U.S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan, a longtime community-college teacher of remedial English, last fall announced the “Poetry for the Mind’s Joy” project to highlight poetry being written on community-college campuses. Detailed information can now be found on the Library of Congress website at www.loc.gov/poetry/mindsjoy/.
The poetry project’s new web page includes information on a video conference with Ryan and selected community-college students and officials across the nation. The web page also features a video of Ryan discussing her poetry project.
The Community College Humanities Association is also administering a poetry contest in conjunction with Ryan’s project. Winning poems will be chosen by each community college, and the winners will become eligible to be included in the anthology on the new web page. The anthology will be displayed this spring as a virtual book with digital page-turning technology.
On April 1, a live video conference with Ryan will dovetail with a “Poetry for the Mind’s Joy” extravaganza on community-college campuses. This event will extend the reach of the Library’s cultural learning options to community colleges, where, as Ryan has noted, nearly half of the nation’s college students are enrolled. Campuses will be determined based on geographic location and technical facilities; however, anyone who wishes can watch this event via streaming video. The video conference also will include a discussion on how to write poetry.
Ryan, the 16th Poet Laureate, taught remedial English part-time for 30 years at the College of Marin in Kentfield, Calif., which helped her develop a deep appreciation for the role community colleges play in making education accessible throughout the nation. Concerning poetry itself, Ryan describes it as an intensely personal experience for both writer and reader: Her many awards include the 2005 Gold Medal for Poetry from the San Francisco Commonwealth Club; the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from The Poetry Foundation in 2004; a Guggenheim fellowship the same year; and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, as well as the Maurice English Poetry Award in 2001.
Other Poets Laureate who established projects during their tenure at the Library are Robert Pinsky (1997 to 2000), who initiated the “Favorite Poem Project”; Billy Collins (2001 to 2003), who started “Poetry 180” for high-school students; and Ted Kooser (2004 to 2006), who established the “American Life in Poetry” newspaper column.