Kay Ryan, poet laureate

I’m ashamed to say that I couldn’t have named America’s current poet laureate until today. Kay Ryan turned 63 today; I’ve been reading some of her work available online and quite enjoying it. Her work is often conversational like Billy Collins’s, but tends to be more spare, more focused, each poem trying to capture exactly one thing perfectly.

Great Thoughts

by Kay Ryan

Great thoughts
do not nourish
small thoughts
as parents do children.

Like the eucalyptus,
they make the soil
beneath them barren.

Standing in a
grove of them
is hideous.

It interests me that she teaches remedial English at college: I can scarcely imagine a more draining, discouraging field in education. Modern American poetry lives mostly in the academy, and in the upper reaches of MFA programs of top schools at that. Ryan’s poems are witty and musical, yet her other professional career involves people who struggle with basic written communication. To read more of her work, visit http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poet.html?id=80608.


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