In her early 70s, in 1992, Mona Van Duyn became the first woman U.S. poet laureate. She is not showy, but she is smooth, genuine, and moving. From the Academy of American Poets online, poets.org, is the following profile.
“Poet Alfred Corn has said, ‘Mona Van Duyn has assembled, in a language at once beautiful and exact, one of the most convincing bodies of work in our poetry.” Cynthia Zarin has called her poetry “notable for its formal accomplishment and for its thematic ambition,” adding that the “searching intelligence of the persona we have learned to know in her poems, combined with the humor, technical ease, and the blend of the abstract and the quotidian that the poet has made her own have resulted in that rare good thing: a strong, clear voice, original without eccentricity.'”
“Van Duyn was awarded the Bollingen Prize, the Hart Crane Memorial Award, the Ruth Lilly Prize…as well as fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.”
“Van Duyn has said, ‘I believe that good poetry can be as ornate as a cathedral or as bare as a pottingshed, as long as it confronts the self with honesty and fullness. Nobody is born with the capacity to perform this act of confrontation, in poetry or anywhere else; one’s writing career is simply a continuing effort to increase one’s skill at it.’
Read this superb, somehow surprising, somehow delightful poem of hers here. (Portrait above was painted by Marion Miller in 1993.)