That Will to Divest

A poem by Kay Ryan:

Action creates
a taste
for itself.
Meaning: once
you’ve swept
the shelves
of spoons
and plates
you kept
for guests,
it gets harder
not to also
simplify the larder,
not to dismiss
rooms, not to divest yourself
of all the chairs
but one, not
to test what
singleness can bear,
once you’ve begun.

In the anthology of contemporary American poetry I keep in my desk drawer, editor J.D. McClatchy writes this of Ryan: “What she likes looking at are the edges of things, borders and transitions.”

I, too, like looking at the margins. In looking at authors’ copies of manuscripts, for example, often what they scribble around the edges is far more interesting than what is typed in the body of the text. Here’s an article about that in The New Yorker.

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