Friday, July 18, 2008

The Morning Reading: Kay Ryan

California poet Kay Ryan will become the 16th Poet Laureate of the United States, replacing the inimitable Charles Simic. Ryan has published extensively, won many awards (Ruth Lilly! Guggenheim! NEA! etc.) and Dana Gioa compares her to Emily Dickinson. Ryan lives in Marin where she teaches remedial English part-time at the College of Marin. Quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle, Joan Bingham, executive editor of Grove Press said, "Kay is a wonderful teacher, and teaching remedial English has made her pay attention to the essence of words."

I love it.

Here's a poem by Kay Ryan:


We expect rain

to animate this

creek: these rocks

to harbor gurgles,

these pebbles to

creep downstream

a little, those leaves

to circle in the

eddy, the stains

and gloss of wet.

The bed is ready

but no rain yet.

By the way, posting on this blog with be somewhat intermittent because I am in the Sierra for my summer conference season.

For a sense of how Kay Ryan views writers conferences, here’s her take, “I Go to AWP,” archived at the excellent website of the Poetry Foundation. AWP, for those not in the know, is the annual gathering of the Associate Writing Programs.


I have always understood myself to be a person who does not go to writers conferences. It’s been a point of honor: the whole cooperative workshopping thing, not for me. I have never taken a creative writing class, I have never taught a creative writing class, and I have never gone, and will never go, to anything like AWP*, I have often said.

Once, when I was about twenty-five and not yet entirely aware of the extremity of my unclubbability, I did try to go to a writers conference. Thirty minutes into the keynote address I had a migraine. It turns out I have an aversion to cooperative endeavors of all sorts. I couldn’t imagine making a play or movie, for instance; so many people involved. I don’t like orchestral music. I don’t like team sports. I love the solitary, the hermetic, the cranky self-taught. Make mine the desert saints, the pole-sitters, the endurance cyclists, the artist who paints rocks cast from bronze so that they look exactly like the rocks they were cast from; you can’t tell the difference when they’re side by side. It took her years to do a pocketful. You just know she doesn’t go to art conferences. Certainly not zillion-strong international ones, giant wheeling circuses of panel discussions.

How, then, one wonders, can it be that I have just come back from AWP’s annual conference in Vancouver, treading upon a lifetime of preferring not to?

For the rest, click here

1 comment:

Lou said...

Ha! Thanks for the link to Ryan's essay on the writers conference. She affirms so much.

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