Poet Kay Ryan

Kay Ryan, 16th U.S. Poet Laureate. Photo: Library of Congress

Californian Kay Ryan will be the new poet laureate of the United States.

It’s a title that sounds very grand for a poet whose verse can be so compact and grounded.

But Kay Ryan’s ground goes deep. To fundamental questions of life, and how we live it — what we share and what we hold.

In her poem “The Well or the Cup,” she asks:

How can
you tell
at the start
what you
can give away
and what
you must hold
to your heart.
What is
the well
and what is
a cup. Some
people get
drunk up.

(“The Well or the Cup,” from “The Niagara River,” 2005.)

This hour, On Point: A conversation with the newly-named poet laureate of the United States, Kay Ryan.


Kay Ryan, joining us from San Francisco, has just been named the nation’s 16th Poet Laureate, and officially takes up her post in the fall. The author of six books of poetry, including “The Niagara River,” “Say Uncle,” and “Elephant Rocks,” she received the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from The Poetry Foundation in 2004.


Here are some of the poems Kay Ryan read for us during the show:

“Blandeur” (with audio, at The Poetry Foundation).

“A Cat/A Future” (and other poems, posted at The New York Times)

“The Niagara River” (with audio, at the Academy of American Poets)

“Dutch” (at the Library of Congress)

“The Fabric of Life” (at The Poetry Foundation)

You can read — and listen to — many more poems by Ryan at The Poetry Foundation and the Academy of American Poets.

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