Kay Ryan (2008-2010 U.S. Poet Laureate) was a guest speaker at an international English honor society convention I was at a few weekends ago in Pittsburgh. Kay was funny and small, with a raspy and captivating reading voice. Her poetry tends to be short and to the point; rarely narrative and always full of lovely language and images. Anyway, she read a number of poems to the audience that gathered to be inspired by her that Saturday night. One of them is below. Before reading this poem, Kay dedicated it to a couple in the audience who were recently engaged and who had decided long ago that they were going to have this poem read at their wedding. Somehow, Kay found this out, and as she read this poem for them out loud that night, I watched the young couple (they were sitting near me) and thought, That is so, so lovely.

Engagements, and celebrating love, are also lovely. I’m posting this poem for my good friend Joanna, who got engaged on Monday! She, too, is lovely, in an impassioned artist, flowers-in-her-hair and birds-at-her-feet kind of way. Celebrating with her this week has been a blast, and I am so, so happy for her and Jon. They are this poem, and so much more.


A Plain Ordinary Steel Needle Can Float on Pure Water by Kay Ryan


Who hasn’t seen
a plain ordinary
steel needle float serene
on water as if lying on a pillow?
The water cuddles up like Jell-O.
It’s a treat to see water
so rubbery, a needle
so peaceful, the point encased
in the tenderest dimple.
It seems so simple
when things or people
have modified each other’s qualities
we almost forget the oddity
of that.


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