The poetry collection “Saint Peter and the Goldfinch” by emeritus professor Jack Ridl of the Hope College English faculty has been published this month through the Made in Michigan Writers Series of Wayne State University Press.
It was released on April 1, the first day of National Poetry Month.
The poems offer meditations on everyday life, whether curiosity, loss, discovery, joy or the passing of the seasons. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins has praised the collection, saying “These poems typically begin with a series of quiet, levelheaded observations and end in a wild imaginative leap. Jack Ridl has found a pattern that delights and surprises us poem by poem.” Another early reader described Ridl’s poems as “trout-quick, alternately funny and wondrous, instantly intimate and free of pretense.”
“Saint Peter and the Goldfinch,” whose cover art is by Ridl’s daughter Meridith, features four thematic sections. The first reflects on Ridl’s personal history, with poems like “Feeding the Pup in the Early Morning” and “Some of What Was Left After Therapy.” The second continues with meditations on varied events and persons, and includes poems such as “The Last Days of Sam Snead” and “Coffee Talks with Con Hilberry.” The third attends primarily to the mystery of love and what one loves, and includes “The Inevitable Sorrow of Potatoes” and “Suite for the Long Married.” The fourth and final section reflects primarily on the imagined in poems like “Over in That Corner, the Puppets” and “Meditation on a Photograph of a Man Jumping a Puddle in the Rain.”
Ridl taught at Hope from 1971 until retiring in 2006. He is the author or editor of several collections of poetry, and has also published more than 300 poems in journals and has work included in numerous anthologies. In addition, he has read his work and led workshops at colleges, universities, art colonies and other venues around the country.
He has received multiple honors for his collections. His most recent previously, “Practicing to Walk Like a Heron,” received Gold recognition for poetry in the 2013 IndieFab Awards competition sponsored by Foreword Reviews magazine and in 2014 was named an “Editor’s Pick” by the quarterly poetry journal Rattle. The anthology “Poetry in Michigan/Michigan in Poetry,” which he co-edited with award-winning poet Dr. William Olsen of the Western Michigan University English faculty, was named a 2014 Michigan Notable Book. His collection “Losing Season” was named the 2009 “Sports Education Book of the Year” by the Institute for International Sport at the University of Rhode Island. The Society of Midland Authors named his collection “Broken Symmetry” one of the two best volumes of poetry published in 2006. In 2001, his collection “Against Elegies” was chosen by Collins as the winner of the “Letterpress Chapbook Competition” sponsored by the Center for Book Arts of New York City.
Ridl’s other volumes include “The Same Ghost,” “Between,” “After School,” “Poems from ‘The Same Ghost’ and ‘Between,’” and “Outside the Center Ring.” In addition to his volumes of poetry, he is co-author, with Hope colleague Peter Schakel, of two textbooks, “Approaching Poetry: Perspectives and Responses” and “Approaching Literature.” They also co-edited two anthologies.
Ridl also received recognition both at Hope and beyond for as a master teacher and for service. In 2014, the Poetry Society of Michigan appointed him honorary chancellor in recognition of the high quality and beauty of his poetry and his participation in and support of the society, and the Community Literacy Initiative presented him a Community Literacy Award in the area of Talent for outstanding contributions in increasing literacy levels and sustained depth and breadth in commitment to the advancement of literacy in West Michigan. In 1996, he was chosen Michigan’s “Professor of the Year” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. More than 90 of Ridl’s former students are now publishing.
At Hope, the college’s graduating class presented him with the “Hope Outstanding Professor Educator Award” in 1976; he received the faculty appreciation award from the student body during Homecoming in 2003; and the graduating seniors selected him to present the Commencement address in both 1975 and 1986. The college’s Visiting Writers Series, which he co-founded in 1982 with his wife Julie Garlinghouse Ridl, was named in his honor in 2006.
Westminster College, from which he holds both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, presented him with an “Alumni Citation Award” in September 2005.
“Saint Peter and the Goldfinch” retails for $16.99. Copies are available through the Hope College Bookstore and other book sellers, as well as through Amazon.