May 4, 2010 Poet Laureate Kay Ryan's Farewell Reading at Library of Congress on May 20

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

U. S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan—who has been called poetry’s rock star because of her popularity—will conclude the Library of Congress spring literary season and her second and final term as Poet Laureate on May 20.

Ryan will give a reading at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 20, in the Coolidge Auditorium on the ground level of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are needed. A book-signing will follow the reading.

As guests enter the Coolidge Auditorium, they will hear recordings of late, great poets who have previously read in the historic, 500-seat auditorium during the past 70 years. The recordings are held in the collections of the Library’s Motion Picture, Broadcast and Recorded Sound Division.

Ryan will bid farewell to her Poet Laureate appointment with a reading from her newest volume of poetry "The Best of It: New and Selected Poems,” published in March 2010.

During Ryan’s highly successful two-year tenure as the 16th Poet Laureate of the United States, she launched "Poetry for the Mind’s Joy,” a project that focuses on the poetry being written by community college students. The Library of Congress sponsored the project, in conjunction with the Community College Humanities Association, which ran a poetry-writing contest for community college students. Winners were chosen locally by each participating campus. Random samplings of the winning poems are posted at

Born and reared in California, Ryan taught remedial English part-time for 30 years at the College of Marin in Kentfield, Calif. She once thought about growing up to be a carpenter, or perhaps a stand-up comedian.

As a poet, Ryan has enriched the landscape of American poetry with her precise and often slyly humorous verse. Irish poet Eavan Boland, director of Stanford University’s Creative Writing Program, praised "the menace and meaning and music of a Kay Ryan poem,” and hailed Ryan’s "really powerful signature effect—a dark and jeweled poetic practice.”

Ryan’s 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. This spring Ryan was the Mohr Visiting Poet at Stanford University.

Ryan has succeeded a long line of distinguished poets who served as Poet Laureate, including most recently Charles Simic, Donald Hall, Ted Kooser, Louise Glück, Billy Collins, Stanley Kunitz, Robert Pinsky, Robert Hass and Rita Dove.

The Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress is the home of the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, a position that has existed since 1937, after the late Archer M. Huntington endowed the Chair of Poetry at the Library. 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 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 10-099
ISSN 0731-3527