Sep. 27, 2005


by Kay Ryan

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Poem: "Dew" by Kay Ryan, from Elephant Rocks © Grove Press. Reprinted with permission.


As neatly as peas
in their green canoe,
as discreetly as beads
strung in a row,
sit drops of dew
along a blade of grass.
But unattached and
subject to their weight,
they slip if they accumulate.
Down the green tongue
out of the morning sun
into the general damp,
they're gone.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of the poet Kay Ryan, born in San Jose, California (1945). She grew up in a series of small towns along the desert. Her father was always trying to come up with get-rich-quick schemes, selling Christmas trees, and buying land mining operations. He died while reading a get-rich-quick book.

Kay Ryan went off to college. She just started writing poetry as a teenager. For ten years she only wrote when she had some spare time. And then a few months before her 30th birthday, she decided to take a cross country bicycle trip, 4,000 miles to give her time to think about what to do with her life. She was out in the middle of Colorado when the rhythmic movement of pedaling the bike got her thinking about poetry, and she realized she had to devote her life to being a poet.

She got a job teaching remedial English composition at a local college, and she made sure she'd only have to teach two days a week so she could spend all the rest of her time writing. She pared her life down to the basic essentials so she could afford to live on her meager salary.

She's published just four books of poetry over thirty years, including Dragon Acts to Dragon Ends and Flamingo Watching.

It's the birthday of novelist Louis Auchincloss, born in Lawrence, New York (1917). He grew up in one of the most prestigious families in New York City, spent his childhood in private schools, private clubs, and was surrounded by servants and debutantes. He went to Yale and the University of Virginia Law School.

His father was a member of a big law firm on Wall Street, and when his father took Louis to Wall Street to introduce him to the business world, Auchincloss was horrified by what he called "those dark narrow streets and those tall sooty towers."

He wanted to be a writer, but when his first novel was rejected, he decided he wasn't cut out for it and so he went into law. He liked working with the law, but he couldn't seem to stop writing on the side. He finally published his first book in 1947, The Indifferent Children, an autobiographical novel which he published under the pseudonym Andrew Lee

He continued writing novels and practicing law until he retired from law in 1986. He is best known for his novel The Rector of Justin, about an Episcopal boarding school for boys near Boston.

It's the birthday of the crime novelist Jim Thompson, born in Anadarko, Oklahoma (1906). His father was a sheriff in a small town. The family lived in an apartment above the county jail. Thompson was shocked when his father was charged with embezzling thousands of dollars from the state. Jim Thompson is best known for his novel The Killer Inside Me, about a friendly and beloved sheriff who is also a serial killer.

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