Academic journal article Hollins Critic

Dark Ladies & Other Avatars

Academic journal article Hollins Critic

Dark Ladies & Other Avatars

Article excerpt

Dark Ladies & Other Avatars. By Joan Roberta Ryan. Denver Colo.: 3:A Taos Press, 2017. $24.00

Poets (some, anyway) are smart enough to arrange their poems the way greengrocers arrange berries in a box, with the good ones on top. Not to be taken in by this merchandising trick, I generally open collections of poems, especially by poets I don't know, in the middle. And I don't read but skim, glance, let my eyes wander. (Is that not unfair to the poet who may have spent time and effort arranging the poems? No, because if the poems are good, I'll reread them in order.

And if they're not good, it doesn't matter.)

In Joan Roberta Ryan's first book what caught my attention was the last couple of stanzas of "Breakfast in Eden," in which Eve is talking about the terrific fruit they find there in the garden until she arrives at the forbidden tree:

    hung with only hard, dull casings,
   untempting to my lips and tongue
   though smooth enough to fondle.
   Or so I thought until one fell against a rock
   and broke into a myriad of sparkle,
   tiny gems of light and flavor
   to burst against the teeth and savor-what
   might it be--the taste of jewels?

Instantly, indubitably, the real stuff. I was delighted and also astonished. Years ago, when we lived in Philadelphia, Tom and Joan Ryan were friends of ours. I never knew she wrote--or for that matter read--poetry. …

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