Robert Rauschenberg once wrote that he worked in the gap between art and life, or something like that. So does Ryan Nowlin, though the gap has narrowed in the last 50 years, to the point where it's getting hard to distinguish art from life, as in this beginning of Nowlin's “Poem”: “Remember Richard Diebenkorn?/ He's still important. The far west/ at dawn is Diebenkornesque.” In “Aeolian Harp,” he notes: “There must be some spectacular medium/to make a silk purse out of life/ make you real and render/ The particulars to truth...”, and concludes, “and you are/ strangely free from the burden/ of intelligibility”.
Of course readers will ask, What about me? Am I free of the burden of intelligibility? Yes, darlings, we all are. That's what makes poetry such guilt-free fun. The “pure products” of America, like Mr. Nowlin, no longer go crazy. They just live along, happy in the knowledge of dwelling on the edge between poetry and now.
Your move, “Members of the Arnold Stang fan club.”
Ryan Nowlin’s poems—to steal a phrase from Allen Ginsberg, whose poetry is nothing like Nowlin’s—are “reality sandwiches,” real life between slices of the poem which neatly contain it, its surprising (serious, disjointed, goofy, unfathomable) ingredients not least. Modest in aim, assured and often witty in execution, the poems present a world which bears resemblances to the one most of us know, but from a perspective, and even a remove, that is all Nowlin’s own.
Nobody touches Ryan Nowlin for deadpan glum, but then things bite and the rug pulls out like a rimshot to the head. “Reality delivered with a shrug,” these surefooted incursions trace a bright streak through the mystery of knowingness, “disambiguated by Felicity.”