Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Poetry Influence: John Rybicki

In the best poetry class I ever took, during my senior year of college, my professor, Jack Ridl, brought in about a dozen local Michigan poets to visit our class--a visiting writers series of sorts. The required books for the class were each poet's chapbooks, and let's just say that those books are certainly ones that I did not sell back to the bookstore during exam week. John Rybicki came to class with his beautiful, late wife and they marveled us all with his eccentric energy, and her cool, quiet composure. Meeting John and Julie was a look into a life of love, both through their interactions, and their poetry. 

I hope we could all be so lucky to live a love like theirs, and to show the world like they did--even just in meeting the them once, it was obvious. 

John Rybicki's poetry has a stream-of-consciousness feel, and he pulls delightfully strange things out of thin air and then makes them fit in a way that never ceases to surprise me. While some poetry editors think that poetry needs to have less personal experience and more metaphors, I think that Rybicki's poetry is proof that personal experience, and love poems are not taboo yet.

The following is my favorite poem of Rybicki's, and a short excerpt that I can't ever quite get out of my head from a longer poem.


Julie Ann in the Bone Marrow Unit, Zion, Illinois

Ah Dame, I don't know how else to love you
so I just start juggling. I'm on the street

three floors below your hospital window,
lofting fish or birds that graze against my hands

and fly off, juggling cancer cells and carnations,
slipping in the bowling pin

we snuck out of that alley in Maine. Then I'm juggling
freight trains, and angels, and elephants,

dropping them all. I don't care. So long as you
can stand near your high window and laugh,

so long as you stand near your hospital bed
clapping your hands.


[Excerpt from] Me and My Lass, We Are a Poem

When we lie down in the earth,
we'll need coffins with holes bored

through their sides: we'll each have
one arm hanging out

so I can take hold of her
hand, even while we're in the dirt.


I hope these examples touch my readers as much as they've influenced me. And I hope that everyone could experience a hand-holding-in-the-dirt kind of love, like John and Julie's.

L. Stacks


Random Thoughts said...

I am Johns Brother in law, Julie's favorite Brother, I have dedicated a blog in memory of Jule and John Rybicki, I appreciate that you called my sister beutiful.

Danielle said...

These are two of my favorite John Rybicki poems too... I'm so glad you shared them. I love love poems, and his for Julie are the best of the best for me.