by Jack Ridl
Pudding House Publications, 2006
Jack Ridl has long been one of my favorite poets. And more amazing, I know him. What I mean by that is that he lives in the same community I do, his daughter and my daughter are best friends, we’ve enjoyed dinner together, and I’ve heard him read his poetry on many occasions.
I know students he has guided, mentored, encouraged. What I’m saying is that, in a small mid-western town, to have a working poet in our midst, going about his business, practicing his art, sharing poems and good words regularly — seems a small, but blessed miracle.
My husband loves Jack Ridl’s poetry too — and towards poetry he does not often gravitate. Jack’s collection entitled Losing Season awakened him to poetry’s possibilities. “Buzz” Ridl, Jack’s father, was head coach of the University of Pittsburgh for many a season. And the poems in this collection offer us moving and oh so real vignettes of coaches and players, cheerleaders and refs, and a glimpse of the emotions that wrack families who live by the win or loss.
I also own Against Elegies, the small, slender book of poems (creatively printed on fold-out pages) published by Ridgeway Press, that won the 2001 Chapbook Award from the Center for Book Arts in New York City (Billy Collins and Sharon Dolin judged that competition) from which comes these words:
I’m tired of Death’s allure,
of how the old beggar
makes me think that
rowing across the river is
somehow richer, more serious than,
the center of a pomegranate…
and further on
I want life’s ragged way
of getting along, the wasted
afternoon and empty morning, the
sloppy kiss. I want to stagger
along between innings. I want
the burnt toast, the forgotten note,
and the lost pillowcase, the dime
novel, and the Silly Putty of it all.
I’ve just purchased Outside the Center Ring a series of poems about another world Jack Ridl knows well — the circus. Jack spent many a summer with a cousin who was a circus man. In an article by Kym Schuetz (10/10/1996, for The Grand Rapids Press) Jack Ridl said, “I was so used to seeing clowns and aerialists and tumblers in the living room of my cousin’s house that to this day, the boundary between work and play, the real and fantastical, the magical and the mundane, the sublime and the ridiculous is ever blurred.”
Again — the vignettes. Suzie the elephant, with her “leathered foot”, heaving “the great pole up/ and into place, the pole itself carrying/the sky and all its stars from the dust. There are Lion tamers (and their families), the Clowns and the Balloon Man, the Seamstress who sews the sequins, the Fat Lady and more.
Outside the Center Ring is just out, published by the oh so visionary Pudding House Publications puddinghouse.com). His talented daughter Meridith Ridl (artist and art teacher) created the book’s cover art — Clown.
But there is more! He has another new work just published by Broken Symmetry. I liked Richard Jones’ comments for the Wayne State University Press site. “A sweet intelligence and compassionate eye are the hallmark of these wise poemsï¿½just the sort of art we need in these dark and unenlightened times.”
And if you are interested — there is a party! Everyone’s invited to a reception and reading, Thursday, April 20th, 2006 at the Scarab Club (217 Farnsworth, Detroit). You can RSVP that you’d love to come by calling 313-577- 6128.