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CREATIVE WRITING

Totality & Temporality

I have completed two books of poetry, both under review. A third, Critiques Of, is in progress. The first,Totality & Temporality: Elegies through Time and Space, was inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke's Duino Elegies. In it I explore what it means to be human through an engagement with the interpretations of quantum mechanics. The Copenhagen, many worlds, decoherence, pilot-wave, and other interpretations are lenses through which, especially in the 10th elegy, I productively play with the possible bottom natures of our universe, and what those natures signify about, and how they speak to, the precarity of the human condition in all its radical contingency.

Each elegy is written around moments, memories, and experiences with, and images of, my daughter, the figure around which the geographies and spacetimes of each poem orbit. Such moments contour the human condition through particular events—her own birth, growth, education, acquisition of language and various abilities—each of which embodies and speaks to the larger human experience. In this way, my meditation on her life becomes a meditation on my own, on existence, meaning, space, place, change, and growth.

 

I have been invited to read the elegies publicly at various poetry and art events at UC Riverside, Cal Poly Pomona, and other venues since 2014, especially during my time serving as Editor-in-Chief of Pomona Valley Review from 2010-2017, to which I now serve as an adviser.

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Sample Elegy

Totality & Temporality

Die Erste Elegie

 

Vast was our beginning, stardust

strung through the fabric of the

cosmos into the blue breadth

of sky and ocean.

Eternity brought you to me,

slung you down the arms of a

spiral galaxy, a bouquet of ashes,

reborn in the fiery dark

of your mother's womb.

 

A spark. That is all that is

needed to separate light

from dark—

 

lone ember

in a sky of coal.

 

You began me, held me up to

myself, face-to-face,

made me bear the weight of my

own gravity, made me separate

the bits of redeemable dust from

the vast expanse of cosmic waste,

a supernova brightening and

exploding its own mass.

 

How do you interiorize an

exteriority? Your eyes, wide as a

word that can’t be spoken,

they reflect me, mirrored image

before an astronomer’s gaze,

seeing what was perennially

unseen in the fixed, deep-rooted

stars of your eyes—

 

the chaos,

the cosmos, the inchoate

constellation, of an entire life.

 

How do you make totality from

temporality, the ephemera of

your wide-eyed dance endure—

your almost too-small shoes

chasing phantoms

on the floor.

 

If sound could some day rise

down, I might apprehend

the transient wanderings of

your voice, vaporized

in the fleeting tension

of a laugh.

 

What faces I might find there

between the spaces of a coil too

worn to spring open, and what

images might emerge beyond the

pull of the event horizon,

its dark and silent memories

awoken in the detritus

of the stars.

 

And you, then, you who grew from

seed to flower, from energy to

matter, a genesis wrapped in the

revelation of my own mortality,

could you presence that totality—

the angel an elegy once promised,

say the unsayable,

the pure draft?

 

Could you bend the stars down to

me again, wrap me in the warmth

of that childhood skin, which—

enveloped in the womb-like curves

of that first home—

oversimplified the cosmos,

where time unfolded in tendrils

of shadow motion over the street

corners that circumscribed

our world, its cul-de-sac center

sheltered as a pearl deep inside

the heart of an ivory dark.

 

Now, the mute stasis of a different

dark surrounds me. A memory,

creeping out, reaching in, crippled

hands once held, clutching broken

things so openly, frail fingers

 

vanishing where thick absence

breathes so tangibly,

the indeterminate immediate,

the intimate immensity,

an immemorial horizon drawing

me down where the ground

fails to come—

 

to come to that memory,

to that fragile space where we

had lived so tenderly.

 

You, too, drawn taller as toward

a siren in the soundless

vacancy of sky, stretched by the

strength of your cellular desire,

already and forever departing,

the thin space between us

dividing as your very cells.

 

I see you at the iron gates of their

institutions, see you in the rooms

with their orderly rows aligned in

broad blank spaces,

 

pressed forward in the progress

of their generations, spirits

sorely worn.

