Cover image for New and selected poems
New and selected poems
Ryan, Michael, 1946-
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Poems. Selections
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin Co., [2004]

Physical Description:
xii, 148 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3568.Y39 N48 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Michael Ryan's New and Selected Poems is the first collection to appear in fifteen years from this acclaimed and masterly poet. Comprising fifty-seven poems from three award-winning volumes and thirty-one brilliant new poems, it displays the wit and passion he has brought to universal themes throughout his career. In both dramatic lyrics and complex narratives, Ryan renders the world with startling clarity, freshness, and intimacy.

Ryan's poems are filled with the stuff of everyday life: What-a-Burger, Space Invaders, "the hood ornament / on some chopped down hot rod of the apocalypse." He observes his subjects in carefully wrought detail and with a fierce compassion, describing "stupid posters of rock stars" in the bedroom of a murdered teenager, or a homeless boy "straggle-haired, bloated, / eyes shining like ice." As Ryan writes of others, in a final "Reminder" to himself: "their light --their light -- / pulls so surely. Let it."

This long-awaited collection shows Ryan at the height of his powers. As William H. Pritchard said in The Nation, "Unlike too many poets who tumble into print at the first twitch of feeling, Ryan takes time to listen to himself, and such listening contributes immeasurably to the subtlety of his address to the reader . . . [He] reminds us on every page that poems can be about lives, and about them in ways most urgent and delicate."

Author Notes

Michael Ryan received his Masters of Engineering Science and his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of New South Wales.

Mr. Ryan is a senior lecturer at the University of New South Wales in Australia.

050 Michael Ryan is the author of three poetry collections, including "In Winter" & "God Hunger," & of the memoir "Secret Life." His work has been honored by the Lenore Marshall Prize, a Whiting Writers Award, the Yales Series of Younger Poets Award, & a Guggenheim Fellowship, among others. Ryan is a professor of English & creative writing at the University of California, Irvine.

(Publisher Provided)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Michael Ryan's three collections-the Yale Younger-winning Threats Instead of Trees (1974), the National Poetry Series selection In Winter (1981) and the Lenore Marshall-winning God Hunger (1989)-are represented by 11, 12 and 34 pieces, respectively, in his New and Selected Poems, along with 31 new verses. In all, Ryan's straight-talking diction moves quickly from interjection to conversational analysis to terse, noirish declaration: "Oh well,/ whatever heart-bursting terror// I'm supposed to learn in dreams/ could be useful someday/ when a beloved voice screams/ and life changes utterly// No one's immune./ It's happening to someone right now./ The police, the ambulance,/ these strangers in the house." (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Ryan launched his career with Threats Instead of Trees, a Yale Younger Poets winner, and since then has consistently turned out winners. He hasn't published a collection of poetry in over a decade-clearly, he prefers quality to quantity-so this new collection is welcome indeed, even as a "new and collected" work. In fact, about a third of the poems here are new, the rest representing the best of Ryan's three previous collections, which makes this a good buy for smaller collections wanting representative works of major contemporary poets as well as an important purchase for libraries that collect poetry more extensively. Ryan is notable for his perfect blend of the colloquial and the lyric, and his lines flow effortlessly to a typical one-two punch at the end. Underneath, there's always an edgy quality that time has not blunted; perhaps the new poems are a bit more laconic, ready to pounce on issues of sex, pain, and death. "I had to help with/ the wounded and haul out the dead," concludes one poem, summing up the poet's job through the ages. Highly recommended for poetry lovers everywhere.-Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Threats from Instead of TreesSpeakingIm speaking again as the invalid in a dark room.I want to say thank you out loud to no one.I want to suck my cracked lips in on the sound, as the sound dissolves slowly like a man living.Im painfully grateful theres breath to make noise with, and many words have meaning. I feel lucky when hello doesnt hurt.On a bus, I could love anyone.Its not terrible to be alone.Last night I talked to a person so haltingly I might have been looking for a word that wouldnt change.That made her misconstrue everything.Did she feel what I thought she was feeling?Did she feel me concealing the pleasure that keeps me going, as I circled that pleasure like a dog around its master?This pleasure, for me, is speaking, as if words enclosed the secret in myself that lasts after death. The Myth For a long time, nothing happened.Then ancestors whispering, then fragments of a forgotten life disturbing ordinary actions: handling a stone, or bathing, you might think of the brain as a diamond.Even thought was clear, like watching your lover explore the bottom of a deep lake.Everyone became friends, mirroring one anothers most personal gestures.The leaders said this happiness is round like bowls, and devised simple rituals in which touch wasnt a form of searching a #64257;ngers curving could articulate anything.Still, some looked for damage in the hard scars on our bodies.They reminded us of the years of pain, when anticipation meant only disappointment, and any object we desired would cut brutally through the skin.Shouldnt we be ashamed?Isnt this history we imagine in that ones ugly movement of his arms? Her clumsy legs?Reverting to privacy, we began to see less distinctly.Sometimes, during an intimate talk, youd swear you caught your best friend closing his eyes, as in sadness at his own re#64258;ection.So we tried exhaustion, swimming alone for days. Slowly we noticed our bodies becoming smooth and beautiful, and the air seemed less necessary the deeper we dove. Maybe we forgot we were actually underwater, forgetting, as we did, all harm done, all we couldnt be for one another.Copyright © 2004 by Michael Ryan.Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. Excerpted from New and Selected Poems by Michael Ryan All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

