Saturday, April 14, 2012

30 Habits of Highly Effective Poets #14: Kay Ryan on Reading

Every Saturday, during National Poetry Month, I'll be looking at the writing habit of a "famous" poet. (I put famous in quotes because fame is relative. Naomi Shihab Nye has a great poem on the subject.)

Last weekend, we visited with William Wordsworth and his dog of discerning poetic tastes. Today, let's discuss former U.S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan.

kidsbritannica.com
I have posted about Ryan once before. I was lucky enough to hear her read at the 2010 Dodge Poetry Festival. Ryan had a straightforward, person-to-person way of presenting her work that the audience loved. Despite all of her accolades, there is nothing grandiose in Ryan's style.

So I was not surprised, when I was reading up on Ryan's poetic habits, that she extols the virtues of  1) setting aside regular time for writing and 2) reading. Not just the classics, but anything. Everything. As in Ripley's Believe It or Not. (That reminds me, I need to break out my copy of Weird Maryland. There must be some poems waiting to be found in its pages.)

Here is a portion of an article, "Poet Laureate Chats with Community College Students":
"The second habit is to read a lot, according to Ryan. 'Read anything, read the entire spectrum,' she said.

"Ryan is a big fan of 'Ripley’s Believe It or Not.' She likes to read graphic novels. She even likes to read the labels on shampoo bottles and other products. She also finds it useful to read things that are 'irritating.' 'It’s important to read outside your taste. I like to read things that are foreign to my life, when people are in terrible straits or lost at sea,' she said.

“'I like to think of my brain as a fish tank and the fish are ideas,' Ryan explained. 'In order for the fish to be well, the water has to be aerated. Reading plunges oxygenated language to the tank in my brain, receiving new patterns, new thoughts, refreshing my mind in general.'”

The full article on Ryan's writing habits is at the Library of Congress website.

Here is an animation of Ryan's poem "Shark's Teeth."


Today is Baltimore's CityLit Festival at the Enoch Pratt Free Library. I will be there ALL day. Stop by the Little Patuxent Review table to say hello, if you're in Charm City. The festival is free. Featured readers are poets Edward Hirsch and Thomas Lux, among others. Wow!

Also today, my writer's notebook is visiting Amy at The Poem Farm. Watch one of my poems evolve from scrawled note to published piece.
Tomorrow, Leslie Resnick speaks to us from the voice of the poem.

4 comments:

Tabatha said...

Wonderful quote!

“'I like to think of my brain as a fish tank and the fish are ideas,' Ryan explained. 'In order for the fish to be well, the water has to be aerated. Reading plunges oxygenated language to the tank in my brain, receiving new patterns, new thoughts, refreshing my mind in general.'”

Diane Mayr said...

I saw Edward Hirsch two years ago--he was excellent. One of the teens who shelves books in my library asked for a poetry recommendation for a school project. I suggested he look at Hirsch. He loved him! I can't tell you how good it was to hear that.

I'm planning on attending the Dodge Festival again if I can arrange my work schedule. This time we should definitely find a time to meet--if only in sharing a pew in that old church.

Robyn Hood Black said...

Love this behind-the-scenes peek at Kay Ryan - thank you, Laura! My son (rising h.s. senior) will be going up to the Dodge Festival this year with a few members of his class. I'm jealous!

Author Amok said...

Hi, Ladies. Tabatha -- if you ever get a chance to hear Ryan read, go for it. She is very straightforward about poetry, but also insightful.

Diane, Hirsch was amazing today. It was a reading I'll remember for a long time. Yes, let's plan a meet up at Dodge.

Robyn -- I assume your son will be going for student day. It's one of my favorite days of the festival. The teens are really lit up inside about poetry! Maybe you could offer to chaperone.