Lawrence poet releases second collection of 'vulgar' verse


Jeff Barnett-Winsby / submitted photo

Lawrence writer Jason Ryberg, right, recently released his second poetry collection, "Open Letter (To Dark Gods of the Ancient World)." He'll give a reading at 8 p.m. Sept. 12 at Prospero's Books, 1717 W. 39th St., Kansas City, Mo.

If you've ever had the sense that Lawrence is only two steps removed from Asbury Park, then Jason Ryberg is your new Bruce Springsteen.

Like The Boss, Ryberg -- a Lawrence veteran who recently relocated to Kansas City -- finds beauty in the discarded characters that make up a town's seedy underbelly. Convicts, blind dogs, street cleaners, hobo clowns with hernias -- these are the characters that enliven Ryberg's second book of poetry, "Open Letter (to Dark Gods of the Ancient World)."

Failure is celebrated and success is questionable in Ryberg's poems, which often play out like a giant game of "I-Spy" undertaken late night at the International House of Pancakes. In "Jealous Gods, Attorneys General and Cigar-Smokin' Monkeys," he writes about "Three Elvises eating chicken wings and playin' spades / and a vampire drinking cappuccino / smoking cigars and reading / yesterday's USA Today."

These character machinations seem to distract Ryberg from the everyday humdrums of life, which -- if we take him at his written word -- finds him yearning for truth, beauty and a little relief of his "man-pain" from some slick bar chick who's "hotter than fish-grease."

His addictions -- malt liquor; Hank, Sr.; vintage porn; loneliness -- are chronicled, as well as encounters with crass uncles and fortune tellers.

Past Event

Jason Ryberg reads selections from "Open Letters (to Dark Gods of the Ancient World)"

  • Sunday, September 12, 2004, 8 p.m.
  • Prospero's Books, 1800 W. 39th St., Kansas City, MO
  • All ages / Free


Ryberg, 32, splits his time between Lawrence and Kansas City and makes frequent stabs at obtaining an English degree when he isn't moving heavy objects or driving a truck. You probably don't recognize any of his former bands -- The Headbones, Hog Leg, The Metaphysical Hate Review -- but you may see him at the Bourgeois Pig or Replay Lounge every now and again.

Ryberg's rough-and-tumble poetry is literate, vulgar and frequently hilarious. He is at once pathetic and transcendent, adept at making the best of a marked deck of cards.

Read "Open Letters" for fun or for deep meaning. Either way you'll enjoy it.

Only a Few Digits Removed

They were speaking,
of my cousin,
the hound dog,
in a rough and disrespectful tone.


Jeff Barnett-Winsby / submitted photo

Though he licks his balls
and drinks from the toilet,
I am not ashamed to say
that we are only
a few digits removed
along the old evolutionary
integer line.

It is the tiny
drop of sex,
of sweat,
of pathos,
of anima plipped
into the vast
ocean of ecology that
reveals our association,

that scrambles and shreds
our common carnal circuitry,

that makes us howl
all night with the deep ache of wanting,
that makes us uncontrollably hump
your innocent and unsuspecting leg.

Please, forgive us, but
we are slaves
to the sharp narcotic
of your iridescent transmissions.

For the flowering fruit
of your species
radiates and releases
a near-insidious whisper

more combustible, even,

than the mythical
spoonful of heart's blood
from our great, great grandfather

the neutron star.


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