Posts Tagged ‘Poet Laureate’

Kay Ryan

Over the years, I have come across many people, who did not immediately run in poetry circles, who were unaware, surprised, even confused by the notion that we have an appointed Poet Laureate here in the United States in 2010. Although most folks have heard of the concept of a Poet Laureate, many think of it as some antiquated position created by the British and confined to England.

The position of Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (LOC) is described on the LOC web site as “the nation’s official lightning rod for the poetic impulse of Americans.” The Laureate is charged with many tasks while serving his or her term (which lasts one year from October to May) but is primarily charged with raising national consciousness and appreciation of poetry. Each Laureate has done this in a unique way, as is also mentioned on the LOC web site: “Joseph Brodsky initiated the idea of providing poetry in airports, supermarkets and hotel rooms. Maxine Kumin started a popular series of poetry workshops for women at the Library of Congress. Gwendolyn Brooks met with elementary school students to encourage them to write poetry. Rita Dove brought together writers to explore the African diaspora through the eyes of its artists. She also championed children’s poetry and jazz with poetry events. Robert Hass organized the “Watershed” conference that brought together noted novelists, poets and storytellers to talk about writing, nature and community.”

The current Laureate, Kay Ryan, has won many awards for her work, including the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, a Guggenheim fellowship, an Ingram Merrill Award, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Union League Poetry Prize, the Maurice English Poetry Award, and three Pushcart Prizes. Her work has appeared in numerous prestigious literary venues, such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Poetry, The Yale Review, Paris Review, The American Scholar, The Threepenny Review, Parnassus, among others.

I particularly love her description of poetry on the LOC web site: “Poems are transmissions from the depths of whoever wrote them to the depths of the reader. To a greater extent than with any other kind of reading, the reader of a poem is making that poem, is inhabiting those words in the most personal sort of way. That doesn’t mean that you read a poem and make it whatever you want it to be, but that it’s operating so deeply in you, that it is the most special kind of reading.”

Repulsive Theory

Little has been made
of the soft, skirting action
of magnets reversed,
while much has been
made of attraction.
But is it not this pillowy
principle of repulsion
that produces the
doily edges of oceans
or the arabesques of thought?
And do these cutout coasts
and incurved rhetorical beaches
not baffle the onslaught
of the sea or objectionable people
and give private life
what small protection it’s got?
Praise then the oiled motions
of avoidance, the pearly
convolutions of all that
slides off or takes a
wide berth; praise every
eddying vacancy of Earth,
all the dimpled depths
of pooling space, the whole
swirl set up by fending-off—
extending far beyond the personal,
I’m convinced—
immense and good
in a cosmological sense:
unpressing us against
each other, lending
the necessary never
to never-ending.


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