American Life in Poetry: Column 108

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

Houdini never gets far from the news. There’s always a movie coming out, or a book, and every other magician has to face comparison to the legendary master. Here the California poet, Kay Ryan, encapsulates the man and says something wise about celebrity.

Houdini

Each escape
involved some art,
some hokum, and
at least a brief
incomprehensible
exchange between
the man and metal
during which the
chains were not
so much broken
as he and they
blended. At the
end of each such
mix he had to
extract himself. It
Was the hardest
part to get right
routinely: breaking
back into the
same Houdini.


We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Used by permission of the author. Introduction copyright © 2018 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.