The Irish Americans
Following the great Irish tradition of finding beauty in words, Irish-American Kay Ryan was named the sixteenth U.S. Poet Laureate in 2008. The California native’s poems are known for their concise form and daring intensity. In a few short lines, Ryan manages to inject intelligent wordplay and biting wit in a way that baffles her contemporaries .
Though Ryan’s connection to her emotions is the envy of many poets, that ability to explore depths of feeling and spirituality proved difficult for Ryan growing up. She told Charlie Rose in an interview, “You know how in Oliver Twist the image is him holding his bowl of porridge saying ‘More please’? You could think of me as someone standing with my bowl saying ‘Less please.’ Take away some of the intensity. I think I was born with too many nerve endings. And so a lot of my poems are saying ‘Couldn’t we quiet it down a little bit?’”
Her poetry has been honored with many awards over the years and she has published several collections of poetry including her most recent release, The Niagara River. One of her poems, “How Birds Sing,” is permanently featured on a plaque in the Central Park Zoo. The honor of the title Poet Laureate has changed Ryan’s life tremendously.
Ever witty and full of humor, she described the change, “Well, your life is turned upside down. The method by which you attain the Laureateship is of course no longer useful in your life. My habits are to stay in bed until noon in my pajamas, and now I have to get dressed. So just in terms of wardrobe my life has been turned upside down.”
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