Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sapphist Laureate Reappointed

Those in the lesbian realm might have missed an important occasion last month when Kay Ryan, the US Poet Laureate, was appointed by the Library of Congress to a second term. The position, officially called Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, is the nation’s only federally designated position for a literary artist. Ryan—a 63-year-old poet, educator, and lesbian from California—served her first term as US Poet Laureate in 2008-09. That term ended on May 7, and her second term will end in spring 2010.

We hope this second appointment is a bright spot for Professor Ryan, who in January lost her spouse and partner of 30 years, Carol Adair, 66. Ryan and Adair taught together at the College of Marin, a community college in Marin County, California. Ryan has taught remedial English classes at the College of Marin since the early 1970s.

"She was a simply stunning teacher," Ryan said of Adair.

Ryan’s poems have been compared to those of Emily Dickinson—another person of interest to Sapphists, considering Dickinson’s infatuation with her brother’s wife. (That’s a post for another day.) But Ryan's poetry reminds the Sapphist Gazetteer of another great American lesbian poet, Mary Oliver.

Many of Ryan’s poems are published at the Poetry Foundation website. But here’s a nice one for you:

Paired Things
BY KAY RYAN
Who, who had only seen wings,
could extrapolate the
skinny sticks of things
birds use for land,
the backward way they bend,
the silly way they stand?
And who, only studying
birdtracks in the sand,
could think those little forks
had decamped on the wind?
So many paired things seem odd.
Who ever would have dreamed
the broad winged raven of despair
would quit the air and go
bandylegged upon the ground,
a common crow?

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