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Jack Ridl
Posted by: Talia (192.168.128.---)
Date: November 17, 2006 12:57AM

I attended a reading of his this evening and really enjoyed it. I would describe his poems (or the ones I heard tonight) as that of a rich and warm subject matter--sort of light-hearted, but not shallow (his mother dancing to Sinatra with the man hired to do drywall, his grandfather getting drunk in his trailor and sticking his head in the freezer because it was 100 degrees, etc.


Re: Jack Ridl
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: November 17, 2006 04:06AM

This Was My Real Life

©2002 Jack Ridl

I was born in the back seat of a trolley
going to the ball park on opening day.

Two policemen once gave me a ticket
to the circus. I was playing in the street,
rolling a ball between the crosswalk.

In math class I tried to have the train
that was leaving Seattle at 10am
on its way to Dallas jump the tracks
after it crossed the bridge outside Omaha.

Wolves raised me. We played a game
with sticks and moss. They left when I was twelve.

I never married. I lived two lives. I built
two houses, one where my father
had his wood working shop, one where
my mother shot our dog.

In the winter, after a heavy snowfall,
I would listen to Verdi and read
want ads looking for things people
needed that I didn't want to sell.

I was a failure at board games.
I was a failure at knowing
the names of flowers. I
was a failure at knowing when to leave.

When I was 27, I left home
for Mexico, stopped in Oklahoma,
went instead to the Florida Keys,
stayed 42 years in a house a friend
had owned before he died
in a diving accident.
I ate fish and painted houses.

One summer, I didn't paint, quit
for the season, bought a pickup,
slept in its bed, drove off-and-on
to my mother's grave, sat there
reading self-help books. On the way
home, I would always stop at Parrot Jungle.

When I pray, it's for the birds in my yard.
I talk to them when they'll listen. I also
pray that the sky will stay blue.

One year, I never said or wrote or read
a word. I only worked with clay.

Re: Jack Ridl
Posted by: Talia (192.168.128.---)
Date: November 18, 2006 07:24AM

"The Mail Carrier"

When the weather is good,
she imagines each letter
sits forever in a lonely
mind. Postcards a small
hello, sometimes a question
about her job help her
believe the uniform,
the truck, even the sack
keep her safe from
her own days. She often
daydreams she's an angel
carrying the mystery
of words that only connect.
She thinks about her route,
how she's driven it
for twenty-seven years: five miles
north, two more east,
four south, six west,
tires over the same roads,
her hand reaching across
the empty passanger seat,
settling it all into
each mailbox, a quiet pause
in front of every house.
She knows by now what lies
in nearly every envelope,
and knows when she gives up
this work, she'll dream
the route, carry opened
unread letters throughout the day.

Re: Jack Ridl
Posted by: Talia (192.168.128.---)
Date: November 18, 2006 07:36AM

(These are from his book "Broken Symmetry")

"Waking Up in a Cold Sweat"

The first thing you do is feel under the bed
just to make sure that the hag with the yellow towel'who was rubbing it over your feet while she smiled
off into the stars isn't lying there waiting to grab
your ankle when you make your first step
into the unknown of the day. Then you lie
back down and wonder what it means
that you were being chased by trutles
the size of Ohio while a flock of magpies,
the tips of their ragged wings touching your hair,
floated back and forth overhead, shrieking something
that sounded like what your third-grade teacher said
when she handed back your aritmetic,
the fractured sums scarred by her bloody pencil.
And what about the big fire-engine red wax lips
your grandmother held up on her dinner fork?
It's all too much, too much for
even Breton to wage a manifesto
against business suits or the rise
of poststructural analysis of French
cuisine. You think maybe your were raised
by wolves after all, one dressed as an accountant
with a twitch in his left eyebrow, the other
a packaging designer who won't let you wrap
the stuffed donkey you got for your best friend.
You remember the time at recess when
the thug who slouched in the last seat
of your row stared up at your from the bottom
of the slide. You wonder if you had written
your aunt a thank-you note, or shoveled
the snow from the front steps like you said
you would, if you had gone deaf during
the children's sermon about the lies
we don't even know we tell. Then you remember
the fourth glass of wine, the extra cup of coffee
the late movie on the horror channel, the anchovies
your daughter's date from the night before,
the son's arm in a cast, the project deadline
you missed by a week, the bruise on your shin
you've noticed every day for over a month,
and you know everything's fine. On the other side
of the bed, you hear the long breathing of your marriage,
and you fluff up your pillow, let
your arm lie across the space between you,
let your quieting fingers wait for the alarm.

Re: Jack Ridl
Posted by: Talia (192.168.128.---)
Date: November 18, 2006 07:39AM

"Traveling Back"

After his wife's funeral
he pulled his car off
the back road, stopped
beside Wilson Lake and
watched the fog over the
water. It was a place
he knew well, a place where
the fog always came, a tired,
good dog sleeping at his feet.
He wondered what
grief was and why
it sat in him like the
stars. She had been
an empty glass, summer,
a quilt at the end of the bed.
She had been the words
he never said. There
was no moon. The night
swas a mute savant. He
wanted to fly. he
wanted to go home.

Re: Jack Ridl
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: November 18, 2006 03:05PM

I really like this last one.


