ISBN: 978-1-952799-51-8





In Lieu of Foreword: 

Unconventional Fore-Words on an Unconventional Poet


“A poem is a walk,” wrote A.R. Ammons.[1] Ray Ryterski’s poems confirm that credo.  The long and winding lines (justified on the right margin, as in prose, though often effectively, and conscientiously enjambing) unwind as peripatetic meditations.  You will not find solutions in this work.  (No surprise: few poets presume—and still fewer should presume—to problem-solve.)  You will often encounter despair (as heart-wrenching, as shocking, as Plath’s or Sexton’s).  But despite that despondency, and always (which is why I’m wagering that this poet pushes past a premature demise), you will be presented with Ryterski persevering. 


            And so we get up and continue walking where our feet guide us

And then one day leads to another day and another and another

Like trying to hold sand, the time slips out from between our fingers


In fact, though, Ryterski’s wanderings yield tangible destinations[2], generated in and by their movement.  As nearly put in the poem just cited, the eponymous “We, Who Walked Beneath the Stars”:


            I was looking for something that was absent but was set down

I knew for a fact that the thing was lying around here somewhere


To gloss the modus operandi, tweak the lines a bit: ‘I was looking for something that was absent but about to be set down / I knew for a fact that the thing was lying around en route.’  In trying to explicate Ryterski’s process, I similarly sought something absent yet set down, which I knew for a fact lay somewhere in my library.  But where?  Ah! the prose style of Ryterski’s poems (as distinct from a style of prose; i.e., Ryterski’s pieces read as poems, “language charged with meaning” [Pound[3]]) jogged my memory to Morris Croll’s observation on such seventeenth century prose masters as Burton, Bacon, Browne:


            Their purpose was to portray, not a thought, but a mind thinking, or, in Pascal’s

            words, la peinture de la penséeThey knew that an idea separated from the act

            of experiencing it is not the idea that was experienced.  The ardor of its conception

            in the mind is a necessary part of its truth; and unless it can be conveyed to another

            mind in something of the form of its occurrence, either it has changed into some

            other idea or it has ceased to be an idea, to have any existence whatever except

            a verbal one.  [They] chose as the moment of expression that in which the idea first

            objectifies itself in the mind, in which, therefore, each of its parts still preserves its

            own peculiar emphasis and an independent vigor of its own—in brief, the moment

            in which truth is still imagined.[4] 


Numbering among those truths-imagined-in-the-moment by Ryterski, “In the Beginning,” in multiple senses of that phrase.—I.e., the first pair of poems, that so titled and “We, Who Walk Beneath the Stars,” instance a preoccupation with inaccessible origins[5]:




            I try to think of who the very first person was, but for every person that has existed

There is another person that has come before them so no one will ever know who

The original first person was because even the original first has an ancestor, correct




It still feels like we’re taking the first step; we try to remember when

We took the first step, but for every step one takes there is another

Someone took before, so we’ll never know who took the original first[6]


The second conceptualization recalls Seamus Heaney in “Bogland”:


            Our pioneers keep striking

            Inwards and downwards


            Every layer they strip

            Seems camped on before.[7]


When the last word ambiguously resonates between adverb and noun—such that in effect, there is no last word, rather a vertiginous enactment as well as expression of en abyme.  Which segues to remarking Ryterski’s own brand of word-play.  In “Hands,” for instance:


            It’s funny how your hands can do so much and so little simultaneously

My hands can help me type this poem and drink my third cup of coffee

They can help me carry my things and shove favorite foods into my face

But when push comes to shove, I can’t seem to get my hands dirty with

The meaningful, impactful work that really needs to be done in the world


Logopoeia, or “the dance of the intellect with words” (both Poundisms[8]) is displayed with remarkable felicity in moving forth and back upon literal and figurative linguistic registers (“Hands can help me shove…/push comes to shove/I can’t seem to get my hands dirty.”)[9]  Also characteristic of particular craft, refreshingly irreverent diction.  With “shove favorite foods into my face,” cf. “I’m done with this fuckery.”  “Doppelganger In My Bedroom Mirror,” whence that last locution derives, points up a further facet for appreciation.


