FRANKFORT, Ky. — Award-winning writer Jeff Worley of Lexington has been appointed 2019-2020 Kentucky Poet Laureate, Gov. Matt Bevin announced on March 27.
Worley will be inducted as the next state poet laureate as part of the Kentucky Arts Council’s Kentucky Writers’ Day celebration, 10 a.m. April 24 at the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, 300 Coffee Tree Road in Frankfort.
“I’m grateful for the recognition and I’m very eager to spread the gospel of poetry around the state,” Worley said.
Kentucky Writers’ Day is celebrated annually on or around April 24, the birthday of Guthrie, Ky. native Robert Penn Warren, the first United States Poet Laureate. In odd numbered years, the governor appoints a poet laureate to a two-year term. That person acts as Kentucky’s literary ambassador, leading the Commonwealth in a variety of literary activities and events throughout their tenure.
Worley, a Wichita, Kan., native, has written six book-length collections of poetry, including “Happy Hour at Two Keys Tavern” written in 2006. That collection was named co-winner in the Society of Midland Authors Literary Competition, won the 2006 Kentucky Book of the Year in Poetry at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
Although Worley is not a writer who limits himself to a specific set of topics, he said he is attracted to narrative.
“I always have been,” he said. “There’s a long tradition of terrific narrative poetry, storytelling and novels written here in Kentucky. That’s one thing I like to point out to people who may not know this.”
Worley said he was influenced by the work of Pulitzer Prize winning poet Stephen Dunn.
“What he showed me in his poems early on is that it’s entirely possible to write poetry that is normal human speech, American idiom, with touches of rhetoric – metaphor, imagery, sound pattern and things like that.”
During his tenure as Kentucky Poet Laureate, Worley plans to promote Kentucky writing and writers.
“I picture going to high schools, colleges, libraries and various civic groups to help spread the word,” he said. “I’m retired after 22 years at UK, so I have time to do this. I’m looking forward to it tremendously.”
In addition to the accolades for his books, Worley has received three Kentucky Arts Council Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowships and a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship. His poems have appeared in more than 500 literary magazines and journals.