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A Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet

Kay Ryan, the 16th Poet Laureate of the United States (2008-2010) and a person of wry wisdom, won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

Kay Ryan. Photo by Christina Hernandez. Reproduction Information: Not available for reproduction. The Poetry Office at the Library of Congress. Reproduction Information: Reproduction information not available.

Specifically, the prize was for her book “The Best of It: New and Selected Poems” (Grove Press).  The Pulitzer people described the book this way: “a body of work spanning 45 years, witty, rebellious and yet tender, a treasure trove of an iconoclastic and joyful mind.”

The following poem, “The Edges of Time,” is from her book:

It is at the edges

that time thins.

Time which had been

dense and viscous

as amber suspending

intentions like bees

unseizes them. A

humming begins,

apparently coming

from stacks of

put-off things or

just in back. A

racket of claims now,

as time flattens. A

glittering fan of things

competing to happen,

brilliant and urgent

as fish when seas


During her tenure as Poet Laureate, Ryan – whose day job for 30 years was teaching remedial English part-time at the College of Marin in Kentfield, Calif. – established a poetry-writing contest for community-college students called “Poetry for the Mind’s Joy.”

You can watch Kay Ryan, reading her own poetry at the 2009 National Book Festival.