This year marked the fourth annual presentation of the Judy Gaines Young Book Award since its generous foundation by Dr. Byron Young, a trustee of Transylvania University, to honor his late wife. The award is presented to a writer from the Appalachian region for a book of particular distinction. Crystal Wilkinson won the award in 2017 for her book Birds of Opulence, a title published by the Press.
This year’s winner, judged by Jason Howard, editor of Appalachian Heritage, was none other than UPK author and best-selling poet Kathleen Driskell for her poetry collection, Next Door to the Dead: Poems.
The ceremony also featured the presentation of the Judy Gaines Young Student Writing Award, an award honoring the exceptional creative writing abilities of a Transylvania student. Laura Daley, a senior at Transylvania University and former UPK intern, won the award for her outstanding work in creative nonfiction and poetry, excerpts of which she read at the event.
Also in attendance were two former Kentucky poets laureate, a member of the board of the Kentucky Humanities Council, and several members of UPK staff.
By happy coincidence, the presentation of these prestigious awards fell on World Poetry Day (21 March 2018), and we were thrilled to celebrate the day with two such phenomenal poets!
Next Door to the Dead: Poems is a collection inspired by author Kathleen Driskell’s residence in a disused Louisville, Kentucky church built before the Civil War sitting next to a cemetery. The poems examine the fragility of mortality, the complexity of grief, and the importance of love when confronting loss. Her words breathe life into figures both known and unknown who have long since passed away, reimagining who they might have been based on what they left behind, and encouraging readers to ponder their own complex relationship with death, mourning, and life.
Kathleen Driskell read several poems from her collection, including “Ars Poetica”, “The Mower”, and “Tchaenhotep: Mummy at the Kentucky Science Center” . Her reading was followed by a short Q&A session, in which she discussed her writing process, her experiences living beside a graveyard, and what projects she is currently undertaking.
Laura read a memoir and two poems from her repertoire, and all three truly captures the spirit of living in Kentucky, from the beautiful moments spent in nature to the horrifying moments of watching your cousin bite off a snake’s head (yikes!) Her work emphasized the importance of family, and the feeling of belonging somewhere.
Laura Daley has been accepted with funding into the graduate programs of both DePaul University and University of Colorado Boulder. We can’t wait to see what this promising young writer (and former Press member) has in store for the future!
Kathleen is professor of creative writing at Spalding University, and associate editor of the Louisville Review. She has written several books and poetry collections, including Blue Etiquette and Seed Across Snow. To learn more about Kathleen Driskell and her work, check out her blog, and be sure to snag a copy of Next Door to the Dead.