Poet Laureate visits Ambrose campus

“The voice in your head comes from seeing words on a page. Poetry is something you read repeatedly and you say it in your mind,” Poet Laureate of the United States Kay Ryan preached to a classroom of literature students Thursday morning.
Kay Ryan is the 16th U.S. Poet Laureate. She visited St. Ambrose University Feb. 24 and 25 and spoke to English classes, directed a poetry workshop and delivered a poetry reading in Galvin Fine Arts Center.
Ryan’s poems and essays have appeared in “The New Yorker,” “The Atlantic,” “Poetry,” “The Yale Review,” “The Paris Review” and “The American Scholar.” She was named to the “It List” by “Entertainment Weekly.” Also, one of her poems has been permanently installed at New York City’s Central Park Zoo. She has received many awards including the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Guggenheim fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, as well as four Pushcart Prizes.
Ryan held a discussion with English professor Bea Jacobson’s women’s literature class, in which she had students ask her to read a poem they had questions about. Ryan is known for how short her poems are. Although they are short, they deliver a meaningful punch.
“The poems don’t feel so short to me,” Ryan said. “I don’t want them to feel condensed.”
The first poem she read was called “Hide and Seek.” This was a touching poem about the correlation of a childhood game and isolation. She related the act of hiding until someone finds you to the seclusion one feels when hiding alone from the world.
The interaction between Ryan and the students was comfortable. Many students had questions and Ryan easily connected with them. She was lively and enjoyed sharing her inspirational stories with them. She referred to writing poetry as a sport.
Senior Kevin Mullen said he enjoyed the discussion.
“After reading so much of her poetry in class it was a great experience to hear what she had to say about it and why she wrote what she did,” Mullen said.
Ryan’s poetry consists more of solid things. She stays away from writing about people, which seems to make her poetry easier to read.
“I have a strong feeling about things,” Ryan said. “People are often too complicated. It’s possible to animate the physical world to make a sort of parallel to people. It’s easier to manage the chaos of what we are.”
Ryan also noted that she does not think it is clever to be obscure. She likes things to “stay loose,” and advised the learning poets to be as clear as one can be.
Ryan informed the students they need to find a medium that works best for them.
“I’m much better off if I can build a little world in a shoebox,” Ryan said, referring to her method of writing poetry. “There seems to be more genuine emotions in that little shoebox.”
Poetry is a difficult medium to understand, as well as a therapeutic activity. With the help of U.S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan, many practicing poets were able to get a better insight of making professional and award-winning poetry.


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