posted April 3, 2006

Poetry Volume Features Mathematical Connection

The experiences of everyday life and mathematics are related in "Broken Symmetry," a new collection of poetry by Jack Ridl of the Hope College English faculty.

The book is one of two volumes inaugurating the "Made in Michigan Writers Series" published by Wayne State University Press. It was released at the end of March.

The poems explore a variety of topics - the universal human experience of loss, fresh perspective on the easily overlooked, the goodness and joy to be found in a challenging world. Some were written as long as 10 years ago; most within the past five years. The collection includes the poems originally featured in Ridl's limited-edition 2001 volume "Against Elegies," which was chosen by U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins as the winner of the 2001 "Letterpress Chapbook Competition" sponsored by the Center for Book Arts of New York City.

Ridl noted that he didn't set out to write "mathematical" poems, but rather was struck as he considered the pieces how they connected with mathematical themes - perhaps differential equations, perhaps quantum theory. With his reading interests including topics like chaos theory, he has found in both his own and the mathematician's art a kinship.

"It just feels to me that we're both, in a sense, seeking something together," he said. "My main interest isn't so much 'poetry' as seeing poetry as bringing together everything in the universe in the way a mathematician does."

The collection has a direct family connection. Artwork by his daughter Meridith is featured on the cover as well as within the volume.

Series editor Michael Delp has said, "Jack's poems are filled with the joy and love of living every day as it comes. You'll find all kinds of places and things, real nouns in these poems: jazz, gardening, theories about being on earth, coaches, poker, women, dogs... the gamut of living close enough to your own life to extract daily meaning from it."

"Jack Ridl writes with complete generosity and full-hearted wisdom and care," said poet Naomi Shihab Nye. "His deeply intelligent, funny and gracious poems are packed with the music of genuine voices, woven with history, people and movement, the whole, delicious sweet fabric of days. They befriend a reader so completely and warmly we might all have the revelation that our lives are rich poems too."

"Broken Symmetry" is Ridl's second volume of poetry this spring. The chapbook "Outside the Center Ring" was published earlier this year by Pudding House Publishing of Columbus, Ohio.

Ridl is the author of several collections of poetry. His other volumes include "The Same Ghost" (1985), "Between" (1988), the chapbook "After School" (1987), and "Poems from the Same Ghost and Between" (1993). He has also published more than 300 poems in journals and has work included in numerous anthologies.

He has been a member of the Hope faculty since 1971. In addition to his volumes of poetry, his publications include four books with Hope colleague Peter Schakel: "Approaching Literature in the 21st Century: Fiction, Poetry, and Drama" and "Approaching Poetry: Perspectives and Responses," both of which they co-authored; "250 Poems: A Portable Anthology," which they co-edited; and "Literature: A Portable Anthology," which they co-edited with Janet E. Gardner of the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth and Beverly Lawn of Adelphi University.

Ridl won the Hope Outstanding Professor Educator Award in 1976, and in 1996 was named Michigan Professor of the Year by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

Copies of "Broken Symmetry" are available through the college's Hope-Geneva Bookstore and can also be purchased through area book sellers. The college's bookstore is on the ground floor of the DeWitt Center, which is located on Columbia Avenue at 12th Street.

In addition, the collection's release is being celebrated with a reception sponsored by the publisher on Thursday, April 20, at the Scarab Club in Detroit. The reception will feature readings by Ridl and Vievee Francis, author of "Blue-Tail Fly," the other inaugural publication in the Made in Michigan Writers Series.