News / USA

Poet Kay Ryan Named MacArthur Fellow

Genius awards come with $500,000 grant

Kay Ryan has been named one of 22 new MacArthur fellows.
Kay Ryan has been named one of 22 new MacArthur fellows.

Multimedia

Audio

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation named 22 new MacArthur fellows on Tuesday. They'll receive Genius awards, which come with a no-strings attached grant of $500,000 over five years.

The diverse grantees include a journalist, cellist, clinical psychologist, computer scientist and a former poet laureate of the United States, Kay Ryan, who also received a Pulitzer Prize this year. Ryan is well-known for her compact, vivid and accessible verse.

The high honors come as a bit of a surprise to the poet herself, who was raised in what she calls the “glamor-free, ocean-free, hot, stinky, oil-rich, potato-rich” San Joaquin Valley of California.

“I have to say that I didn’t want to be a poet and I still feel pretty embarrassed about it in a lot of situations because it seemed like putting on airs," Ryan says. "But I found that poetry was nonetheless possessing my mind. Like, if I read a book and it was prose, the prose would start rhyming, and it was kind of a little insanity taking me over.”

Ryan’s poems often explore every day human emotions such as hope, doubt and fear. She has a fluid, soaring imagination, as we see in the poem,“Killing Time.”

Time is rubbery.
If you hide it
in the shrubbery
it will wait
will winter and
wash back out
with the rainwater.
You will find it
on your steps again
like the newspaper.
Time compresses.
Stuff it in the
couch corner and
it will spring out
some night or other
when you have guests.  
One of whom guesses.
Time stretches.
Then it snaps back
leaving bare patches
that didn’t happen.
Abandoned time hardens
like hidden gun.
People feel around.
Sooner or later
it will be found.


Ryan has published seven collections of poetry, beginning with a self-published volume in 1983. But it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that she began to acquire a national reputation. In the meantime, she taught remedial English at a community college in Marin County, California, and lived quietly with her longtime spouse, Carol Adair, who died in January 2009.

Unlike many poets of her stature, Ryan has never been interested in the busy academic swirl of conferences and university life, or even in the high visibility her poet laureate post, her Pulitzer Prize and now, her MacArthur Genius grant have given her.

She says she is already “overly visited by the sensation and the ideas of others” and “would like peace from it most of the time.”

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

America's Most Exotic Presidential Pets

From alligators to bears, the White House has been home to some unusual presidential pets over the years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs