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Poetry: A Career?! A Conversation and Poetry Reading by Kay Ryan with Dana Gioia

A Visions & Voices event

A retrospective reading will feature MacArthur Genius Grant recipient, Pulitzer Prize winner and former U.S. poet laureate Kay Ryan. The reading will be interwoven with a conversation between Ryan and distinguished poet and former NEA chair Dana Gioia.

“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.”—J.D. McClatchy

A retrospective reading from the remarkable life’s work of MacArthur Genius Grant recipient, Pulitzer Prize winner and former U.S. poet laureate Kay Ryan. The reading will be interwoven with a conversation between Ryan and Dana Gioia, a civic-minded poet and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, about the pragmatic aspects of making poems as well as Ryan’s distinct aesthetic. Ryan is an outsider, a poet from California (not the East Coast literary establishment) who published with small presses and writes elliptical, concrescent, quizzical poems. By introducing the trajectory of this poet’s body of work (a quasi-chronology akin to a museum retrospective), we intend to frame a conversation about the challenges that face all artists. The idea isn’t that the work “evolves” but rather that it “occurs” over time and is a “long patience.” 

Kay Ryan has published several collections of poetry, including The Niagara River, Say Uncle, Elephant Rocks, Flamingo Watching, which was a finalist for both the Lamont Poetry Selection and the Lenore Marshall Prize, Strangely Marked Metal and Dragon Acts to Dragon Ends. 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 2011. Ryan’s additional awards include 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 Grant. 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. Ryan’s poems and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Poetry, The Yale Review, The Paris Review, The American Scholar, The Threepenny Review and 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. 

Organized by Brighde Mullins (Master of Professional Writing) and Dana Gioia (Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture).