Kay Ryan Becomes American Poet Laureate

Tomorrow, a self-described “modern hermit” will assume arguably the country’s most public position for a poet. This may seem like a contradiction in terms, but ever since Kay Ryan embarked on her career as a writer, she has gradually been peeking into the public limelight. Now she’ll become the nation’s 16th poet laureate, according to the New York Times.

Critics have commended Ms. Ryan’s work for its “sly” and “strange” style – odd words of praise, perhaps. But she is being showered with honors for her brief, clear construction (some of her work can be found here). Her awards include the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize in 1994, worth $100,000, which makes the Poet Laureate’s stipend of $35,000 look positively stingy.

Ms. Ryan’s new title might be an ambivalent honor. Several notable British Poet Laureates have had difficulty writing good poetry after being given the position. But Librarian of Congress James Billington said Ms. Ryan’s “highly accessible poetry” might give her, and the ailing wtriting form’s popularity, a little boost. If Ms. Ryan was such a hermit before, she’s going to be shoved out of her shell pretty soon!

Kay Ryan Becomes American Poet Laureate