Erratic Facts
Kay Ryan—"a classic American poet" (John Freeman)—is acclaimed for her highly intelligible, deeply insightful poems. Erratic Facts is her first new collection since the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Best of It, and it is animated with her signature swift, lucid, lyrical style.At once witty and melancholy, playful and heartfelt, Ryan examines enormous subjects—existence, consciousness, love, loss—in compact poems that have immensely powerful resonance. Sly rhymes and strong cadences lend remarkable musicality to her incisive wisdom. While these pieces are composed of the same brevity and vitality that has characterized her singular voice over the course of more than 20 years, her mind is sharper than ever, her imagination more eccentric and daring. Erratic Facts solidifies Ryan’s place at the pinnacle of American poetry, and proves that she will remain among the leading innovators in literary history.

Erratic Facts Details

TitleErratic Facts
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseOct 6th, 2015
PublisherGrove Press
ISBN-139780802124050
Rating
GenrePoetry

Erratic Facts Review

  • Corey
    January 1, 1970
    Kay Ryan is a poet like no other. Her seemingly simple, short poems are small mechanisms of grace and pith. She makes me want to be a better poet. Still StartAs if engineparts could bewrenched outat random andthe car wouldstill start andsound even,hearts can gowith chambersbroken open.
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  • Merritt K.
    January 1, 1970
    It's trite to compare Ryan's work to physical craft but it's still like little carvings with intricate details you don't always notice the first time around. These poems feel like she's completely mastered her style -- chock full of inimitable internal rhymes -- and deployed it in the service of explicating loss, a theme that's appeared in her work before but never to this extent. Ryan's a pretty private writer in a lot of ways yet this collection is intensely personal, especially near the end. It's trite to compare Ryan's work to physical craft but it's still like little carvings with intricate details you don't always notice the first time around. These poems feel like she's completely mastered her style -- chock full of inimitable internal rhymes -- and deployed it in the service of explicating loss, a theme that's appeared in her work before but never to this extent. Ryan's a pretty private writer in a lot of ways yet this collection is intensely personal, especially near the end. It's a powerful piece of carpentry that tries to carve something out of an impossible subject. Highlights: Fizz, Fool's Errands, Venice, Almost.
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  • Nicole
    January 1, 1970
    I really wasn't a fan of most of these poems, but I like this one:"As if engine parts could be wrenched out at random and the car would still start and sound even, hearts can go with chambers broken open."
  • David
    January 1, 1970
    Good stuff: Now that I've read it all once, I'm set to go through and read these poems over and over. Maybe I'll memorize some, I bet they'll be fun to recite to myself, and supposedly it's good for the old brain to get that kind of exercise. Anyway, Kay Ryan is great, and I'm glad I came across this on the featured poetry shelf in the Worthington Public Library.
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  • Kevin Lawrence
    January 1, 1970
    Ryan's an original, but as I was reading this I kept thinking about why I associate her often with Dickinson -- both write very succinct poems and have a strong penchant for assertive, declarative sentences that can sound like homilies. But really their similarities end right about there -- Dickinson is much more dramatic ("I felt a funeral in my brain," or "Dare you see the soul at the white heat?" I can't imagine such drama from Ryan.) Ryan is decidedly much more at a remove in her poems, almo Ryan's an original, but as I was reading this I kept thinking about why I associate her often with Dickinson -- both write very succinct poems and have a strong penchant for assertive, declarative sentences that can sound like homilies. But really their similarities end right about there -- Dickinson is much more dramatic ("I felt a funeral in my brain," or "Dare you see the soul at the white heat?" I can't imagine such drama from Ryan.) Ryan is decidedly much more at a remove in her poems, almost clinical, making her homilies much more homely. At her best, she's very wise but understated; at her worst, she's more wise-guy than wise. But all in all, I really enjoy almost anything Ryan writes -- she's thinking deeply but not in an ostentatious theory-meets-poetry type of way that usually gets the lion's share of critical attention. Who else can come up with a quiet, profound little gem like the following:“The First of Never,” by Kay RyanNever dawnsas thoughit were a dayand rises.Our day-sensesays a daycan be out-waited.So we wait.That’s theonly kindof timewe’ve ever known:it should begetting late;she should begetting home.