 

There, too, the choir calls and

manifests a new monasticism,

where their heads, turned from the

heavens, reproduce the conditions

of their own disjunction.

 

Yet, even as my mind, immersed

in your impermanence, dwells in

the untold temples of the future,

caught in the disenchanted

current of a different air;

 

even as your eager dance

anticipates the final repetition of

a note, closing it off from

the seeing world;

 

even as the mountain slope we

traversed restricts access to

its own horizon, losing itself in

the sediment and strata of

generations not our own, those

broad boulders we stood before

broken and scattered;

 

nevertheless are you there,

lost in the dark forest of your

mother’s hair, bathing in the low

light emptying itself through our

bedroom window, basking in the

depth of that inner event,

that call to consciousness

in the buzzing hive that is your

mind, kneeling deeply beside the

sunflowers  and bees, nature born

again in the dark mirrors of your

eyes, watching closely, intently,

 

cradled in that gentle becoming,

that simple oneness, of a

moment—

being there—just there, once,

and never again.

 

***
 

There, in a distance all too finite,

a distance we walk but once,

the flashing base of a platform

waits, arrows directing us,

conducting their disarray, calling

us, so indelibly, away.

On the Verge of Vanishing

In my second book of poetry, On the Verge of Vanishing, I engage the ancient Chinese poetic tradition, in particular Tang Dynasty poetry, to explore the poetry of everyday life. Informed both affectively and intellectually by the greatest of Chinese poets, including Tao Yuanming, Li Bai, Du Fu, Meng Haoran, and Wang Wei, among others, I attend to fleeting images and moments with resolute simplicity and clarity. Known as the "everyday poets," these exemplary writers not only wrote poetry, but also, and more importantly, lived their poetry. Or, rather, their poetry is a consequence of their living. Practicing the Daoist's "empty mind" and inhabiting change, the 10,000 things, their "selves" do not need to be in view, as Heidegger writes in another context. Rather, they "flow with the situation." My own book is such an attempt to do just this. My writing of each poem is a way to perceive, experience, and apprehend each moment before abruptly letting go. Such is the nature of the instant, Gaston Bachelard writes, which, as Rilke adds, incessantly departs. Thus, my poems here approach the present, hung between two voids, on the verge of vanishing.

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Sample Poems

Flying Kites in the Dark

Before I leave, night draws us near.

Stars hang from the neck of the sky

like small bright jewels

mirroring moonlight.

 

We send up a kite.

The wind responds with a tug,

gentle tension lifting us as if above

the invisible black ground.

 

Our legs curl up and down

into themselves like soft springs,

the taut string carrying us across

undulating waves of blackness,

tall, swaying blades of grass

pressed into cold, damp earth.

 

Can you see it in the dark,

the watermarks of memories,

the impressions of generations rising?

Published in Yes Poetry, Sept. 1st, 2020.

Far Away

There were simple moments.

Asking me to pronounce words

with a mouthful of toothpaste.

 

Persepolis, that was your favorite,

small finger pointing to the book

cover, or to the I in Introduction.

 

So distant now, it seems,

your first crawl across the sheets,

the months that streaked by,

a cloud without a trail.

 

Playing with the makeup box,

painting lashes, putting things

back in their place.

 

What was it, your first word,

a lone leaf turning, falling,

departing—ripe, if only

for an instant.

Published in Chiron Review 116, 80,

Michael Hathaway Publishing, 2019.

Poetry Publications

Ryan Leack's creative work has appeared in journals such as Chiron Review, Poetry Quarterly, Yes Poetry, Pif  (Poetry, Interviews, Fiction), Westwind (UCLA), RipRap (CSULB), Contemporary World Literature, Strong Verse, and Pomona Valley Review (Cal Poly Pomona), where he served as Editor-in-Chief for seven years and is now an adviser.

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