Poet Laureate Kay Ryan Is One of Five Poets Featured in New Poet's View DVD

Posted on

Jul 17 2008

Film biographies also profile poets John Ashbery, Louise Glück,
Anthony Hecht, and W. S. Merwin


New York, July 17—The Academy of American Poets today released The Poet's View, a film series presenting intimate portraits of five major American poets, directed by the acclaimed filmmaker Mel Stuart. Featuring unprecedented insight into the life and work of the new U.S. Poet Laureate, Kay Ryan, as well as poets John Ashbery, Louise Glück, Anthony Hecht, and W. S. Merwin, the documentaries were filmed on location in Hawaii, Paris, New York, California, and in the homes of the poets, and are now available together on one DVD.

Produced with the support of the Wallace Stevens Fund, the short films not only showcase the work of the poets, but also highlight the poets' backgrounds, writing methods, and thoughts about poetry. When clips from the films were recently previewed online, the excerpt on Kay Ryan quickly became the top poetry video on YouTube and was shared widely across the web. The films are distributed by the Academy of American Poets and are available at poets.org/dvd.

Tree Swenson, Executive Director of the Academy of American Poets, explained the significance of the new DVD: "If listening to a poem read aloud by a poet provides a deeper experience than simply reading from the page, then watching poets read and talk about their work blasts through to a new dimension of comprehension."

About the films, director Mel Stuart said: "One of the rewards of being a documentary filmmaker is that you enter worlds that are not familiar to you. It was a fascinating experience to have each of the poets share their remembrances of things past, discuss their methods of creation, and read their poems."

Mel Stuart has directed and produced numerous documentaries and films, including Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory; The Hobart Shakespearians; The Making of the President; Four Days in November; If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium; and Wattstax. He has received four Emmies, a Peabody Award, an Oscar Nomination, and numerous other awards.

John Ashbery is the author of more than twenty books of poetry, most recently A Worldly Country (Ecco, 2007). He has won nearly every major American award for poetry, including the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets. Most notably, his collection A Wave (1984) won the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1975) received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the National Book Award; and Some Trees (1956) was selected by W. H. Auden for the Yale Younger Poets Series.

Louise Glück is the author of numerous books of poetry, most recently Averno (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2006), a finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry; The Seven Ages (2001); and Vita Nova (1999), winner of Boston Book Review’s Bingham Poetry Prize and The New Yorker’s Book Award in Poetry. Glück served as the Library of Congress's twelfth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, and she serves as the judge of the Yale Series of Younger Poets.

Anthony Hecht's books of poetry include The Darkness and the Light (Knopf, 2001); Flight Among the Tombs (1996); and The Hard Hours (1967), which won the Pulitzer Prize. He received the Bollingen Prize, the Ruth Lilly Prize, and fellowships from The Academy of American Poets, the American Academy in Rome, the Ford Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. He was a Chancellor Emeritus of The Academy of American Poets and lived in Washington, D.C.

Kay Ryan, who was appointed U.S. Poet Laureate on July 17, 2008, is the recipient of the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize and appeared in The Best of the Best American Poetry. She is the author of several collections, including The Niagara River (Grove, 2005) and Flamingo Watching (1994), which was a finalist for both the Lamont Poetry Selection and the Lenore Marshall Prize. She was elected a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets in 2006.

W. S. Merwin is the author of more than fifteen books of poetry, including Present Company (Copper Canyon, 2007); Migration (2005), which won the National Book Award; Travels (1993), which won the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; and The Carrier of Ladders (1970), which received the Pulitzer Prize. He is a former Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets and lives and works in Hawaii.

The Academy of American Poets is a nonprofit organization founded in 1934 to foster appreciation for contemporary poetry and to support American poets at all stages of their careers. For over three generations, the Academy has connected millions of people to great poetry through programs such as National Poetry Month, the largest literary celebration in the world; Poets.org, the most popular site about poetry on the web; the Poetry Audio Archive, capturing the voices of contemporary American poets for generations to come; American Poet, a biannual literary journal; and an annual series of poetry readings and special events. The Academy also awards prizes to accomplished poets at all stages of their careers—from hundreds of student prizes at colleges nationwide to the Wallace Stevens Award for lifetime achievement in the art of poetry. For more information, visit www.poets.org.

The Wallace Stevens Fund was established in 1994 primarily to support the Wallace Stevens Award, which is given annually by the Academy of American Poets to recognize outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry and carries a stipend of $100,000. The recipients include W. S. Merwin, James Tate, Adrienne Rich, Anthony Hecht, A. R. Ammons, Jackson Mac Low, Frank Bidart, John Ashbery, Ruth Stone, Richard Wilbur, Mark Strand, Gerald Stern, Michael Palmer, and Charles Simic. Wallace Stevens, one of the major American poets of the twentieth century, was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, in 1879. After attending Harvard University, he received a law degree from New York Law School, and worked as a corporate lawyer at the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company from 1916 until his death in 1955. Harmonium, his first collection of poems, was published in 1923, but it was only very late in his life, after the publication of The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens (1954), that his work began to receive broad attention and critical acclaim.