Kay Ryan has been named the sixteenth poet laureate of the United States, the Library of Congress announced today. Ryan, who lives in Marin County, California, will assume the post in the fall, succeeding Charles Simic, and will receive a thirty-five-thousand-dollar salary and an office in Washington, D.C.
"Ryan is a distinctive and original voice within the rich variety of contemporary American poetry," librarian of congress James Billington said in a press release. "Within her compact compositions there are many surprises in rhyme and rhythm and in sly wit pointing to subtle wisdom."
Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), described Ryan in his 1998 essay "Discovering Kay Ryan" as "an outsider to the institutionalized world of contemporary American poetry," who "reminds us of the suggestive power of poetry–how it elicits and rewards the reader’s intellect, imagination, and emotions."
Ryan has published six collections of poems, most recently The Niagara River (Grove Press, 2005), and has received numerous honors, including fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the NEA, and the one-hundred-thousand-dollar Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation. In 2006, she was appointed a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. Her work has also been honored with four Pushcart prizes and was selected for the Best American Poetry Series in four separate years.
While the Library of Congress requires no specific duties of its poets laureate, in the past, the honored writers have each developed unique programs designed to broaden the national audience for poetry. Ryan has not established specific plans for her laureateship, but described herself as "crazy about libraries" and expressed an intention to work on a library-related project, "right down to the bookmobile," the Associated Press reported.
After commencing her yearlong tenure with an appearance at the National Book Festival on September 27, Ryan will give a reading on October 16 to open the Library of Congress's annual literary series.