Re: Jack Ridl
Posted by: Talia (192.168.128.---)
Date: November 18, 2006 07:53PM

Lots more like that, too. I'm almost done with the book, and I'm thinking his stuff reminds me a lot what Garrison Keilor picks.

Re: Jack Ridl
Posted by: lg (Moderator)
Date: November 18, 2006 11:27PM

swas a mute savant

change swas to was


Re: Jack Ridl
Posted by: MoonBabe (192.168.128.---)
Date: November 19, 2006 01:54AM

I think Ridl teaches at Interlochen Arts Academy but I've never heard him read since he is a bit across state from where I live right now.

That poem though lacks tone for this reader . . .

and certain metaphors seem weak to me. I haven't read his work so I can't judge him but that one leaves me cold. I don't get the feeling that he misses or doesn't miss his wife at all and that bothers me. I want to feel for him or her, but from that poem, I simply don't.

I don't know.


Re: Jack Ridl
Posted by: Talia (192.168.128.---)
Date: November 19, 2006 04:32PM

It seems to me in that poem, that his missing his wife is a given. He has just had her funeral. I think there is a sort of numbness that comes before the grief (what we often think of as grief). I disagree with the metaphors being weak. I think they're full and rich.

Re: Jack Ridl
Posted by: MoonBabe (192.168.128.---)
Date: November 19, 2006 11:47PM

"Traveling Back

After his wife's funeral
he pulled his car off
the back road, stopped
beside Wilson Lake and
watched the fog over the
water. It was a place
he knew well, a place where
the fog always came, a tired,
good dog sleeping at his feet."

If I were to write a critical essay about this poem, I would pause here and comment that "a tired good dog sleeping at his feet" doesn't seem to work as a metaphor for fog . . . and in this case, perhaps a metaphor isn't needed at all. After all, as readers, we know what fog is and that it is dull, drab, can be depressing for some, and make sight difficult. So how does a good dog sleeping at one's feet equal, or for that matter, better the already existing image?

I would argue that if a metaphor doesn't intensify an image, than drop it and let the image work alone. OK, I'll conceed that at best what Ridl may want to convey is that for some reason the fog is comforting "like an old dog" which now, almost seems cliche, like "an old shoe."

As readers, at this point we understand this man's wife died very recently, she has been buried that day and so he returns to a familiar place---fair enough,
but not all that interesting yet.

Now, as we read on, Ridl's main character, the widower---

" . . . wondered what
grief was and why
it sat in him like the

OK, this reader has a real problem with, "like the stars."
What kind of crapola is that? Is that like the sperm resting in his testicles?
I'm lost as to what that is all about. How about "Honeycomb" or "Captain Crunch," if we are going to be that ridiculous in our writing.

And then the big whoopdeedoo line---

"She had been
an empty glass,"

Oh please---spare me. I am not empathising with this man, but I'm guessing that the poet intended for me to. Now his wife is an "empty glass" when she was alive. Again, I'm lost. The metaphor evades me other than perhaps it's a sexual commentary that simply doesn't quite work---like she was fragile when he fucked her? Or she was transparent? Again, is this an elegy of dislike or love---I have no clue?


Hmmm---ok well I get that one---she was warm and wonderful like summer.

"a quilt at the end of the bed."

AHHHH, finally one that works---whew!!

"She had been the words
he never said." (Again I'm lost---this seems overly dramatic to me)

was no moon. The night
was a mute savant. He
wanted to fly." (OK---so he wants to be free or experience exultation or escapism---this, I get)

wanted to go home."

OK---here we are at the end of the poem and I am unsure if he loved her hated her or maybe he wasn't quite sure and that is what the poet intended.
Who knows, I'm lost not only due to the wording but that the wording doesn't really create the kind of tone a completed work needs.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/19/2006 11:51PM by MoonBabe.

Re: Jack Ridl
Posted by: Hugh Clary (192.168.128.---)
Date: November 20, 2006 11:32AM

A fine critique, Lisa - well thought out. Many will disagree with your views, of course, but they were spot on for me.

The start of Traveling Back reminded me of this one by William Stafford:

Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason—
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all—my only swerving—,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.

Re: Jack Ridl
Posted by: MoonBabe (192.168.128.---)
Date: November 21, 2006 02:48AM

Thanks for posting that poem Hugh. I like it a lot; it's far more complex than Ridl's. It'll take me a bit of time and another couple of reads to fully "get it" even though I think I do get it right now.

I'm curious as to its title . . .

Very interesting, and what compassion Stafford shows in this poem of his.

Thanks again,


Re: Jack Ridl
Posted by: Talia (192.168.128.---)
Date: November 21, 2006 06:57AM

Perfect timing, Hugh. I just received my book, "The Darkness Around Us is Deep, Selected Poems of William Stafford" in the mail today. I am sort of struggling with him. The poem you posted above, "Traveling Through the Dark" is probably his most famous. This poem must deal, in some way, to his pacifism, or his character's qualities that bring that about.

The intorduction of the book by Robert Bly says (of this poem) "The artist owes language to the human community but owes his or her breathing body to the animal community. Every poem we write, every day we live, we think about what we owe to each. by knowing what to take from the world of culture and what to give back, what to take from the world of animals and what to give back, we become adults."

I guess I get it, but I'm just not with it.

Re: Jack Ridl
Posted by: petersz (69.181.22.---)
Date: November 17, 2008 10:41PM

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