The Constant Yes of Things: Selected Poems 1973-2018 is a landmark collection from a poet whose work is “very fine” (May Swenson), poems intensely personal yet addressing universal concerns of mortality and loss, erotic passion, the natural world, history, art, contemporary American life, Buddhist spirituality, mystical experience, and language itself.
Steve Kanji Ruhl published his first poem in a national literary journal at the age of 19; by the time he was 28 he had published poems in numerous magazines, published two chapbook collections, been awarded a Massachusetts Artists Fellowship in Poetry, was invited to read his work in the Lamont Poetry Room at Harvard University, and had received high praise:
“The words of these poems seem to cup and contain the experience like the hands of a craftsman who loves his material. The language is strong and delicate simultaneously. I can’t think of any more accurate word for the poems than beautiful. He says off-handed things which are hard to forget,” wrote Pulitzer Prize winner and U.S. Poet Laureate William Meredith.
Steve Kanji Ruhl’s “poems are very fine…they are complex but clear, infused with flashes of self-revelation. They make use of language in the instinctive way that marks a true poet. His perceptions are keen, and he takes care to be a good craftsman. ‘The astonishment of being in this world’ — a line from one of the poems — is what he conveys so well,” wrote May Swenson, winner of the Bollingen Prize and a MacArthur “genius award,” and acclaimed by eminent critic Harold Bloom as one of the major American poets of the 20th century.
“I was blown away. I have tremendous respect,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning poet James Tate.
By his early 30’s, Ruhl had lost interest in the poetry “scene.” He played drums in an avant-punk trio, wrote for newspapers, began a Zen practice, and traveled. Yet privately he continued to write poetry, in standard modern forms and in bold experimental forays, sharing his work among intimate circles of friends while still publishing occasionally in magazines. Today, at 64, Steve Kanji Ruhl is a Zen Buddhist teacher employed as a Buddhist adviser at Yale University, a meditation instructor at Deerfield Academy, and teacher in the Spiritual Guidance program at The Rowe Center, having received his Master of Divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School.