FRANKFORT, Ky. — Laurel County native and award-winning author Silas House has been appointed Kentucky Poet Laureate by Gov. Andy Beshear.
House will be inducted as poet laureate in a Kentucky Writers’ Day ceremony on April 24, at 10:30 a.m. in the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort. The event is free and open to the public.
“I’ve always felt that being part of Kentucky’s literary tradition is great. I’m proud of that,” House said. “Some of my favorite writers have been poets laureates, making my appointment to the position extra special.
“I’m especially proud to serve under a governor I admire and respect so much,” he added.
House is the nationally bestselling author of the novels “Clay’s Quilt,” “A Parchment of Leaves,” “The Coal Tattoo” and “Eli the Good.” In 2012 he co-authored “Same Sun Here” with Neela Vaswani. House’s most recent novel, “Lark Ascending,” was published in 2022.
Among his many awards are the Nautilus Award, an E.B. White Award, Appalachian Book of the Year, the New York Public Library and NAV Foundation’s Storyline Prize and the Lee Smith Award. House has been invited to read at the Library of Congress. In 2018, his novel “Southernmost” was long-listed for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. In 2020, House received the Governor’s Awards in the Arts Artist Award from Gov. Beshear.
House said his journey to literature began when he was 12.
“I knew I never wanted to be anything else. I never had a desire to do anything else,” he said. “I don’t know how I did it, but I know I was very lucky. I had great teachers in the public school system, great public school teachers who encouraged me and guided me. I had family and a community who told me it was something I should do. I was never discouraged.”
As an openly gay man, House said he is proud to represent the LGBTQ community as poet laureate, but added that there are many facets to his life with which he hopes others will connect.
“When you go in and say, ‘I’m these things,’ there are a bunch of young people out there who have not seen themselves represented in public,” House said. He added that he is proud of his working class Appalachian background and hopes others who share the various intersections of the communities he represents will be inspired.
“When you see yourself represented, especially in a positive way, that really matters. I’m a working class, rural, Appalachian, gay person of faith,” he said. “But more and more I see people reducing someone’s identity to an absolute. I’ll always talk about that we have to stop thinking in absolutes and start thinking of people as more complex.
“You can’t have true empathy if you reduce people to either saints or monsters.”
Kentucky Writers’ Day is celebrated annually on or around April 24, the birthday of Guthrie, Kentucky, 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.
This year’s Writers’ Day will feature a reading and remarks by House and outgoing Kentucky Poet Laureate for 2021-22 Crystal Wilkinson. That afternoon at 2:30 p.m., Paul Sawyier Public Library in Frankfort will feature readings by House, Wilkinson and former poets laureate Richard Taylor, Joe Survant, Sena Jeter Naslund, Maureen Morehead, Frank X Walker, George Ella Lyon and Jeff Worley. That event is free.
As an ongoing celebration of Kentucky Writers’ Day and with April being National Poetry Month, the Kentucky Arts Council will feature videos submitted by Kentucky writers reading their own works.