Yesterday Kay Ryan, who from 2008 until 2010 served as the country’s 16th poet laureate, received a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation “genius award,” described by the Foundation as a fellowship for “talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.”

We at WVFC are enormous fans of Ryan’s. Her remarkable verse has graced our pages on a number of occasions, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to see her honored yet again. Just this year she received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for The Best of It, an inspired collection of her sparse yet powerful verse. Ryan’s poetry celebrates the beauty of brevity: Only a handful of her poems fill more than a page, and yet each one is rich with insight and meaning.

Ryan has indeed enriched the lives of her devoted readers with her work, but she also epitomizes the belief held here at WVFC that the second half of a woman’s life is hardly a meaningless placeholder until the inevitable, but rather a period of time in which she can flourish, change, grow, and contribute. Ryan, who turns 66 today—Happy Birthday!—has spent her last three decades teaching remedial English at a small college in Marin County, in California. Her renown has come fairly late in life, and she is clearly appreciative of it. As she told the LA Times, “One of the gorgeous things about being a poet… is that you don’t peak at 22.” Amen to that.

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