from Threats Instead of Trees, 1974
Speakingp. 3
The Mythp. 4
The Blind Swimmerp. 6
Pastoralp. 8
Prothalamionp. 9
Hitting Fungoesp. 10
Letters from an Institutionp. 12
Deathwatchp. 15
This is a poem for the deadp. 16
A Posthumous Poeticsp. 17
Housep. 18
from In Winter, 1981
Poem at Thirtyp. 21
When I Was Conceivedp. 25
Consider a Movep. 26
The Pure Lonelinessp. 27
Where I'll Be Goodp. 28
A Shape for Itp. 29
A Changed Seasonp. 30
Gangster Dreamsp. 31
Memoryp. 32
In Winterp. 33
All the Timep. 34
Sexp. 35
from God Hunger, 1989
Not the End of the Worldp. 41
My Dream by Henry Jamesp. 44
This Is Whyp. 46
TV Room at the Children's Hospicep. 48
The Gladiatorp. 50
Milk the Mousep. 51
Meeting Cheeverp. 52
"Boy 'Carrying-In' Bottles in Glass Works"p. 54
Winter Droughtp. 55
Spider Plantp. 57
Through a Crackp. 58
Sea Wormsp. 59
The Pastp. 61
A Burglaryp. 62
A Splinterp. 71
Onep. 73
Portrait of a Ladyp. 75
First Exercisep. 77
The Ditchp. 79
Smokep. 81
Housefliesp. 82
Larkinesquep. 83
The Crown of Frogsp. 85
Passionp. 89
Pedestrian Pastoralp. 92
Moonlightp. 93
Firep. 94
Tourists on Parosp. 95
Crossroads Innp. 96
A Postcard from Italyp. 97
Stone Paperweightp. 98
God Hungerp. 99
Tanglewoodp. 100
Switchbladep. 102
New Poems
A Two-Year-Old Girl in a Restaurantp. 107
Outsidep. 108
The Music Housep. 109
The Use of Poetryp. 111
My Other Selfp. 113
Bunnyp. 115
Birthdayp. 118
Ash Pitp. 119
Tutelaryp. 120
In the Sinkp. 121
Ballad of The Four Last Thingsp. 122
Chronic Severe Incurablep. 123
Mr. Pain Speaks for Himselfp. 124
Godp. 125
Wings of the Morningp. 126
Tributep. 127
Flimsyp. 128
The Othersp. 129
A Good Fatherp. 130
Every Sundayp. 131
A Dead Girlp. 132
Distant Friendp. 133
Dickheadp. 134
Complete Semen Studyp. 136
Eschatologyp. 138
Extended Carep. 139
Dream Pun on "Single Man" Before Marrying Againp. 140
An Old Book in Florencep. 142
A Version of Happinessp. 145
A French Cafe in Orange Countyp. 147
Reminderp. 148