The gift of Kentucky literature

The colder and darker evenings of December drive me indoors in search of warmth and light. To help ward off winter, I like to settle in front of the fire with a cup of hot tea or coffee or cocoa (or a glass of wine) and a good book. I have my favorite authors, living and dead, literary and popular, fiction and nonfiction and poetry. But I can’t helping thinking how amazing it would be to wake up Christmas morning and find one or two or 10 books by some of Kentucky’s finest and most honored writers of poetry and prose, the state’s poets laureate. Please, Santa?

Kentucky Poet Laureate George Ella Lyon

Kentucky Poet Laureate George Ella Lyon

The current Kentucky Poet Laureate, George Ella Lyon, is a prolific writer of books for children and adults alike. Her most recent book, “Boats Float!” (Atheneum Books for Young Readers) includes cheery illustrations by Mick Wiggins, and will make any child or adult dream of voyages over the sea, across the lake or down the river. Did I mention that I’m a big fan of children’s books and can’t imagine giving them up just because I’m above the recommended reading age? If you prefer a book more befitting your age, consider “Many-Storied House” (University Press of Kentucky), a book of poems based on memories of Ms. Lyon’s childhood home (one poem for each room in the house), and “A Kentucky Christmas” (University Press of Kentucky), a collection of holiday stories, poems, songs and essays that includes such stellar homegrown writers as Ms. Lyon, Wendell Berry, Frank X Walker, Jean Ritchie and many more.

WhereImFrom-bannerJust a quick side note, this is also a good time to become a part of the poet laureate project, Kentucky’s “Where I’m From:” A Poetry of Place. Open to all Kentucky residents, participants use Ms. Lyon’s poem “Where I’m From” to commemorate and share their own personal histories and traditions.

For additional ideas, check out the list below of books by some of the Commonwealth’s past poets laureate. These and other titles can be picked up at your local bookstore or ordered from the publishers. I’m giddy just thinking about finding a stack of these books wrapped in a big red bow under my Christmas tree!

Frank X Walker, Kentucky Poet Laureate 2013-2014: “About Flight” (Accents Publishing), “Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers” (The University of Georgia Press)

Gurney Norman, Kentucky Poet Laureate 2011-2012: “Ancient Creek” (Old Cove Press), “Divine Right’s Trip” (Gnomon Press)

Maureen Morehead, Kentucky Poet Laureate 2009-2010: “Late August Blues: The Daylily Poems” (Larkspur Press), “The Melancholy Teacher” (Larkspur Press)

Jane Gentry Vance, Kentucky Poet Laureate 2007-2008): “A Garden in Kentucky” (Lousiana State University Press), “Portrait of the Artist as a White Pig” (Lousiana State University Press)

Sena Jeter Naslund, Kentucky Poet Laureate 2005-2006: “The Fountain of St. James Court; or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman: A Novel” (HarperCollins Publishers), “Adam & Eve” (HarperCollins Publishers)

Joe Survant, Kentucky Poet Laureate 2003-2004: “The Land We Dreamed: Poems” (University Press of Kentucky), “Rafting Rise” (University Press of Florida)

James Baker Hall, Kentucky Poet Laureate 2001-2002: “Orphans & Elegies” (Larkspur Press), “Firesticks” (Larkspur Press)

Richard Taylor, Kentucky Poet Laureate 1999-2000: “Fading into Bolivia” (Accents Publishing), “Rain Shadow” (Broadstone Books)

Tamara Coffey
Individual artist director

Categories: Literary Arts

Post navigation

Comments are closed.

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: