April 13, 2009 Library of Congress Appoints Kay Ryan to Second Term as U.S. Poet Laureate
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Contact: Kay Ryan Closes Literary Season with May 7 Reading
Librarian of Congress James H. Billington has appointed Kay Ryan to serve a second term as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry.
Billington said, “Kay has been an uplifting presence as Laureate during the past year, and her poetry continues to awe and delight readers. In her appearances at the Library, Kay has captivated audiences with her fresh insights into the beauty, power and importance of poetry. We are looking forward to her announcement this fall of a project she hopes to establish, and we are glad she is available to serve in this important position in 2009-2010.”
During the 2008-2009 literary season, 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.
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. The laureateship is the only federally designated position for a literary artist in this country.
She succeeded Charles Simic and joined a long line of distinguished poets who have served in the position, including most recently Donald Hall, Ted Kooser, Louise Glück, Billy Collins, Stanley Kunitz, Robert Pinsky, Robert Hass and Rita Dove.
Ryan’s first term will conclude at 6:45 p.m. on Thursday, May 7, when she gives a reading at the Library of Congress in the Coolidge Auditorium on the ground level of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event, sponsored by the Library’s Poetry and Literature Center, is free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are needed.
Ryan’s latest book, published in Dec. 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.”
Ryan describes poetry as an intensely personal experience for both the writer and the reader: “Poems are transmissions from the depths of whoever wrote them to the depths of the reader. To a greater extent than with any other kind of reading, the reader of a poem is making that poem, is inhabiting those words in the most personal sort of way. That doesn’t mean that you read a poem and make it whatever you want it to be, but that it’s operating so deeply in you that it is the most special kind of reading.”
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.