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Kentucky’s Poets Laureate

The Kentucky Poet Laureate position was established in 1926 by an act of the Kentucky General Assembly. Poet Laureates were appointed to lifetime terms at first, holding the position simultaneously at times. Since 1990, the position has been a two-year gubernatorial appointment. The new Kentucky Poet Laureate is usually inducted on April 24 of odd-numbered years in conjunction with Kentucky Writers’ Day celebrations. Kentucky Writers’ Day is celebrated annually on April 24 to commemorate the birthday of Kentuckian Robert Penn Warren, the first Poet Laureate of the United States

Frank X Walker is the 26th Kentucky Poet Laureate. While promoting the literary arts in the state, his agenda includes pushing for broader acceptance of who Kentucky writers are. He wants Kentuckians to diversify the list and acknowledge names like William Wells Brown: the first African American to write a novel in the United States, along with author of Harlem Renaissance Effie Waller Smith, playwright George Wolf, Gayl Jones, Crystal Wilkinson, Marvin Gaye, and bell hooks. “These are very established, well-known names I connect to Kentucky,” says Walker.

Past Kentucky Poets Laureate

1926    J. T. “Cotton” Noe
1928    Edward G. Hill*
1942    Louise Phillips
1954    Edwin Carlisle Litsey
1954    Jesse Hilton Stuart
1956    Lowell Allen Williams
1974    Lillie D. Chaffin  (Associate Poet Laureate)
1976    Senator Tom Mobley
1978    Agnes O’Rear
1984    Soc Clay
1984    Lee Pennington
1984    Paul Salyers
1986    Dale Faughn
1986    Jim Wayne Miller
1986    Henry E. Pilkenton
1990    James H. Patton, Jr.
1995-1996    James Still*
1997-1998    Joy Bale Boone*
1999-2000    Richard Taylor*
2001-2002    James Baker Hall*
2003-2004    Joe Survant*
2005-2006    Sena Jeter Naslund*
2007-2008    Jane Gentry*
2009-2010    Gurney Norman*
2011-2012    Maureen Morehead*

*Gubernatorial appointment

Source: Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives and the Kentucky Arts Council.

Read the Kentucky Living February 2014 feature that goes along with this web exclusive, Frank Out Loud.

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