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by Kay Ryan

Turtle Resources


"Kay Ryan"

This site provides a basic bio of Kay Ryan (complete with a list of awards as long as your arm). Includes an interesting quotation about Ryan's "compact, exhilarating, strange" poems.

Poet Laureate Website

Kay Ryan served as the nation's Poet Laureate from 2008-2010. The site provides a brief bio. Plus, it's cool to see Ryan rubbing shoulders with all those other amazing poets we know and love!


Poetry Everywhere: "Turtle" by Kay Ryan

Watch Kay Ryan as she reads "Turtle" aloud. How do her tone of voice, facial expressions, or inflections influence your understanding of the poem?

"The Turtle by Kay Ryan"

This video pairs the printed words of the poem with illustrative photographs. Would you have illustrated the images differently? Maybe you should make your own YouTube video!

"Struggling Turtle"

If you listen carefully, you might be able to hear this turtle quoting Winston Churchill under her breath ("Never never never never give up!").

"Is it Modest?"

In this video, Kay Ryan reads aloud her poem "Is it Modest?". Do you see any connections between the meaning of "modest" in this poem and the meaning of the word in line 7 of "Turtle"? This video also provides a nice glimpse of Ryan's dry sense of humor.

Newshour with Jim Lehrer

When introducing her poem "Things Shouldn't Be So Hard," Kay Ryan explains that the poem was inspired by her mother's "modest" life. There's that word again! Ryan also reflects on how her family background has influenced her poetry.

With Atsuro Riley

Kay Ryan discusses her poems and development as a poet. Lots of deadpan humor! She explains her view of rhyme ("how words call to each other"), describing words as "immigrants who like it here and want to bring their families."

Tortoise Helps Friend

Kay Ryan's turtle really should get the phone number of the tortoise in this video. Could definitely come in handy!


"Abusing Animals in the Name of Poetry"

In this audio interview, Kay Ryan reads and discusses "Turtle," noting her "favorite all-time rhyme" and commenting on the "smashed-up sound and imagery" of the poem.

A Reading By Ryan

Here's Kay Ryan reading, starting with an unpublished poem about a cat!


Serious Kay

Here she is, deep in thought (it looks like, anyway).

Happier Kay!

We don't know about you. To us, though, this photo gives us a clue about her humor.


When you read "Turtle," does your mental image of the turtle look like any of these turtles? Or do you picture more of a "cartoon" turtle (see "Brain Snacks")?

Articles & Interviews

"The Pigheaded Soul: Kay Ryan's Collected Poems 1965-2035"

This article is a review of a recent collection of Kay Ryan's poems. For the reviewer, Jason Guriel, Ryan's poetic style has the bracing effect of "smelling salts."

"I Go to AWP" by Kay Ryan

Kay Ryan impishly describes her experience attending a writers' conference. "There is something inherently Monty Pythonish about panels," she says. "The set-up is perfect for farce: starched rigidity […] combined with a thrumming undercurrent of over-civilized competition." The essay also contains some serious reflections on the poetry writing process.

"Laugh While You Can: A Consideration of Poetry" by Kay Ryan

In this brilliant essay, Kay Ryan analyzes humor in poetry, commenting on her own poems as well as famous works by other poets such as Frost and Dickinson. Here is just one of many wonderful nuggets. "I am sure that there is a giggly aquifer under poetry […] I do not want to suggest in any way that this aquifer […] is something silly or undangerous."

"Kay Ryan, The Art of Poetry No. 94"

Interviewed by Sarah Fay, Kay Ryan offers us some of her most memorable comments on poetry, including references to clown suitcases, glow-in-the-dark bunnies, cartoons, clichés, and naked brains.


The Best of It: New and Selected Poems

"Turtle" has lots of other animals to keep her company in this collection of Kay Ryan's poetry, published in 2010. The turtle's circle of friends includes goats, flamingos, snakes, deer, horses, cats, ospreys, sharks, and elephants.

Elephant Rocks

This collection of poetry boasts another animal-themed title by Kay Ryan.

Flamingo Watching

So does this!

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