In Practicing to Walk Like a Heron (February, 2012, Wayne State University Press), multiple-award-winning Michigan poet Jack Ridl shares lines of well-earned wisdom in the face of a constantly changing world. The familiar comforts of life—a warm fire in winter, a lush garden in summer—become the settings for transcendent and universal truths in these poems, as moments of grief, sadness, and melancholy trigger a deeper appreciation for small but important joys. The simple clarity of Ridl’s lines and diction make the poems accessible to all readers, but especially rewarding for those who appreciate carefully honed, masterful verse. Practicing to Walk Like a Heron unabashedly affirms the quirky and eccentric, the small and mundane, and the intellectual and experiential in life. Anyone interested in relatable and emotionally powerful poetry will enjoy this new collection. The cover design features artwork by his daughter, the artist Meridith Ridl.
Losing Season (September, 2009, CavanKerry Press) chronicles a year of hope and defeat on and off the basketball court in a small town. Ridl has been named one of the 100 most influential sports educators in America by the Institute for International Sport and Losing Season was a gift to all players, coaches, and staff by the Division III Women’s Final Four organizers. He is the son of beloved Pitt Basketball Coach Buzz Ridl. A lifetime observing this world informs these poems.
Broken Symmetry was published in 2006 by Wayne State University Press and was selected by the Society of Midland Authors as the best book of poetry for 2006, an honor shared with poet Jeff Worley.
Ridl is the author of two other full-length collections, and three chapbooks, including Outside the Center Ring from Puddinghouse Publications, a collection of circus poems published in 2006, and Against Elegies, which was selected by Sharon Dolin and former Poet Laureate Billy Collins for the 2001 Chapbook Award from The Center for Book Arts in New York.
Ridl, who recently retired from teaching at Hope College for more than 37 years and who with his wife, Julie, founded the college’s Visiting Writers Series, is co-author with Peter Schakel of Approaching Poetry: Perspectives and Responses, Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, and co-editor, with Peter Schakel, of both 250 Poems and Literature: A Portable Anthology, also from Beford/St. Martin’s. Their third edition of Approaching Literature was published by Bedford/St.Martin’s in 2013.
In 1996, The Carnegie Foundation named Ridl “Michigan Professor of the Year.” He was chosen by the Hope College students for the “HOPE Award” given to “Hope’s Outstanding Professor Educator,” was selected the student body’s “Favorite Professor” in 2003, and has twice been asked by the students to give the college’s commencement address.
More than 75 of Ridl’s former students are now published authors, and nine of his students appeared in “25 under 25,” in blind judging, edited by Naomi Shihab Nye.
Ridl grew up in both the world of basketball where his father was a well-known head coach at Westminster College and the University of Pittsburgh, and the world of the circus, inherited from his mother’s family.
Mary Ruefle writes, “If you don’t believe you have a soul, reading this book will give you one — it’s soulfulness is that far-reaching, generous, persuasive, and real.”
Of his poems, Naomi Shihab Nye has written, “Jack Ridl writes with complete generosity and full-hearted wisdom and care. His deeply intelligent, funny, and gracious poems befriend a reader so completely and warmly, we might all have the revelation that our lives are rich poems too. What a gift!” and “Jack Ridl is a superstar in the realm of compassionate, transporting, life-changing poetry.”
Li-Young Lee writes, “What a gift it is to have this impressive collection from Jack Ridl. Reading his poetry is like hearing from a neighbor who has lived his entire life with the most profound attention and care. And while that attention often enough reveals the blessings that surround him, and while he himself seems always ready and willing to bless the world in turn, Ridl walks a tightrope in his work. A degree one way or the other, and he uncovers heaven on earth or a quiet hell. It’s amazing to me how he can hold both realms so intimately together in one vision, frequently in the same poem. And he makes it all seem easy, his language moving subtly between the various modes of conversation, prayer, spiritual hunger, comedy, nostalgia, grief, and celebration. I truly hope we can evolve toward the quality of being these poems reveal.”
Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins wrote: “Against Elegies arises from a sense of curiosity about life in both its plain and puzzling aspects. These poems feel their way forward and are attentive enough to the reader to make us feel included–happy accomplices to his search.”
Richard Jones wrote, “A sweet intelligence and compassionate eye are the hallmark of these wise poems–just the sort of art we need in these dark and unenlightened times.”
Conrad Hilberry has written “one group of poems is unmatched, I believe, anywhere in American poetry. I mean the sports poems. They are so compelling, so varied, so familiar to anyone who knows high school and sports that they may well introduce a new genre.”
And Bob Hicock wrote of Broken Symmetry, “Ridl reinvigorates the familiar through his fidelity to the people and objects in his life. This is a full and lasting collection.”
Ridl lives a short walk from Douglas Beach, arguably the most beautiful of Lake Michigan’s disappearing public beaches, with his wife, the writer and artist Julie Ridl, and a few barely domesticated beasts. His daughter is the artist, Meridith Ridl.