is a writer, editor, and strategist, in Boulder, Colorado.

gathering wool while on the road

Added on by Sara Distin.

Summer in Colorado means road-tripping and camping... and in my car, with a busted CD player and no iTrip to speak of (or listen to) that also means a lot of NPR... On my way home from a wedding weekend of camping underneath the moon and stars and looming Teton Range in Jackson, Wyoming, with a pretty amazing, intelligent, and fun group of friends, my blissed-out state was interrupted by the intensity and wisdom of Poet Laureate, Kay Ryan. The All Things Considered interview/reading began with Ryan reading Home to Roost.


The chickens are circling and blotting out the day. The sun is bright, but the chickens are in the way. Yes, the sky is dark with chickens, dense with them. They turn and then they turn again. These are the chickens you let loose one at a time and small — various breeds. Now they have come home to roost—all the same kind at the same speed.

I was reminded of the poem when I saw the above image, a photograph by Nicolas Wollnik, on J Colberg's blog Conscientious which always provides worthy musings on fine art photography among other things. Despite the almost instantaneous link in my mind between the image and the poem, I have reservations about posting the two together, primarily because of the way Ryan works, very slowly. While I often like the pairings of poems and photographs, it's weighty work to be sure that each is commensurate with the other. I wonder if that's why photographer Alec Soth often left blog readers with just a poem on Fridays and no photo; although, Jen Bekman has made a few fine matches on her site, Personism.

I was struck by Ryan's way of working and writing poetry which is similar to the way I work as a photographer. She called it "wool gathering" and remarked that it takes hundreds of pounds of wool for an ounce of good language; it's inefficient and takes lots of time. But the resulting works are charged, simple, and not overly elaborated.