Friday, April 24, 2009

Kentucky's New Poet Laureate

April 24, 2009 was Kentucky Writers’ Day in Frankfort, Kentucky. Kentucky Writers’ Day is celebrated on April 24th of each year to honor the birth date of Kentucky author and poet Robert Penn Warren, the nation’s first Poet Laureate.

But this was not only a time to celebrate Kentucky writers, but we got to usher in Kentucky’s new Poet Laureate. Gurney Norman was appointed by Governor Steve Beshear to serve as Kentucky Poet Laureate for the 2009-2010 term. As Poet Laureate, Norman will be promoting the arts and leading the state in many literary events.

Norman grew up in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky and is a graduate of the University of Kentucky with a B.A. in journalism. In 1980, he became writer-in-residence at the University of Kentucky. His fiction work includes: Book One From Crazy Quilt: A Novel in Progress, Divine Right's Trip: A Folk-Tale, and Kinfolks: The Wilgus Stories. His non-fiction works include: An American Vein: Critical Readings in Appalachian Literature and Confronting Appalachian Stereotypes: Back Talk from an American Region. Several of his short stories have been turned into short films and documentaries.

Norman was formally inducted at a public ceremony and reception Friday in the Capitol Rotunda. Also in attendance were performances by the Kentucky winner and runner-up of the Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest. There were also readings by past Poet Laureates - Jane Gentry Vance, Sena Jeter Naslund, James Baker Hall, Richard Taylor and Joe Survant.

Several members of my writing group, The Mercer County Community of Writers - or Nomadic Ink - attended the ceremony, including myself and my daughter, Christine, who was excused from school for the day. It was an enjoyable event and we got to meet and greet with many Kentucky authors, including: Ed McClanahan, Bobbie Ann Mason, George Ella Lyon, Anne Shelby, Frank X Walker, just to name a few.

For more information about Kentucky Writers’ Day or the Kentucky Arts Council, visit their website at: Kentucky Arts Council.

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