Outsider Poet Named as 16th U.S. Laureate, Threatens to Give Everyone Library Cards

Kay RyanKay Ryan was announced as the 16th poet laureate of the United States today. Often compared to Emily Dickinson for her semi-reclusive nature and witty skepticism of the outside world, Ryan has been teaching remedial English part-time at the College of Marin in Kentfield, CA for over 30 years. Her introverted nature and accessibility make her an exciting choice for laureate. Ryan, dually skeptical of both writer?s conferences and collaborative work in general, has noted an interest in doing something in celebration of the library (Congress? or otherwise). ?Maybe I?ll issue library cards to everyone,? she quipped.

Part of what makes Ryan?s poetry so accessible is its brevity and meditation on the more common aspects of the human experience. Often utilizing aviary metaphors, the sentiments in Ryan?s poetry are playfully witty and easily relatable. She employs irregular rhyming schemes and a characteristically sparse style.

?An almost empty suitcase, that?s what I want my poems to be, few things,? Ms. Ryan told the NY Times. Here are a choice few of her many poems, which have been published in six collections and boast numerous awards including fellowships from both the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts, as well as three Pushcart Prizes.

A Hundred Bolts of Satin

All you

have to lose

is one


and the mind


all the way back.

It seems

to have been

a train.

There seems

to have been

a track.

The things

that you


from the

abandoned cars

cannot sustain

life: a crate of

tractor axles,

for example,

a dozen dozen

clasp knives,

a hundred

bolts of satin?

perhaps you


more than

you imagined.

Paired Things

Who, who had only seen wings,

could extrapolate the

skinny sticks of things

birds use for land,

the backward way they bend,

the silly way they stand?

And who, only studying

birdtracks in the sand,

could think those little forks

had decamped on the wind?

So many paired things seem odd.

Who ever would have dreamed

the broad winged raven of despair

would quit the air and go

bandylegged upon the ground,

a common crow?

The Fabric of Life

It is very stretchy.

We know that, even if

many details remain

sketchy. It is complexly

woven. That much too

has pretty well been

proven. We are loath

to continue our lessons

which consist of slaps

as sharp and dispersed

as bee stings from

a smashed nest

when any strand snaps?

hurts working far past

the locus of rupture,

attacking threads

far beyond anything

we would have said


Also: Kay Ryan Named US Poet Laureate
and Poetry Foundation: Kay Ryan

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