Monday, March 1, 2010

Poet Laureate

I learned about Poets Laureate (yes, that is the correct pluralization of "poet laureate") while watching West Wing. Robert Frost was the most famous one. It dates back to the time of Charles II. Basically, they are the country's official poet and compose poems from time to time for state affairs. Billy Collins, who was the Poet Laureate for the US during the September 11th attacks, wrote a poem after 9/11 and read it before Congress. The current one is named Kay Ryan. I thought she was a man at first. It's funny how you read someone's poetry differently when you realize what gender they are...I would recommend checking out her poetry.


Kathy Haynie said...

I hadn't heard about the new poet laureate - I will check out her poetry - thank you!

Billy Collins has a cool website called Poetry 180, with the idea that teachers and adolescent students should read a poem every day of the school year. Many good (and accessible) poems here:

My all-time favorite NW poet is William Stafford, who was the poet laureate of Oregon. And I also love the poetry of Mary Oliver. Well, lots of others, too, but that's enough for now. :)

ali said...

there was some guy we had to study this year who was about 20ish and he wrote poetry during the war (ww1, ww2? i don't know sorry). but he was extremely good and his usage of imagery was phenomenal!
if i remember his name, i'll let you know.

i also like the poetry that anne in "anne of green gables" reads :)

Suzannah said...

You are wrong in writing that U.S. poets laureate "compose poems from time to time for state affairs." (These kinds of poems are called "occasional poetry," meaning poetry written for occasions.) Writing occasional poetry is a duty of the British poets laureate, but not for the U.S. poets laureate. To find out just what our U.S. poets laureate do, you'll have to read tons of interviews with the poets themselves. There are no rules, and each makes it up as he or she goes along.

Billy Collins did, indeed, write a poem nearly a year after the 9-11 attacks, and was asked to do so, but this was an exception. Billy was asked to write the poem to commemorate the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9-11 and to read the poem in front of a special joint session of Congress, which he did. Billy's reading of "The Names" is available on the Library of Congress's website. (The Librarian of Congress appoints our nation's poets laureate.) Billy Collins does not read "The Names," so if you want to see and hear him read it, you'll have to find it on the LOC website.

I think it was insensitive of you to say that at first you thought Kay Ryan was a man. What value does that thoughtless comment have, do you think, in the scheme of your blog? She is a fine poet and a finer human being, if that is possible.

Also, I do have a question for you about your assertion, "It dates back to the time of Charles II." Are you clear on U.S. history? Do you believe there was a Charles II in the United States?

Bryan Lewis said...

First off, I want to say that I'm always excited to hear from readers that I don't know personally!

I assumed that by making a reference to Charles II that people would know I was referring to English history, not American. Maybe I should have made that more clear.

And anyway, blogs are just a forum for expressing opinion. Well, my blog is. I don't claim this to be a politically correct outlet of information--just thoughts that come to my mind.

I'm sorry if I offended anyone else. I assure you that no offense was intended.

Katie said...

I wonder how they choose the poet laureate. It seems like it would be hard to judge people's poetry side by side.

Also, thanks for that link, Bryan. Googleing stuff is hard.

Suzannah said...
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