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  • Daniel Klawitter
    January 1, 1970
    Kay Ryan is just fantastic. I love her short, tightly compressed lines that stutter step gracefully toward revelations large and small, spiritual and mundane. She is like a modern-day Emily Dickinson but with a less imposing inner austerity.
  • Mills College Library
    January 1, 1970
    811.54 R9889f 2015
  • Joe Kraus
    January 1, 1970
    I stumbled across this collection at the MLA, and I picked it up because the first several poems simply grabbed me. I’ve been challenging myself to read more collections of poetry, so that’s something I sometimes do: pick up a volume and see if it talks to me. As a result, I don’t read any poetry that I don’t already like a lot. There’s so much of it in the world that it seems silly to spend time on something that doesn’t talk to you.I’d never heard of Kay Ryan, but, as it turns out, I’m hardly I stumbled across this collection at the MLA, and I picked it up because the first several poems simply grabbed me. I’ve been challenging myself to read more collections of poetry, so that’s something I sometimes do: pick up a volume and see if it talks to me. As a result, I don’t read any poetry that I don’t already like a lot. There’s so much of it in the world that it seems silly to spend time on something that doesn’t talk to you.I’d never heard of Kay Ryan, but, as it turns out, I’m hardly making some deep discovery. She’s won a Pulitzer and been the U.S. Poet Laureate, so there’s really nowhere up to go from there. That’s the nature of 21st Century American poetry, I guess – even the stars are obscure. (That makes the broad acknowledgement of Mary Oliver’s death so startling; most of us simply don’t know our poets.)Ryan’s poems are all short. She works with a line-length well less than a breath, and her work has a zen koan quality to it. She boils her insights down to such an essence that we’ve swallowed them whole before we quite realize it. There’s a meditative quality in the work, but there’s also a lot of humor. She’s taking her ideas and her poetry seriously, but she doesn’t seem to be taking the idea of poetry too seriously. Most of my favorites are the very first ones. Consider, for instance, “New Rooms”The mind mustset itself upwherever it goesand it would bemost convenientto impose itsold rooms—justtack them uplike an interior tent. Oh butthe new holesaren’t wherethe windows went.I love the brevity of this one, but I love as well the way it lingers. I think that feeling, the sense that, after a major change in my life or world, I want to get back to a familiar rhythm. Instead, as she says, “the new holes aren’t where the windows went.” That tight, slanted-truth seems almost worthy of Emily Dickinson, a truth that we recognize as truth only after she says it. Another that prompted me to pick this up is “On The Nature of Understanding”Say you hoped totame somethingwild and stayedcalm and inched upday by day. Or evennot tame it butmeet it half way.Things went along.You made progress,understandingit would be alengthy process,sensing changesin your hair and nails. So it’sstrange when itattacks: you thoughtyou had a deal.That too seems to capture a truth I’d almost already known. I have that sense of getting locked within myself in the midst of a new project, a new attempt at understanding. Just because I set myself the task of coming to understand a thing, it doesn’t mean that I will succeed. Ryan reminds me that understanding has to be a conversation, a dialogue, and one of the great potential errors is to assume that which the other is saying.I can’t help having read this in the context of another book I picked up at the MLA, Lee McIntyre’s Post Truth, a study of the way we have reached a point of such contested sense about what it means for something to be “true” in Trump’s America. I see here a playful response to that uncertainty. Read within the moment, Ryan is showing how the mind pushes toward knowledge and then pulls away nearly as fast. The title poem isn’t one of my particular favorites, but its title suggests just that point: we necessarily perceive the world with expectations, but those expectations – in their erratic application to the world as it is – often lead us into error.She gets at that same sound-of-one-hand-clapping insight with an excerpt from “Trench Like That.”The questionis doesthe sea goexactly backafter a shippasses. Isa trench likethat an eventor not…That image simply works for me. I’ve often wondered at the strangeness of doing a thing that leaves no trace (something I did just yesterday when an hour of shoveling snow seemed to matter not at all to the additional half inch that had fallen behind me as I worked). I feel Ryan posing a question, and I feel compelled to answer it even as I know I can’t.Other favorites include “Token Loss,” “All Your Horses,” and “Why Explain the Precise By Way of the Less Precise.”I’m going to stick this one on the shelf and, given the bite-sized conundrums it offers so widely, I expect I’ll pull it down again every so often.
