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Places to Go: Spiderweb by Kay Ryan

Written by Rachael Norris, 2nd April 2021

The Reader's North West Hub Leader, Rachael, takes us on today's audio adventure and reads Spiderweb by Kay Ryan.

The theme for our readings in April is 'Balm for the Soul' and we hope the poetry, readings and recommendations we have chosen can help us keep reading and stay connected.


It feels quite appropriate to be thinking on the theme of ‘Places to Go’ at a time when we are now able to actually go to a few more places again!

One of the positives I’ve taken from our time in lockdown, however, is the appreciation for my immediate surroundings – I’ve found I’ve been looking at them with a newly-focused attention. I’ve always been a nature lover, but this year, I’ve really paid attention to the smaller changes that have taken place each season outside my window. Stepping into this world is almost like being transported somewhere else for me. I think there is such beauty in these small details of nature, which we often don’t notice at all as we go about our lives.

As we have moved into spring, I’ve been so happy at every new bud that’s appeared on our plants, smiled every time I’ve seen a bee bumbling its way around, admired how busy our resident squirrel is as it runs back and forth along the fence endlessly. The world seems calm but if you stop and look, nature is most ardently at work.

This beautiful poem by Kay Ryan really captured that sense of work and perspective for me.


From other
angles the
fibers look
fragile, but
not from the
spider’s, always
hauling coarse
ropes, hitching
lines to the
best posts
possible. It’s
heavy work
fighting sag,
winching up
give. It
isn’t ever
to live.

Kay Ryan

‘From other angles the fibers look fragile, but not from the spider’s’ – right from these first lines of the poem, we are firmly introduced to the contrast in viewpoints between us and the spider - what we might see as flimsy spider web, to the spider is coarse ropes ‘hauled’ about into place, meticulously constructed with great effort. We like to spend spring clearing ‘cobwebs’ away and we do this as if they were nothing and yet every one of them was made carefully and deliberately. It puts me in mind of the strength of insects in comparison to our own and when you hear about how an ant for example, can carry a ridiculous amount relative to its own body weight compared to what we are capable of.

I love the last line of this poem: ‘It isn’t ever delicate to live’ – this feels like such a strong and true statement to me. I have lots of thoughts on this but I’d love to hear your thoughts on this line – what do you make of this?

As we are heading out again into the world and the pace of life increases once more, I hope to keep up this sense of slowing down, paying more attention and appreciating the pace at which the world works for other creatures.


Reproduced with the kind permission of publishers Carcanet, Kay Ryan's poem 'Spiderweb' is from her collection Odd Blocks: New & Selected Poems published by Carcanet.

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