An Outsider Becomes Poet Laureate

Kay Ryan, master of introverted verse, takes the national stage
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 17, 2008 7:54 AM CDT

(Newser) – Kay Ryan, a poet from Fairfax, Calif., with a reputation as an individualist, has been chosen as the nation's new poet laureate. The 62-year-old writer is known for her sly, concise verse that incorporates plays on words and uses intricate rhyme structures. Despite receiving many of the field's highest accolades, Ryan remains something of an outsider, writes the New York Times.

"I so didn't want to be a poet," the new laureate confesses in an interview, saying, “I came from sort of a self-contained people who didn’t believe in public exposure, and public investigation of the heart was rather repugnant to me." That reservation comes through in her poetry, which goes from philosophical to ironic. Dana Gioia, the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, compares Ryan to America's greatest female poet; her spare, introverted verse "makes her like Dickinson in some ways."