Thursday, July 17, 2008

New U.S. Poet Laureate: Kay Ryan, Californian

The Library of Congress announced today that Californian Kay Ryan is the next Poet Laureate, succeeding Charles Simic.

Ryan is the author of six collections of poems: Dragon Acts to Dragon Friends (1983, privately printed by a subscription of her friends); Strangely Marked Metal (1985); Flamingo Watching (1995); Elephant Rocks (1996); Say Uncle (2000); and The Niagara River (2005). Flamingo Watching shot her to the notice of readers and poets alike, and Dana Gioia later wrote that he could never quite set the book aside. Her poetry packs twists, irony, and beauty into small packets of precisely chosen words, often in very short lines, often a single stanza.

Her PBS interview is now being widely aired; she says clearly in the program that silence means a great deal to her, and she explores its forms. As an introduction to the poet and her work, I also like very much Dana Gioia's essay that appeared first in Dark Horse in the winter 1998/99 issue.

Here's one of her poems, drawn from the web site of Blue Flower Arts, which has represented her:

Extreme exertion
isolates a person
from help,
discovered Atlas.
Once a certain
ratio collapses,
there is so little
others can do:
they can't
lend a hand
with Brazil
and not stand
on Peru.

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