Kay Ryan (born 1945)
U.S. Poet Laureate (2008-2010)
Kay Ryan
Poetry Workshops:

"The Occasions of Poetry"
(English 192V)
Stanford University
Winter Quarter 2010
January 27-March 9, 2010

Peter Y. Chou

Calliope, Muse of Poetry
from Muses Urania & Calliope (1634)

Winter semester 2010 was a wonderful learning experience in Kay Ryan's Stanford Poetry Workshops. We were fortunate to have a current U.S. Poet Laureate (2008-2010) teaching us (January 5-March 9, 2010). Kay was overly generous telling the class her life story and her writing methods. My mind was blown away when she recited her Zen-like poem "After Zeno" written at age 19 when her father died— "When he was/I was/But I still am/and he is still./Where is is/when is is/was?/ I have an is/but where/is his?/Now here; no where./Such a little fatal pause./ There is no sense/in past tense." Kay passed her Waite Tarot deck and Ripley's Believe It or Not book to the class, telling us how picking a random card or page will trigger a poem. It inspired my first poem of the year when I chose the random card "Three of Wands". Unlike other poets who asked students to bring poems to class for critiques, Kay asked us to write essays based on her assigned readings or class discussions. When students asked Kay whether we can bring in poems for class critiques, Kay said "I've never taken a poetry workshop or have given one. One brings poems to please their classmates and that may not make you a better writer." Kay's essay assignments made me reflect more inwardly and somehow she inspired me to write more poems than the other Mohr Poets (2007-09) I had at Stanford. Below are the essays written for Kay Ryan's workshops and my Notes of her Stanford Poetry Reading and Colloquium.

DateTitle of Poetry Essays
September 26, 2008 Lightness of Being (written 16 months before Kay's class)
January 27, 2010 Lightness in Dante's Purgatorio 9
February 2, 2010 What Makes a Poem Lasting?
February 9, 2010 Poetry & Prayer
February 23, 2010 Nonsense Rhymes in Mother Goose
March 2, 2010 Galen Strawson: Narrative & Episodic Minds
March 9, 2010 Poetry Day: April 1, 2010

February 23, 2010 Kay Ryan: Stanford Poetry Reading
March 2, 2010 Kay Ryan: Stanford Poetry Colloquium

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© Peter Y. Chou, WisdomPortal.com,
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email: (12-28-2010)