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October 6, 2006 Kaye Playhouse, New York City From the Academy Audio Archive

About this poet

Born in California on September 21, 1945, Kay Ryan grew up in the small towns of the San Joaquin Valley and the Mojave Desert. She received both a bachelor's and master's degree from UCLA.

Ryan has published several collections of poetry, including The Best of It: New and Selected Poems (Grove Press, 2010), for which she won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2011; The Niagara River (2005); Say Uncle (2000); Elephant Rocks (1996); Flamingo Watching (1994), which was a finalist for both the Lamont Poetry Selection and the Lenore Marshall Prize; Strangely Marked Metal (1985); and Dragon Acts to Dragon Ends (1983).

About her work, J. D. McClatchy has said: "Her poems are compact, exhilarating, strange affairs, like Erik Satie miniatures or Joseph Cornell boxes. She is an anomaly in today's literary culture: as intense and elliptical as Dickinson, as buoyant and rueful as Frost."

Ryan's awards include a National Humanities Medal, 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 been selected four times for The Best American Poetry and was included in The Best of the Best American Poetry 1988-1997.

Ryan's poems and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Poetry, The Yale Review, Paris Review, The American Scholar, The Threepenny Review, Parnassus, among other journals and anthologies. She was named to the “It List” by Entertainment Weekly and one of her poems has been permanently installed at New York’s Central Park Zoo. Ryan was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2006. In 2008, Ryan was appointed the Library of Congress's sixteenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. Since 1971, she has lived in Marin County in California.


Multimedia

From The Poet's View: Intimate Profiles of Five Major American Poets, available in the Poetry Store.Download a free recording of Poets of Our Time, the first event of the 2007 Poets Forum.From the Image Archive
 

 

Home to Roost

Kay Ryan, 1945
The chickens
are circling and
blotting out the 
day. The sun is 
bright, but the 
chickens are in 
the way. Yes,
the sky is dark
with chickens, 
dense with them.
They turn and 
then they turn 
again. These 
are the chickens
you let loose
one at a time
and small—
various breeds.
Now they have 
come home
to roost—all
the same kind
at the same speed.

From The Niagara River by Kay Ryan, published by Grove Press. Copyright © 2005 by Kay Ryan. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

From The Niagara River by Kay Ryan, published by Grove Press. Copyright © 2005 by Kay Ryan. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Kay Ryan

Kay Ryan

The author of several collections of poetry, Kay Ryan has served as both a Poet Laureate for the Library of Congress and a Chancellor for the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet

poem
To the dragon
any loss is
total. His rest 
is disrupted
if a single 
jewel encrusted
goblet has
been stolen.
The circle
of himself
in the nest
of his gold
has been
broken.  No
loss is token.
poem
As though
the river were
a floor, we position
our table and chairs
upon it, eat, and 
have conversation.
As it moves along,
we notice—as
calmly as though
dining room paintings 
were being replaced—
the changing scenes 
along the shore. We
do know, we do 
know this is the
Niagara River, but 
it is hard to
poem

 

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