The U.S. poet laureate, Kay Ryan, was appointed in July 2008 and will continue to serve until next summer. She has joined the ranks of other U.S. Poets Laureate such as Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop and Billy Collins.
Kay Ryan, who was named America's new poet laureate, is a miniaturist. She favors compression the way Walt Whitman favored expansion. Like oysters, she has said, her poems take shape around "an aggravation." They are also small (most are only about 20 lines long), rich, and dense. A single one might not always make a meal, but a well-selected plate will satiate most readers.
If Ryan's language is spare, her concerns are broad and philosophical. A typical Ryan poem begins with a proposition—"Everything contains some/ silence" or "It's what we can't/ know that interests/ us." She explores old bromides, wondering what the fabric of life is like ("stretchy") or what it might be like to live on an island where silence is revered. Each 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.
There has been some discussion about whether or not she will speak at President Elect Barack Obama's Inauguration in January.
Kennedy chose Robert Frost in 1961. Carter was joined by James Dickey in 1977. Clinton invited Maya Angelou in 1993, and she was followed, four years later, by Miller Williams. A president is not obligated to have a poet read at his inauguration (indeed, a poetless George W. Bush was swarn into office in 2001, a decision that David Lehman in Salon called "a bleak omen of his administration's attitude toward culture"). But Barack Obama's soaring rhetoric and eloquent speaking style that captivated millions during his long campaign has some wondering if he will invite a poet to read a little something next January.