of a “skew” in the “visual plane” is rendered literal in Karel’s photographs: the strange angle of a balcony set against the sea, of painted waves rolling over a hallway, of a flashy sports car parked, as though forgotten, in the blank corner of an entryway.

Tropical splendor is just out of reach, as when plumes of sea spray block access to the ocean or the rich Hawaiian landscape is supplanted by a painted backdrop (can those smiling tourists discern the difference?). In one image, a giant screen, partially unfurled, hangs between Karel’s camera and the promise of palm trees and blue sky. If you can only see paradise out of the corner of your eye or through a squint, Karel seems to ask, is it real?

 

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Kay Ryan Wins Pulitzer

April 18, 2011 | by

This year’s Pulitzer Prize for Poetry goes to our contributor Kay Ryan for The Best of It: New and Selected Poems.

We featured Ryan in our winter 2008 issue. Click here to read one of her poems and here to read her Art of Poetry interview.

Congratulations!

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Staff Picks: Sarah Bakewell, Vladimir Sorokin

March 11, 2011 | by

For the last few months I’ve been rereading—very slowly and very late at night—Montaigne’s essays. All thanks to Sarah Bakewell (who won a National Book Critics Circle Award last night for her biography of Montaigne: How To Live). —Lorin Stein

Several years ago I read Vladimir Sorokin’s Ice and found its matter-of-fact sci-fi narrative intriguing but its conclusion quite disappointing. Turns out it’s the second book in a trilogy, which, thankfully, NYRB has published in a single volume—the way it ought to be read. I haven’t reached the end yet, but so far it’s wonderfully weird. —Nicole Rudick

The reviews of Margaux Fragosos’s Tiger, Tiger gave me the chills. It’s a memoir of her relationship with Peter, a pedophile forty-four years her senior. When a copy of the book was slipped on my desk this week, I had to pick it up. —Thessaly La Force

As an undergraduate, I remember catching my necromantic tutor in Old Icelandic obliviously reciting poems from the language on the top deck of the city bus. This week, I’ve been putting those extracurricular lessons to use by whipping out Basil Bunting’s Collected Poems on the subway. It doesn’t take long for the short, incantatory lines of “Briggflatts”—studded with monosyllabic words that Bunting excavated from Anglo-Saxon and his regional Northumbrian dialect—to achieve the twin effect of making me forget my surroundings and baffling my fellow passengers. I mean, what on earth is an oxter? —Jonathan Gharraie

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