Kay Ryan’s poetry, and her public – if you can call it that – persona defy almost every stereotype that a reader outside the United States might bring to an American poem. Ryan’s poems are witty, reserved, unprepossessing, impersonal, small-scale, as well as short-lined, practical rather than spiritual, never boastful. Most fit inside the left half of a single page. First-person pronouns are rare, rhymes are dense, puns abound – “A bestiary catalogs / bests” – and each joke opens up to reveal something worrisome about our shared lot: in Bestiary, for example: “The mediocres / both higher and lower / are suppressed in favor / of the singularly savage / or clever”. A chapter of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, entitled Why Americans Writers and Orators are so often Bombastic, is devoted to Americans’ individualism, bordering on self-centredness, and to their religious fervour. By these standards Ryan does not seem very American at all.
Kay Ryan: the un-American poet who will fly the US flag at Poetry Parnassus | Books | guardian.co.uk. So there are Europeans who expect American poetry to be noisy, arrogant, self-centered, self-righteous, and domineering?