… In Praise of a Brazen Poet: On the Essays of Kay Ryan, Outsider. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)
“Something nonsensical in the heart of poetry is the very reason why one can’t call poetry ‘useful’,” she explains at one point, and then adds, a little later, “This is why Auden and others can say with such confidence that poetry makes nothing happen. That’s the relief of it. And the reason why nothing can substitute for it.” We don’t expect critics to assert such truths anymore, let alone with such confidence. We expect them to “problematize,” to qualify. Ryan’s own confidence, then, is thrillingly anachronistic: obstinate, sure, but warming, too, as if a cast-iron stove were squatting in the middle of that valley.