This poem is called 'Flamingo Watching, and it was written at a time when I thought that the 'subtle' needed defending, in poetry, I felt that, anything artful or subtle or sophisticated or elaborate or elaborated was suspect. It seems like things had to be rather plain and blunt and straightforward and, and chunky to be taken seriously.

Flamingo Watching


Wherever the flamingo goes,
she brings a city’s worth
of furbelows. She seems
unnatural by nature –
too vivid and peculiar
a structure to be pretty,
and flexible to the point
of oddity. Perched on
those legs, anything she does
seems like an act. Descending
on her egg or draping her head
along her back, she’s
too exact and sinuous
to convince an audience
she’s serious. The natural elect,
they think, would be less pink,
less able to relax their necks,
less flamboyant in general.
They privately expect that it’s some
poorly jointed bland grey animal
with mitts for hands
whom God protects.

from Flamingo Watching: Poems (Copper Beech Press, 1994), © Kay Ryan 1994, used by permission of the author and the publisher, Poetry Foundation recording made on 11 Sept 2007, San Francisco, California

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