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U.S. poet laureate Kay Ryan to give reading, teach on historic visit to Rose State College



Rose State College hosts Kay Ryan, poet laureate of the United States, on Friday as part of its "Poetry at Rose" program, featuring a reading, reception and book signing with Ryan.

Terry Britton, Rose State president, said the school is honored to have Ryan as part of the program. Rose has hosted a poetry program annually since 1988, but this is the first time a U.S. poet laureate has been part of the program.

"We've been able to feature Carol Hamilton and Carl Sennhenn, both Oklahoma poet laureates, in previous years," Britton said, "but this time, we just took a chance that Ms. Ryan would accept our invitation."

Britton said the newsletter of the American Association of Community Colleges published a story last summer detailing Ryan's support of community colleges. Ryan became the 16th poet laureate in July 2008.

"Ms. Ryan has been a professor at a community college in California for more than 30 years," Britton said, "and she wanted to use her platform to promote community colleges."

Ryan taught English classes at the College of Marin in Marin County, Calif., for nearly 40 years before becoming poet laureate. She was also with her partner, fellow professor Carol Adair, for more than 30 years until Adair's 2009 death.

The two made news in 2004 when they joined thousands of gay and lesbian couples by marrying when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom allowed same-sex marriage. According to the Marin Independent Journal, the two met when both taught English at California's San Quentin State Prison. Their story was featured on "60 Minutes" in March 2004.

Ryan is the first openly lesbian poet laureate, but she does not address her sexuality openly in her work; critics, however, point to "The Elephant in the Room" as at least containing oblique references. Writing in Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Danielle Evennou said, "To have an openly lesbian laureate is exciting. To have an openly lesbian and androgynous laureate are bonus points for the queer community."

Ryan's appearance will include a private luncheon, a workshop with local high school students and the evening's program. Britton said the program will begin with Rose State faculty reading their own poetry at 7 p.m. A brief musical interlude will feature the Rose State College Jazz Band, and Ryan is expected to begin reading about 8 p.m.

Afterward, Ryan will meet with the public at a reception and book signing in the student center.
The event is free and open to the public. Britton recommends calling to reserve spots, as the H.B. Atkinson Theatre seats only 250. Tickets can be reserved by calling Dianne Krob at 736-0323.

Krob said participants should arrive by 6:45 p.m., because seats not filled by that time will be released for general admission. "Greg Horton

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