In July, we mentioned that poet Kay Ryan was named the country’s 16th poet laureate and will return to the Poetry Center to host this season’s The Tenth Muse in February. The 92nd Street Y Unterberg Poetry Center’s Tenth Muse series began in April of 1989; on more than twenty evenings since then, a distinguished poet has presented readings by three poets at different stages in their careers. Over the years, Tenth Muse curators have included such celebrated poets as Lucille Clifton, Billy Collins, Robert Creeley, Jorie Graham and Charles Wright. The Tenth Muse series has provided a forum for the voices of Charles Bernstein, Anne Carson, Cornelius Eady, Marie Howe and Susan Wheeler, among many others. Ms. Ryan will present readings by Sarah Lindsay, who has published three books of poetry, including Twigs and Knucklebones; Kevin McFadden, whose first collection, Hardscrabble, was recently awarded the 2008 Fellowship of Southern Writers’ New Writing Award for Poetry; and Atsuro Riley, whose first book is forthcoming. The Poetry Center recently had a chance to ask Kay Ryan a few questions about her own work.
Where do you typically find the germ for a poem?
The world doesn’t fit me right, so now and then I have to push a new bulge into it or tighten it up someplace. I do this with poems, which can actually create or absorb space.
You are perhaps best known for compact, decisive lyrics. What are your thoughts about longer poems and sequences?
Actually I’m in the process of writing a long poem, or a sequence; I don’t distinguish between the two. It will be made up of all my short poems.
Some of your poems are quite funny. How, if at all, do you think about your audience’s potential reaction when you write a poem?
When one is writing a poem it isn’t the kind of condition in which it’s possible to think about an “audience’s potential reaction.” Later one does, of course, and one thinks, “That’s so funny; I wonder if anyone else will think so?”
What advice would you give to a young writer seeking to establish herself as a poet?
I would advise the young writer to get enough education so that she can secure a job that pays enough so that she only ever has to work part time if she’s careful with money.
[View all Reading Series at the Y]