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Tuesday, November 24, 2009.

Nation’s Poet Laureate to speak at AVC Dec. 8

The nation’s Poet Laureate and Antelope Valley College graduate Kay Ryan will return to her alma mater to speak at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8 in the campus Cafeteria, 3041 W. Ave. K, Lancaster. The event is free and open to the public.

The award-winning poet will visit the campus to read her poetry and conduct a question and answer session. A book signing will follow the event.

Also speaking that night will be Kate Gale, a former AVC instructor and managing editor of Red Hen Press.

Ryan (née Pedersen) was appointed by the Library of Congress as the nation’s Poet Laureate in July 2008. She was recently appointed to a second term.

"Kay has been an uplifting presence as laureate during the past year, and her poetry continues to awe and delight readers,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.

Ryan graduated with an Associate in Arts degree from AVC in 1965 before transferring to the University of California, Los Angeles. She taught English basic skills to College of Marin students for more than 30 years.

In a July 13 Newsweek article entitled “The Reluctant Poet Laureate,” journalist Louisa Thomas notes that it was during Ryan’s two years attending AVC that Ryan was introduced to poetry that was to influence her writing:

“That is where she began reading poetry, when a stern teacher led her to Gerard Manley Hopkins, Emily Dickinson, John Donne (all poets who, not coincidentally, echo in her own work) -- in part by demanding that their poetry be taken seriously or not at all.”

Ryan has written six books of poetry beginning with “Dragon Acts to Dragon Ends” in 1983. Her most recent book, “The Niagara River” was published in 2005.

Among her awards are the Gold Medal for poetry from the San Francisco Commonwealth Club, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from The Poetry Foundation, a Guggenheim fellowship and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. She has been selected four different years for the annual volumes of the Best American Poetry.

Poets laureate are appointed for one-year terms that are sometimes extended for a year by agreement of the library and the laureate. Ryan was the library’s 16th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. It is the only federally designated position for a literary artist in the United States. She succeeds a long line of distinguished poets who have served in the position, including Charles Simic, Donald Hall, Ted Kooser, Louise Glück, Billy Collins, Stanley Kunitz, Robert Pinsky, Robert Hass and Rita Dove.