September 19, 2008 Poet Laureate Kay Ryan Opens Literary Season with a Reading at the Library of Congress on Oct. 16

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Patricia Gray (202) 707-5394

Kay Ryan, the new Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, known for her short poems with interesting rhyme and rhythm, will open the Library’s 2008-2009 literary season with a reading on Oct. 16. The event will start at 6:45 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 16, in the Mumford Room on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. Sponsored by the Library’s Poetry and Literature Center in the Office of Scholarly Programs, the reading is free and open to the public. Tickets and reservations are not required. Ryan also will read at the Library of Congress National Book Festival at noon on Saturday, Sept. 27, in the Poetry Pavilion on the National Mall. She will sign books at the festival from 1:30 to 2 p.m. Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced on July 17 the appointment of Kay Ryan to be the Library’s 16th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. In making the selection, Billington said, “Kay Ryan is a distinctive and original voice within the rich variety of contemporary American poetry. She writes easily understandable short poems on improbable subjects. Within her compact compositions there are many surprises in rhyme and rhythm and in sly wit pointing to subtle wisdom.” Ryan has written six books of poetry, plus a limited edition artist’s book, along with a number of essays. Her books are: “The Niagara River” (2005), “Believe It or Not!” (2002), “Say Uncle” (2000), “Elephant Rocks” (1996), “Flamingo Watching” (1994), “Strangely Marked Metal” (1985) and “Dragon Acts to Dragon Ends” (1983). Her awards include the Gold Medal for poetry, 2005, from the San Francisco Commonwealth Club; the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from The Poetry Foundation in 2004; a Guggenheim fellowship the same year; a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship as well as the Maurice English Poetry Award in 2001; the Union League Poetry Prize in 2000; and an Ingram Merrill Foundation Award in 1995. She has won four Pushcart Prizes and has been selected four different years for the annual volumes of the Best American Poetry. Her poems have been widely reprinted and internationally anthologized. Since 2006, she has been a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. The Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress administers the poetry series, which began in the 1940s and is the oldest in the Washington area and among the oldest in the United States. The readings and lectures are free and have been largely supported since 1951 by a gift from the late Gertrude Clarke Whittall. The center is also the home of the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, a position that has existed since 1936, when the late Archer M. Huntington endowed the Chair of Poetry at the Library of Congress. Since then, more than 40 of the nation’s most eminent poets have served as either Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress or, after the passage of Public Law 99-194 in 1985, as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. The Poet Laureate suggests authors to read in the literary series and plans other special literary events during the reading season. For more information, visit


PR 08-165
ISSN 0731-3527