More than 100 gather to hear Rybicki share works of loss, hope
Nationally recognized poet John Rybicki did not like his own work the first 10 years he wrote.
Rybicki, whose work has appeared in the “American Poetry Review,” “Best American Poetry” and “Ploughshares,” shared his poems of loss and despair Thursday evening with more than 100 people in the Charles V. Park Library Baber Room.
“Poetry is the language of our largeness and the language of our brokenness,” Rybicki said.
Rybicki, born and raised in Detroit, uses simple language to illustrate connections between himself and his relationship with the world.
“I feel like I’m racing to my own death trying to harvest these moments that are sacred to me,” he said.
Rybicki is the author of three collections: “Traveling at High Speeds,” “We Bed Down into Water” and “When All the World is Old.”
“His poems are like freight trains barreling through my chest,” said creative writing professor Robert Fanning. “I knew right away — you can feel it in his work — that poetry is not something John does in response to life, it is not a secondary activity or even a craft. To him, it is essence and fiber and flesh.”
Rybicki has shared worked with children and adult poets, in schools, colleges, hospitals, hospices and prisons. He said everyone has the potential to use their life experiences to heal and relate to other people, but many don’t realize it.
“You can be a great healer as a poet, but we live in a human skin and are stopped by our own limitations,” he said.
During the reading, Rybicki shared with the audience his experiences with his wife, Julie, who died after a 16-year fight with cancer. He described her as eloquent, brave and radiant during her struggle.
“When I saw my wife sleep, it was as if my heart had sprouted arms and painted my masterpiece,” he said.
“There are more and more poets everyday, bringing boatloads of good lit candles ashore, but there is just one I know who makes fire from the beauty he claws to find in places many of us wouldn’t dare look, and who carries this fire in his hands, the blood of his songs, to the rest of us,” Fanning said.
Rybicki was the first of two poets who will speak at CMU for the College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Science’s Visiting Writing Series readings.
Poet Meg Kearney will be the second writer to share her work. It will take place at 8 p.m. on Nov. 8.
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