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  • Josh
    January 1, 1970
    Along with Billy Collins and Mary Oliver, Ryan is my favorite living poet-- and truly, I can think of no writer who has done more to impress on me the beauty of economy. Each of her poems is a tiny, perfectly sculpted riddle where every word packs a whallop, both in terms of meaning and rhythm; they seem so simple, to the point that it's hard to resist devouring them by the dozens, yet nearly every poem in this collection made me stop and re-read it, second-guessing all my assumptions about it. Along with Billy Collins and Mary Oliver, Ryan is my favorite living poet-- and truly, I can think of no writer who has done more to impress on me the beauty of economy. Each of her poems is a tiny, perfectly sculpted riddle where every word packs a whallop, both in terms of meaning and rhythm; they seem so simple, to the point that it's hard to resist devouring them by the dozens, yet nearly every poem in this collection made me stop and re-read it, second-guessing all my assumptions about it. I'd probably give a slight edge to 'Say Uncle' or 'The Best of It,' but this is without a doubt peak-level work from a true master.
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  • Mary
    January 1, 1970
    So, I'm trying to "get" poetry which I'm very bad at getting. I started with this and I liked a fair number of the poems and I was clueless about the rest. That, of course, isn't the fault of the poet, but a fault I claim. I really need a cheat sheet to have by my side that explains each poem so I can fully enjoy it and then enjoy it even more because I will then feel free to add my own interpretations. Without the notes I always worry I'm just not getting it. So, I will read them all again. And So, I'm trying to "get" poetry which I'm very bad at getting. I started with this and I liked a fair number of the poems and I was clueless about the rest. That, of course, isn't the fault of the poet, but a fault I claim. I really need a cheat sheet to have by my side that explains each poem so I can fully enjoy it and then enjoy it even more because I will then feel free to add my own interpretations. Without the notes I always worry I'm just not getting it. So, I will read them all again. And again. And I will hope I will get more with every reading.
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  • S.M.
    January 1, 1970
    The first third was definitely stronger than the rest (except for the last and title poem). I enjoyed it--spent my time reading it leisurely, going back and rereading every time I opened it, etc. The poems are accessible and meaningful, but I'm quite glad to have borrowed my copy rather than paying for it.
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  • Paul
    January 1, 1970
    Kay Ryan’s Erratic Facts melts in your mouth from your hands. You think you understand something or rather nothing is more important than metaphor and precision as the way of wordplay and automatically being taxed. File your fingernails after making the final cut and curve. Feel it—your handiwork. It is okay by me to eat poetic snacks.
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  • Debbie Howell
    January 1, 1970
    I'm a fan of Kay Ryan's spare, elegant style. I read her poems multiple times and find layers of meaning I didn't catch at first. This collection felt earthy, with imagery of rocks and glaciers, hunting, seeds, mist and smoke. I liked it.
  • Courtney Smith
    January 1, 1970
    Excellent example use of condensed language, turns, and short lines. Well-crafted, clever, and insightful. Contemporary poetry has tended towards longer, sprawling pieces. Ryan reminds us how small can also be powerful.
  • Benjamin
    January 1, 1970
    4 not 5 stars, because I couldn't understand many of the poems,but the ones that I did were powerful indeed!
  • Mariarmzo
    January 1, 1970
    Loved every single word!
  • Ralph
    January 1, 1970
    I’m sure that these poems are quite good. However, I am among those who don’t “get” many of them. They are all very short and have a high degree of insight that I, as noted, don’t comprehend.
  • Cordelia Eddy
    January 1, 1970
    Kay Ryan's poetry is both sparse and expansive at the same time.
