The Biggest Little Poems

David Kirby looks at poems by Kay Ryan, in the New York Times:

Ryan184 A Kay Ryan poem is maybe an inch wide, rarely wanders onto a second page, and works in one or two muted colors at most. Rather than raise a righteous old hullabaloo, a Ryan poem sticks the reader with a little jab of smarts and then pulls back as fast as a doctor’s hypodermic. Here is “On the Difficulty of Drawing Oneself Up” in its entirety:

One does not stack.
It would be like
a mouse on the back
of a mouse
on a mouse’s back.
Courses of mice,
layers of shivers
and whiskers,
a wobbling tower
with nothing more
than a mouse inside.

Now here is a poem that would prompt perhaps the arching of a single eyebrow in approval on the part of modern American poetry’s mom, Emily Dickinson, hands-down champ at writing poems that are as compressed as Whitman’s are sprawling.

More here.