Poet Kay Ryan has been appointed by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington to serve a second term as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, the country’s only federally designated position for a literary artist.
Poets Laureate are appointed for one-year terms that are sometimes extended for a year by agreement of the Library and the Laureate. Ryan was appointed in mid-July 2008 as the Library’s 16th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. Her first term concludes on May 7, when she will give a reading to close the 2008-2009 literary season.
During the year, Ryan appeared at the Library of Congress National Book Festival and at several Library poetry events. She also served as a panelist at the “Robert Burns at 250” conference sponsored by the Library’s American Folklife Center and the government of Scotland. She selected two gifted young poets to receive the prestigious 2009 Witter Bynner Fellowships in Poetry from the Library of Congress.
In San Francisco, Calif., Ryan took part in the poetry reading for “National Treasures, Local Treasures: The Library of Congress at Your Fingertips,” a touring program sponsored by the Library’s Center for the Book.
Ryan’s latest book, published in December 2008, is an illustrated collection of poems titled “The Jam Jar Lifeboat” from Red Berry Editions in Kensington, Calif. It contains whimsical color illustrations by Carl Dern. Her other publications include “The Niagara River,” (2005); “Say Uncle” (2000); “Elephant Rocks” (1996); “Flamingo Watching” (1994); “Strangely Marked Metal” (1985); and “Dragon Acts to Dragon Ends” (1983). She is also the author of numerous essays.
Born and raised in California, Ryan taught remedial English part-time for 30 years at the College of Marin in Kentfield, Calif., thus leaving much of her life free for “a lot of mountain-bike riding plus the idle maunderings poets feed upon.”
Her many awards include the 2005 Gold Medal for Poetry from the San Francisco Commonwealth Club; the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from The Poetry Foundation in 2004; a Guggenheim fellowship the same year; and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, as well as the Maurice English Poetry Award in 2001.