G. B. Ryan, Poems 17-20 (Elkhound, 2005). 72 pages.
So after a couple of minutes researching on Worldcat, I've found that G. B. Ryan is author of Poems 1-11 (Elkhound, 1998) and Poems 12-16 (Elkhound, 2002), and that Elkhound has only published these three volumes. This leads me to surmise that Elkhound and Ryan are one in the same. I may be mistaken, but I doubt it. But even if true, so what? To echo one of Chris Stroffolino's many analogies to indie rock, this would be tantamount to a band starting an indie label. As with indie labels, there's always the problem of distribution: Elkhound has managed to place Ryan in several well respected libraries: Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Buffalo, the National Library of Ireland, etc... On the business side, however, there's no website, they're not on amazon, SPD, etc. A complimentary copy of Poems 17-20 was lying around the office for a while before I decided to take it home.
As the title suggests, the book is broken into four parts. It's unclear if these are meant to represent a continuation of an overarching design or stand alone notebooks/chapbooks. From the material, I would guess the latter. Two sections contain separate poems, each poem forming a unit onto itself. Only chapters 18 and 19 have single, serial poems creating unified texts.
The read is uneven with sporadic moments of sharp insight and commentary:
Although there's a sheer
drop of twenty feet
on the wall's far side,
the super tells me,
tenants like to see
coils of razor wire (26).
At times, Ryan uses form and rhyme. As outmoded and reactionary as this seems to me, I am able to appreciate their merits; however, when craft gets abandonned, then as a reader I get confused as to the purpose of using them in the first place. "Tulips" is set to follow an ABCC/DEFF/HIJJ pattern, but this would require "it" to rhyme with "coat" in lines 7 and 8. Perhaps there's an accent at work here; if we take some of the narrative material as biographical (a dangerous if, mind you) then perhaps there's a mitigating Irish connection that would somehow make "engine" and "vein" closer to rhyme or at least a good near-rhyme (31).
New York NY 10028
G. B. Ryan clarifies: "Elkhound is simply a distribution tool, but a reasonably effective one."