  • Deb Oestreicher
    January 1, 1970
    I'm a fan of Kay Ryan and I read this two or three times, but this wasn't my favorite of her books. Some of the poems were too elliptical for me.
  • Ray
    January 1, 1970
    Kay Ryan is a keen observer of our world, or of her unique world anyway, for sure. She's a poet and a philosopher, and even takes a stab at physics, challenging our usual conceptions of time, space, mass; and the nature of water, altered by ships, say, or water wheels. I love the way these poems make me think ... differently, and that they accomplish this in such short order. For example: EGGSWe turn outas tippy as eggs. Legsare an illusion. We are heldas in a carton if someone loves us. It's a Kay Ryan is a keen observer of our world, or of her unique world anyway, for sure. She's a poet and a philosopher, and even takes a stab at physics, challenging our usual conceptions of time, space, mass; and the nature of water, altered by ships, say, or water wheels. I love the way these poems make me think ... differently, and that they accomplish this in such short order. For example: EGGSWe turn outas tippy as eggs. Legsare an illusion. We are heldas in a carton if someone loves us. It's a pity only lossproves this. My faves include: On the Nature of Understanding; Monk Style; Breather; Salvation; Fool's Errands; Criss Crosses; Little Dots; Dragon's Teeth; A Trench Like That; Miser Time; More of the Same; The First of Never; The Obsoletion of a Language; Blast; Eggs.
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  • Ken
    January 1, 1970
    I'm on record as being a fan of minimalist poetry. Just desserts here. Kay Ryan is a minimalist's minimalist. And she packs a Pulitzer to boot (and, as we all know, THOSE boots are made for walking). Like Twiggy, Ryan's poems are short, thin affairs, with lines typically expiring after two or three (most four) words. Pithy. Almost cute. With a twist like certain drinks. If you're thinking "one-trick pony," I ain't saying a word.Still, clever is as clever does. I can share a few poems that gave m I'm on record as being a fan of minimalist poetry. Just desserts here. Kay Ryan is a minimalist's minimalist. And she packs a Pulitzer to boot (and, as we all know, THOSE boots are made for walking). Like Twiggy, Ryan's poems are short, thin affairs, with lines typically expiring after two or three (most four) words. Pithy. Almost cute. With a twist like certain drinks. If you're thinking "one-trick pony," I ain't saying a word.Still, clever is as clever does. I can share a few poems that gave me some enjoyment of a sort. Ready, set, here-you-go:Ship in a BottleIt seemsimpossible--not just aship in abottle butwind and sea.The ship startsto struggle--anemergency of thetoo realized werealize. We canget it out butnot withoutspilling its world.A hammer tapand they're free.Which deathwill it be,little sailors?Yes, more going on than meets the eye, which, I suppose, is KR's hallmark. And lucky her--no one even cares that her line breaks come on articles and conjunctions that are about as important as... me.En autre...Token LossTo the dragonany loss istotal. His restis disruptedif a singlejewel encrustedgoblet hasbeen stolen.The circle of himselfin the nestof his goldhas beenbroken. Noloss is token.What? You want more?Musical ChairsOnly the one ismusical, actually.the others areordinary, mostlyfrom the kitchen.Not a peep ofmusic out of themas they are takenfrom rotation. Mumchairs, tunelessracks, dumbsticks,next to theescalating operaticravishmentsof banishmentsung to the childrenby the one chairabsent.As you might imagine, 63 pages of that goes quickly. But I found myself browsing in other books to break it up, and I think Kay owes me thanks for that. Her small work is better in small doses.
