Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Kay Ryan is the new U.S. Poet Laureate

While a lot of folks probably still think Billy Collins is Poet Laureate, that hasn't been true for years. As of July 17, 2008, the title of Poet Laureate goes to Kay Ryan, who received a nice write-up in The New York Times that described her work as "sly, compact poems that revel in wordplay and internal rhymes."

Surfaces serve
their own purposes,
strive to remain
constant (all lives
want that). There is
a skin, not just on
peaches but on oceans
(note the telltale
slough of foam on beaches).
Sometimes it’s loose,
as in the case
of cats: you feel how a
second life slides
under it. Sometimes it
fits. Take glass.
Sometimes it outlasts
its underside. Take reefs.

The private lives of surfaces
are innocent, not devious.
Take the one-dimensional
belief of enamel in itself,
the furious autonomy
of luster (crush a pearl—
it’s powder), the whole
curious seamlessness
of how we’re each surrounded
and what it doesn’t teach.

(Kay Ryan, from Elephant Rocks, 1997 Grove/Atlantic, Inc.)
Ryan is a poet I was introduced to via Poetry magazine. Since subscribing several years ago, I've noticed that she is in just about every issue. Clearly the folks there love her. While I don't love her, I'm glad to see the title going not only to a woman, but also a lesbian. Give me hope. The Poet Laureate list is pretty much a sausage fest.
Poets who have held the Poet Laureate position since I was born:
2008–2009 Kay Ryan
2007–2008 Charles Simic
2006–2007 Donald Hall
2004–2006 Ted Kooser
2003–2004 Louise Glück
2001–2003 Billy Collins
2000–2001 Stanley Kunitz
1999–2000 Special Bicentennial Consultants: Rita Dove, Louise Glück and W.S. Merwin
1997–2000 Robert Pinsky
1995–1997 Robert Hass
1993–1995 Rita Dove
1992–1993 Mona Van Duyn
1991–1992 Joseph Brodsky
1990–1991 Mark Strand
1988–1990 Howard Nemerov
1987–1988 Richard Wilbur
1986–1987 Robert Penn Warren
1985–1986 Gwendolyn Brooks
1984–1985 Reed Whittemore (Interim Consultant in Poetry)
1984–1985 Robert Fitzgerald
1982–1984 Anthony Hecht
1981–1982 Maxine Kumin
1978–1980 William Meredith
1976–1978 Robert Hayden
For more on these poets and a complete list going back to 1837, check out the Library of Congress Web site.

1 comment:

Laura Witkowski said...

I thought that was a dude.