Ryterski will always prompt thought—better put, provoke reflection.  Which revision on my part goes so far as to say that the musings this poet generates often trouble the reader.  Does so doing prove analogous to the plausible conduct of Ray Ryterski’s “Doppelganger”? (Is it, to some degree, a mirror image of each our own doppelgangers?)


            I told my therapist at the time about how there’s a doppelganger following me

“What if the doppelganger is trying to help you in some way?,” they asked

“I don’t think so. If they were trying to help me, they wouldn’t cause me pain.”

“Well, Ray, sometimes the parts of us that cause us pain are trying to help us,

But somehow go too far. Maybe this part of you just went too far in helping you.”


This poem concludes on a twist reminiscent of that author—which author? “Borges, [or] the other one,”(?) whose—whose?—meditation concludes, “I am not sure which of us it is that’s writing this page.”[10]  Similarly,  


            So when you see me in the real world, who do you see walking around as me?

Is who you see the real me, or is the person you see the person from the mirror?


We can read the last line, hinging on “or,” appositively—“the real me” as “the person from the mirror”—with our interpretation abetted by construing “from the mirror” in reference (also) to the person once before the glass who stepped away “from” it when venturing “in[to] the real world.”  Yet, typically, Ryterski’s own words reflect (mot juste!) our feelings, in this case of being haunted by ourselves.[11] Though, to pivot on the analogy of doubles posited above, I don’t think these poems “go too far…in helping us.”  Rather, they test, and attest to, the poet’s and reader’s respective resolve.


                                                                                                                     ETHAN LEWIS

                                                                                                            Springfield, Illinois, 2023




1.)   Ammons titled his 1967 essay thus. 

2.)   This posited locus accessible through perseverance is more emphatically remarked (though the precise terminus remains ambiguous) in two remarkable poems of transit, “To the Place Where the Black Sea Ends” and “Somewhere, Anywhere, A Train Runs Through It.”  Cf. also the resolve expressed at the close of “What We Must Do” and of “What We Haven’t Fixed.”

3.)   Cf. “How to Read” (1921), Literary Essays of Ezra Pound, ed. T.S. Eliot (New York: New Directions, 1968); Pound, ABC of Reading (New York: New Directions, 1935), 28.  Pound compasses all “literature” within that definition.  Hence in retrospect, if one preferred to categorize Ryterski’s writings as prose, certainly they could.  Yet I shall refer to them as poetry, due to their rhythm, lineation, and as distinct from being prosaic.

4.)   Morris W. Croll, “The Baroque Style in Prose” [1929; rpt. In] Alexander Witherspoon and Frank J. Warnke, eds. Seventeenth-Century Prose and Poetry (New Haven: Yale UP, 1982), 1066.

5.)   Ryterski rings variations on this concern in “Wall Décor” and “Terracotta.”

6.)   Acknowledging what one can’t know much less return to evinces frustration in these poems, but with respect to that perseverence I’ve remarked, likewise spurs Ryterski forward. The poet intuits that “one person who started it all, starpower swirling in between their palms…. I want desperately to be like them, to live and to love like they do…What starpower do I hold? What do I have to offer? / Instead of holding the universe I am standing on shaky ground that isn’t mine;… / But I can write a poem or two, so that is where I find myself in my own tiny beginning.”

7.)   Seamus Heaney, Selected Poems 1966-1987 (New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1990), 22-3.

8.)   Logopoeia, ‘the dance of the intellect with words, that is to say, it employs words not only for their direct meaning, but it takes count in a special way of habits of usage, of the context we expect to find with the word, its usual concomitants, of its known acceptances, and of ironical play.  It holds the aesthetic content which is peculiarly the domain of verbal manifestation, and cannot possibly be contained in plastic or music.  It is the latest come, and perhaps the most tricky and undependable mode [as distinct from phanopoeia, “a casting of images upon the visual imagination,” and melopoeia, “wherein the words are charged, over and above their plain meaning, with some musical property, which directs the bearing or trend of that meaning”].”   (“How to Read,” 25)

9.)   Cf. a similar, though more dire, shuttling in “Face the Curtain”: “I can’t kill myself for the life of me; for the life of me, something’s holding me back.”

