Former US Poet Laureate Kay Ryan, whose decision to become a serious poet was prompted by a Bikecentennial bicycle tour, is recovering from injuries she suffered in a bike-car collision near her California home last week.
The 68-year-old Pulitzer Prize-winning poet is suffering from a broken hip, rib and collarbone, as well as a head injury. A family friend is quoted in the Marin Independent Journal that she’s at a rehab hospital in Marin County and “has all her wits about her.”
Let’s hope she’s out of the hospital and back on her bike soon.
Ryan served as the 16th Poet Laureate from 2008 to 2010. She received the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2011 for “The Best of It: New and Selected Poems.”
Her biographies mention that she started writing poetry when she was 19, but didn’t decide to earnestly pursue poetry until she took a 4,000-mile cross-country bicycle tour from Oregon to Virginia with her life partner to celebrate the Bicentennial in 1976.
She tells about how the rhythm of the pedals and the monotony of the road gave her time to think. But it was her experience at Hoosier Pass in Colorado that solidified her goals. At Publisher’s Weekly:
Pedaling up a steep pass in Colorado, Ryan had “almost the only metaphysical experience of my life”. She felt incredible mental power, a sort of transcendent state of athlete’s high: “I was permeable—everything could go through me and I could go through everything.” This was the perfect time, she realized, to ask herself the life-defining question: should I be a writer?
The answer was: Do you like it?
And the answer to that was a resounding “yes.”
Ryan had solved one of her life’s major problems with that uphill climb. But, once the bike ride was over, she knew she had a lot more work to do.
Bicycling continues to be one of Ryan’s regular recreational pursuits. As she retired from her position at Poet Laureate in 2010, she told the Washington City Paper that she got a “beautiful new bike” and planned to do more bicycle riding.
News reports say police are investigating the collision between Ryan’s bicycle and a car that happened near her home in Fairfax on Jan. 13.