Kay Ryan wins 2011 Poetry Pulitzer
Former U.S. poet laureate Kay Ryan won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry for her collection “The Best of It: New and Selected Poems.” Ryan’s poetry collection was cited for being “witty, rebellious and yet tender, a treasure trove of an iconoclastic and joyful mind.”
“The Common Man,” by Maurice Manning (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), a rich, often poignant collection of poems rooted in a rural Kentucky experiencing change in its culture and landscape.
“Break the Glass,” by Jean Valentine (Copper Canyon Press), a collection of imaginative poems in which small details can accrue great power and a reader is never sure where any poem might lead.
Kay Ryan Bio:
Born in California in 1945 and acknowledged as one of the most original voices in the contemporary landscape, Kay Ryan is the author of several books of poetry, including The Best of It: New and Selected Poems (2010), Flamingo Watching (2006), The Niagara River (2005), and Say Uncle (2000). Her tightly compressed, rhythmically dense poetry is often compared to that of Emily Dickinson and Marianne Moore; however, Ryanâ€™s often barbed wit and unique facility with â€œrecombinantâ€ rhyme has earned her the status of one of the great living American poets, and led to her appointment as U.S. Poet Laureate in 2008. She held the position for two terms, using the appointment to champion community colleges like the one in Marin County, California where she and her partner Carol Adair taught for over thirty years. In an interview with the Washington City Paper at the end of tenure, Ryan called herself a â€œwhistle-blowerâ€ who â€œadvocated for much underpraised and underfunded community colleges across the nation.â€
Ryanâ€™s surprising laureateship capped years of outsider-status in the poetry world. Her quizzical, philosophical, often mordant poetry is a product of years of thought. Ryan has said that her poems do not start with imagery or sound, but rather develop â€œthe way an oyster does, with an aggravation.â€ Critic Meghan Oâ€™Rourke has written of her work: â€œEach poem twists around and back upon its argument like a river retracing its path; they are didactic in spirit, but a bedrock wit supports them.â€ â€œSharksâ€™ Teethâ€ displays that meandering approach to her subject matter, which, Ryan says, â€œgives my poems a coolness. I can touch things that are very hot because Iâ€™ve given them some distance.â€
Kay Ryan is the recipient of several major awards, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation. She has received the Union League Poetry Prize and the Maurice English Poetry Award, as well as the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. Since 2006 she has served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.