The beginning of October: sunshine and a treat. Kay Ryan’s selected prose, Synthesising Gravity, has just made its way into the house, compact and solid. The type is quite large, the leading is generous. The titles are enticing: ‘Notes on the Danger of Notebooks’ – the first pages of that essay yield at least three thoughts one would want to copy into a notebook, but they’re in the book, there for the finding. ‘No Time for Anything but Repetition’: a crisp two pages. ‘Inedible Melons’ is followed by ’Fidget and Gnash’: no clue as to literary content in those titles. ‘I Go to AWP’ is here, which made me laugh out loud when somebody circulated it – or a link to it – surely not 15 years ago? I think I caught up with it some years after its original publication.
How did this come into the house? I’d seen it mentioned on Lit Hub, and my friend J told me she had it. I was envious, but it’s a Grove Press publication; I don’t use Amazon; postage was probably prohibitive. Then someone wrote to me from Epiphany magazine (their name was Miracle, appropriately) saying that they were going to publish a poem by the genial, inventive Gökçenur Ç, which I had co-translated with him from the Turkish. That was back in the days when we could meet in Istanbul (thanks to Literature Across Frontiers); indeed before that, he came over for a SPL translation workshop at Crear (LAF again) that I’d facilitated. His plaintive poem, ‘You’re far away from the country where I am’, seems to cast a slant light on our Covid distancing, although written long before.
The magazine offered a fee in US dollars. By the time I’d paid bank charges here, it wouldn’t have been worth cashing the cheque. I wrote to Miracle, saying that I’d really like Kay Ryan’s essays, and by the time they’d bought it and paid for postage, it would probably be a bit less than the fee. It has taken some weeks, but Miracle lived up to their name, and now I have it, sent from a bookseller in the Netherlands, apparently.
Chairing Kay Ryan on her first visit to Scotland was one of the highlights of my time at the SPL. I said at the time that I loved the New York Times’s comparison of reading her poems to consuming freshly made cocktails: first the smile and then the bite. Myself, I’d say that her poems are like stones skimmed across water: we admire the skill and skip, the wit and elegance of the launch and landing – and then we see the ripples slowly expanding, and feel the effects reaching unexpected places. It will be the same with the prose. I’m going to ration my consumption (of cocktails, too, I suppose) to take my pleasures slowly.