The Stranger World. Measure Press, 2017. Purchase
Winner of the Donald Justice Poetry Prize
Ryan Wilson’s mastery of traditional forms serves a fresh, distinctive poetry of candor and meditation: soulful rather than brittle, more observant than performative. The idiomatic, American blank verse of Wilson’s “Authority” and “L’Estraneo” is as fluent as that of Robert Frost, but with an oblique tenderness that reminds me of Frost’s friend Edward Thomas.
Robert Pinsky, Poet Laureate of the United States 1997-2000
Bach understood there could be “no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.” Ryan Wilson’s classical lines and received forms reveal his “stranger world” of rebellious Goths, murderous madmen, and the divine revelations of a mountain roadhouse. The sprinkling of brilliant translations here reminds us: his is the axis between Horace and Baudelaire—between lapidary lyrics (“Face It” and “Lullaby for a Suburban Summer Evening”), haunting dramas (“Authority”), and melancholy odes (“For a One Night Stand”). Wilson has more talent in his little finger than most poets have in their whole corpora.
David Yezzi, author of Birds of the Air
Ryan Wilson is a poet of nightmares. Monstrous possibilities lurk in his elegant stanzas: a black panther stalks the suburbs, a haunted marriage collapses, strange faces loom at windows. As he learned from his masters Horace, Villon, and Baudelaire, a classical flourish can bring us face to face with horror, or with ourselves.
Rosanna Warren, former Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets
Ryan Wilson’s collection of poetry The Stranger World includes heartbreaking lyrics, haunting narratives, inspired translations, and finely honed satires. It is not simply consummate skill that is everywhere present in these well-wrought poems but, to echo the title of one of the best of them, authority. They are written with the authority of mastery.
Mark Jarman, winner of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize
Ryan Wilson’s unsettling debut collection The Stranger World is filled with poems of menace and promise, surprise and sorrow, tempered by gentle humor and always tuned to a fine music. The long poem ‘Authority’ reads like a masterpiece of modern horror. The deeply psychological ‘Xenia’ is a minor miracle of a poem. These pages contain ‘real shores across imagined seas…where black suns set,’ where the poet meditates on ‘that present unity / of absences the living move among.’ Each page of The Stranger World yields a new delight. Wilson proves himself a worthy heir to Anthony Hecht with this remarkable, disarming, and genuinely moving book. Seek it out.
Ernest Hilbert, winner of The Poets’ Prize
Ryan Wilson’s first collection of poems, The Stranger World, is auspicious. I am awed by his poetic craft, his supple and eclectic intelligence, his command of English as delightful as any storyteller’s should be. One looks for authentic character in the emerging poet, and Wilson is simply a stand-up man. His is the tradition of the elegant poet who has the feel of the earth in what he says, one wise with the best and worst of human experience. Give The Stranger World your time, and you will be glad you did.
Dave Smith, winner of the American Book Award