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“Unlike too many poets who tumble into print at the first twitch of feeling, Michael Ryan takes time to listen to himself, and such listening contributes immeasurably to the subtlety of his address to the reader . . . [He] reminds us on every page that poems can be about lives, and about them in ways most urgent and delicate.” —William H. Pritchard, The Nation “The twin ancient powers of poetry are story and song,” Michael Ryan said in a recent interview. “I like a lot of both.” And both are here in This Morning in glorious abundance: graceful complex narratives and tight formal lyrics, edgy humor, affecting music, and insistent clarity always in the service of the heart. He can be deeply funny and extremely moving, often at the same time. No other living poet possesses Ryan’s range of tone and technique in rendering the great subjects of art and life: sex, mortality, loss, and love (both conjugal and paternal). Even his most apparently autobiographical writing penetrates to the universal subject within it. Like Dickinson in her poetry, his personal life interests him primarily as an instance of human life. His artistic discipline is thus a spiritual discipline, and the vital spirit infusing these poems rises from the depths of isolation transformed by the joy of loving other people persistently and generously. This Morning is the work of a contemporary American master.