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  • Nadine Jones
    January 1, 1970
    These poems are very quiet, inwardly facing. Still with the surprise little twist at the end, but these do not have the tension of the poems in Niagara River. Without the tension, the little twist is often flat, no zing. Others are wonderful quiet little gems.TOKEN LOSSTo the dragonany loss istotal. His restis disruptedif a singlejewel encrustedgoblet hasbeen stolen.The circleof himselfin the nestof his goldhas beenbroken. Noloss is token.FOOL'S ERRANDSA thingcannot bedeliveredenough times:this These poems are very quiet, inwardly facing. Still with the surprise little twist at the end, but these do not have the tension of the poems in Niagara River. Without the tension, the little twist is often flat, no zing. Others are wonderful quiet little gems.TOKEN LOSSTo the dragonany loss istotal. His restis disruptedif a singlejewel encrustedgoblet hasbeen stolen.The circleof himselfin the nestof his goldhas beenbroken. Noloss is token.FOOL'S ERRANDSA thingcannot bedeliveredenough times:this is therule of dogsfor whom thereare no fool’serrands. Toloop out andcome back isgood all alone.It’s gravy tocarry a ballor a bone.
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  • Peter Y. Sussman
    January 1, 1970
    This is Kay Ryan at her best. She has virtually invented a new kind of poetry that allows us to see through the veil of the commonplace into the nature of consciousness. These illuminating "little" poems resonate with the lucidity of neuroscience and the emotional impact of a life lived deep. It takes a capacious understanding of human nature to capture such complex insights in such informal and seemingly simple ways.The one-page lead poem, "New Rooms," is worth the entire cost of this book. I'm This is Kay Ryan at her best. She has virtually invented a new kind of poetry that allows us to see through the veil of the commonplace into the nature of consciousness. These illuminating "little" poems resonate with the lucidity of neuroscience and the emotional impact of a life lived deep. It takes a capacious understanding of human nature to capture such complex insights in such informal and seemingly simple ways.The one-page lead poem, "New Rooms," is worth the entire cost of this book. I'm having trouble reshelving this book. I don't want to leave this world.
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  • Alexis
    January 1, 1970
    I don't read much poetry, but I do like to pick it up once in a while. My favorite of this collection:The Fatal FlawThe fatal flawworks throughthe body like a needle, justa stick now and then, againand again missingthe heart. Mostpeople never bendin the fatal wayat the fatal instant,although theyharbor a needlethey shouldn't,or, conversely,some critical littlelifesaving sliver is absent.
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  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    I love short, stylish poems, and Kay Ryan specializes in this. It's been awhile since I read any of her other books; I have a vague memory of being more impressed with some of those....these tend to be one-idea poems, which is fine, but in a few cases the one idea seems sort of silly or unimportant. For the most part, though, this is a collection of well-crafted, thought-provoking, and easy-to-read poems. My favorites are "The First of Never," "Velvet," "Sock," and "My Kingdom for a Horse."
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  • Daron
    January 1, 1970
    Like looking over stones a friend collected on her many hikes, these lean poems read like quickly scribbled field notes that are too personal to be clearly understood. Simultaneously guarded and generous, they add up to a kind of messy intimacy like feeling puzzled with a stranger instead of alone. "When wateris so hard totread, it seemspurposely hurtfulthat this isso often saiddismissively."
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  • John
    January 1, 1970
    Given her short poems, her work is something easily readable in a few days or less.Along with Richard Wilbur, I consider her the best American poet writing today. The short, pithy nature of the poems understate their immense intellect, wit, power, and beauty. A joy to read, but I must admit, I found this book not up to what I enjoyed in her previous collections. Her best work, in my opinion, were the poems in Say Uncle and The Niagara River.
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  • Dan
    January 1, 1970
    I haven't felt the need to memorize a poem in a long time, but Kay Ray awoke that dormant part of me. There are so many beautiful little poems in here. I think I'll keep it by the bedside for a while, so I can read a couple before bed.If you liked this, make sure to follow me on Goodreads for more reviews!
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  • Brendan
    January 1, 1970
    A lot of short poems and rhyming. Ryan was a two-term U.S. Poet Laureate and she won the Pulitzer Prize for The Best of It. So when I say this didn't do much for me, feel free to take my opinion with a grain of salt. Favorites:"Monk Style" - Thelonious Monk"An Instrument with Keys" - memory"Those Places"
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  • Dorothy Mahoney
    January 1, 1970
    A book of sadness and loss as only Kay Ryan could write, tightly compressed with unique juxtapositions. It's like "standing on splitting ice", or playing musical chairs "one chair absent."A book to read over and over, and over.
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