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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sunday Poetry XXXIX -- Robert Ripley and Poetry (KAY RYAN)

I'm about to go back to school.  Again.  Third time's a charm.  I hope.  The preparations of which have made it near impossible to maintain my once-steady stream--or flooding river, really--of posts and commentaries and questions.  Be that as it may, and trying to think of something for today's installment of Sunday Poetry, I remembered a silly verse I once read in the original Ripley's Believe It or Not--something about school and the futility of studying.  I can't remember the exact verse, and as the book is buried in a box somewhere out in the garage, yet unpacked, I took to Google and the great gaping expanse of the www.  I did not find what I was looking for, as is often the case, and as is as often or even oftener the case, found something even better: a poem from a Pulitzer Prize-winning collection by a poet, former poet laureate Kay Ryan, inspired by Ripley's reported oddities.  Here is the title work:

The Jam Jar Lifeboat 
invented in 1831 by a man named Bateman who 
insisted it was unsinkable, sank the first time it was tested. 
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! 
It was quixotic to think
the cold grey North Atlantic
might be survived in a jam jar boat.
It is not enough that one of something
can be made to float with its lid sealed tight.
One rat might survive one night
on a single treadmill bottle
but even that would be a battle.
Bateman always hated how small truths
extrapolated so poorly. He came up with
really good small ones almost hourly.

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