10.)                   Cf. “Borges y Yo” (“Borges and I”), Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions, trans. Andrew Hurley (New York: Penguin, 1998), 324; Borges, Collected Poems, ed. Alexander Coleman, trans. Kenneth Krabbenhoft, et al. (New York: Penguin, 1999), 92-3.

11.)                   As in, e.g., “Wall Décor,” which in the process of framing our thoughts in Ryterski’s words, might also remind (would it did the poet) of a tendency toward excessive self-critique rather than fair acknowledgement of achievement: 


Sure, I won those awards on the wall alright, but there’s nothing to celebrate since

They’re a constant reminder of how things could have been compared to right now


            This poem subsequently features a lightning-flash in technique: an extraordinary double-exposure

            (the Japanese term it Kake-katoba), whereby an adverb transitions “before” one’s eyes:


Room for the bright colors of the fabric to fill up the empty space on the wall before

You knew it, you were taking down notes about what can stay and what needs to go



We, Who Walked Beneath The Stars was written by Ray Dio Ryterski over the span of about two years. The idea to compose a collection came to Ray after the title poem lost a poetry contest. After failing to publish the title poem as a stand alone piece, Ray thought about what they wanted to do with the poem, not wanting to let it sit and collect dust. It was then that Ray had the idea to write a collection based upon and woven around the title piece.

            The initial conception of this collection was focused on expanding the imagery and message of the title piece. With a brainstormed list of titles, Ray began writing what would one day become the book you are reading now. As they were writing this book, Ray’s vision of the book’s message changed. At first, Ray just wanted to expand upon the imagery and message of the title poem. But as Ray kept writing, Ray realized that there was something beyond simple expansion that they wanted to showcase. What started out as a fun little project became more serious and personal.

            Ray never intended for the book to be about them because the original goal of the book was to expand upon what they had already written. But while undertaking this task, they couldn’t help but write about their own personal struggles. After a recent diagnosis of psychotic depression and having to drop out of university because of it, Ray found it necessary to turn their pain into something they thought would be beautiful. Thus, We, Who Walked Beneath The Stars was born.

            While writing this collection, Ray was nervous that their content was too dark and depressing. Ray also worried that making their illness public would have negative effects. Over time, however, Ray realized that there’s no need to worry over the reception of the book because it could have potential value to their readers. Ray realized that once the book is published, it belongs to their readers, and whether their readers resonate or don’t resonate with the content isn’t Ray’s problem.

            With that being said, Ray does hope that this book resonates with you. Ray just wants to make a positive impact in the lives of others. Do know that Ray wishes you all the very best. “Take care of yourselves,” Ray always writes, “as I am trying to do the exact same.” Thank you for reading We, Who Walked Beneath The Stars.


Ray Dio Ryterski is a disabled writer from Columbia, Illinois, where they have lived all of their life. As a kid, Ray was always recognized as a good writer and was encouraged by others to pursue a career in writing. Even though Ray had always thought that writing wasn’t real work that would support others, Ray eventually decided that they wanted to give it a good honest try anyways. They thought that the worst possible thing that could happen by pursuing a career in writing was that people would say that their writing wasn’t worth reading and that they had wasted their time and effort. So when they were at one of the lowest points in their life, they started writing the manuscript that would eventually become this book.

            What motivates Ray to keep writing is the opportunity to speak their truth so others may heal. When Ray writes, they often think about and are inspired by works of art that have deeply resonated with them. With the memories of things that helped Ray in their healing journey, Ray writes so that they might help someone in their healing journey. It’s because Ray has the urge to make their own pain and the pain of others into something that is beautiful is what drives them to make good art.


            For more of Ray’s art, visit their Instagram profile, @butitwasiraydio,

where they share when new publications have been produced.




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