The term “blandeur” was coined for this particular poem. It is a combination of the word “bland” and the word “grandeur.” By asking God to remove the wonder of his creation, raise canyons and flatten mountains, the speaker is seeking out less grandeur and more blandeur.
‘Blandeur’ by Kay Ryan is a celebration of God’s creation seen through the poet’s sarcastic request that its overwhelming beauty is toned down.
In the first lines of this poem, the speaker talks to God, asking him to tone down nature if that pleases him. She wants the Eiger flattened, and the Grand Canyon made more bland. These changes should result in a far less overwhelming world, one that is less distracting and inspiring. Her request is clear sarcastic, meant to signal her broader appreciation for the natural world. The poem ends with a similar request, directed at God’s grandeur itself.
You can read the full poem here.
If it please God,
let less happen.
In the first lines of ‘Blandeur,’ the speaker begins by asking God to “let less happen.” This is a striking and interesting way to begin a poem. Readers are likely to find themselves questioning the speaker’s reasoning from the start.
She goes on, asking God to change the grandest parts of nature, such as the Eiger (a mountain in Switzerland) and the Grand Canyon. She wants the former flattened and the latter made more “bland.”
As the poem progresses, it becomes clear that this isn’t something the speaker is really interested in. She’s so inspired and moved by nature that she finds it overwhelming. So much so that she is asking for it to be toned down. This is a sarcastic request.
to arable land,
Withdraw your grandeur
from these parts.
In the next lines, the speaker asks that God “remand” or contain the “Terrible glaciers” on earth and “silence” their “calving.” This is a term used to describe the way that glaciers break off into the ocean, an incredible and loud event. The poem concludes with perfectly rhyming lines. “Hearts” and “parts” are perfect or exact rhymes. They end the poem impactfully with the speaker asking that God withdraw himself from “these parts” and let the speaker and all other human beings relax without the ever-present grandeur of nature.
Structure and Form
‘Blandeur’ by Kay Ryan is a twenty-line poem that is contained within one stanza of text. The poem is written in free verse, a style that does not use a specific rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. But, the lines are all around the same length. The first thirteen lines are three or four syllables each, and the final six lines are slightly longer.
Throughout this poem, the poet makes use of several literary devices. These include but are not limited to:
- Caesura: occurs when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, “Eiger, blanden.”
- Alliteration: can be seen when the poet repeats the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple words. For example, “let less” in line two.
- Imagery: can be seen when the poet uses particularly interesting descriptions. For example, “widen fissures / to arable land” and “terrible glaciers / and silence.”
The tone is needy and reverential. The speaker is addressing God and asking that he tone down the natural world if it pleases him to do so. The speaker maintains her respectful attitude towards God while also addressing the way nature moves her.
The purpose is to share a love for nature and an appreciation for its grandeur. There are endless incredible and awe-inspiring sights to be seen in the natural world, and they move the speaker.
The speaker is unknown. They could be the poet themselves, but it’s unclear if that’s the case. They love God and the world around them. Through the sarcastic lines of the poem, they prove these two things.
The themes at work in this poem are an appreciation of nature and religion. The speaker addresses God throughout this poem, asking that he tone down nature and make it blander. This is a sarcastic request, one that’s meant to convey the speaker’s appreciation for the natural world.
Readers who enjoyed this piece should also consider reading some other Kay Ryan poems. For example:
- ‘Turtle’ – a clever and poignant poem that relates the life of a turtle to the lives of all human beings who have felt at one point downtrodden.
Some other related poems include:
- ‘God’s Grandeur’ by Gerard Manley Hopkins – explores God’s world and the way it is filled to the brim with glory and wonder.
- ‘God’s World’ by Edna St. Vincent Millay – describes the wonders of nature and the value a speaker places on the sights she observes in God’s world.