United States Poet Laureate (2008-2010)
Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet
Kay Ryan, United States Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner, was born in California in 1945 and grew up in the small towns of the San Joaquin Valley and the Mojave Desert. She received both a bachelor's and master's degree from UCLA. Since 1971, she has lived in Marin County in Northern California.
Ryan has published several collections of poetry, including The Niagara River (Grove Press, 2005); Say Uncle (2000); Elephant Rocks (1996); Flamingo Watching (1994), which was a finalist for both the Lamont Poetry Selection and the Lenore Marshall Prize; Strangely Marked Metal (1985); and Dragon Acts to Dragon Ends (1983). A re-issue of her 2002 collection, Believe It or Not!, poems inspired by stories from the newspaper cartoon Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, has recently been re-released and re-titled as The Jam Jar Lifeboat & Other Novelties Exposed, (Red Berry Editions 2008). Ryan's first European collection, Odd Blocks: Selected and New Poems was published in England in August 2011. Her most recent collection, The Best of It: New and Selected Poems, was nominated for the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in April, 2011.
About her work, J.D. McClatchy has said: "Her poems are compact, exhilarating, strange affairs, like Erik Satie miniatures or Joseph Cornell boxes. She is an anomaly in today's literary culture: as intense and elliptical as Dickinson, as buoyant and rueful as Frost."
Ryan's awards include the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, a Guggenheim fellowship, an Ingram Merrill Award, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Union League Poetry Prize, the Maurice English Poetry Award, four Pushcart Prizes, and the MacArthur “Genius” Award. Her work has been selected four times for The Best American Poetry and was included in The Best of the Best American Poetry 1988-1997. In early 2013 she was the recipient of the Fred Cody Award for Lifetime Achievement in Community and Literature. In July 2013 she was awarded the 2012 National Humanities Medal by President Obama.
Ryan's poems and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Poetry, The Yale Review, Paris Review, The American Scholar, The Threepenny Review, Parnassus, among other journals and anthologies. Ryan was elected a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets in 2006. In 2008, Ryan was appointed the Library of Congress's sixteenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry.