Tag Archives: poetry

Poetry Month in Kentucky

April marks the celebration of National Poetry Month, and in Kentucky, the poetic tradition runs strong. In recognition, we’re featuring some of our favorite collections from Kentucky Poet Laureates past and present.


From the Mountain, From the Valley: New and Collected Poems 9780813121994

James Still first achieved national recognition in the 1930s as a poet. Although he is better known today as a writer of fiction, it is his poetry that many of his essential images, such as the “mighty river of earth,” first found expression. Yet much of his poetry remains out of print or difficult to find.

From the Mountain, From the Valley collects all of Still’s poems, including several never before published, and corrects editorial mistakes that crept into previous collections. The poems are presented in chronological order, allowing the reader to trace the evolution of Still’s voice. Throughout, his language is fresh and vigorous and his insight profound. His respect for people and place never sounds sentimental or dated.

Ted Olson’s introduction recounts Still’s early literary career and explores the poetic origins of his acclaimed lyrical prose. Still himself has contributed the illuminating autobiographical essay “A Man Singing to Himself,” which will appeal to every lover of the work of Kentucky’s first Poet Laureate.


The Total Light Process: New and Selected Poems

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Nationally acclaimed poet, photographer, filmmaker, and novelist James Baker Hall (Kentucky Poet Laureate, 2001-2002) has long been regarded as one of Kentucky’s most profound artists. Hall’s growing body of work is an essential part of Kentucky’s literary tradition, and yet his poetry in particular transcends the borders of the Commonwealth.

The Total Light Process collects poems spanning Hall’s celebrated career as well as new poems that have never before been published. The subjects of Hall’s poems range from humorous and revealing portraits of his fellow writers and friends Wendell Berry, Ed McClanahan, and Gurney Norman, to the traumatic experience of his mother’s suicide when he was eight years old, to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the tragic murder of Matthew Shepherd.


The Land We Dreamed: Poems 9780813144580

Weaving together universal themes of family, geography, and death with images of America’s frontier landscape, former Kentucky Poet Laureate (2003-2004) Joe Survant has been lauded for his ability to capture the spirit of the land and its people. Kliatt magazine has praised his work, stating, “Survant’s words sing. . . . This is storytelling at its best.”

Exploring the pre-Columbian and frontier history of the commonwealth, The Land We Dreamed is the final installment in the poet’s trilogy on rural Kentucky. The poems in the book feature several well-known figures and their stories, reimagining Dr. Thomas Walker’s naming of the Cumberland Plateau, Mary Draper Ingles’s treacherous journey from Big Bone Lick to western Virginia following her abduction by Native Americans, and Daniel Boone’s ruminations on the fall season of 1770. Survant also explores the Bluegrass from the perspectives of the chiefs of the Shawnee and Seneca tribes.

Drawing on primary documents such as the seventeenth-century reports of French Jesuit missionaries, excerpts from the Draper manuscripts, and the journals of pioneers George Croghan and Christopher Gist, this collection surveys a broad and under-recorded history. Poem by poem, Survant takes readers on an imaginative expedition—through unspoiled Shawnee cornfields, down the wild Ohio River, and into the depths of the region’s ancient coal seams.


The New and Collected Poems of Jane Gentry

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A consummate poet, Jane Gentry (1941–2014) possessed an uncanny ability to spin quietly expansive and wise verses from small details, objects, and remembered moments. Her poetry is deeply rooted in place, exuding a strong connection to the life and land of her native Kentucky. Gentry was also a beloved and influential teacher, as well as serving as Kentucky Poet Laureate from 2007-2008. She served as a mentor to generations of young writers and worked tirelessly to promote new voices.

Gentry and her daughters collaborated with editor Julia Johnson to organize this definitive collection. The result is an important assembly of Gentry’s most celebrated poems alongside new, previously unpublished works. Johnson uses Gentry’s own methodology to organize the book, showcasing the range of the poet’s work an
d the flexibility of her style—sometimes ironic and humorous; sometimes poignant; but always clear, intelligent, and revelatory.

This volume includes two previously published full-length collections of poetry in their entirety—A Garden in Kentucky and Portrait of the Artist as a White Pig. The final section includes Gentry’s unpublished work, from verses written for loved ones to a large group of recent poems that may have been intended for future collections. Alternately startling and heart-wrenching, The New and Collected Poetry of Jane Gentry offers a valuable retrospective of the celebrated poet’s work.


Winter Come: The Ascension of York Walkerjktcomprev3.indd

In the sequel to his award-winning Buffalo Dance, Frank X Walker (Kentucky Poet Laureate, 2013-2015) reimagines Lewis and Clark’s legendary exploration of the American West. Grounded in the history of the famous trip, Walker’s vibrant account allows York—little more than a forgotten footnote in traditional narratives—to embody the full range of human ability, knowledge, emotion, and experience. Knowledge of the seasons unfolds to York “like a book,” and he “can read moss, sunsets, the moon, and a mare’s foaling time with a touch.” During the journey, York forges a spiritual connection and shares sensual delights with a Nez Perce woman, and Walker’s poems capture the profound feelings of love and loss on each side of this ill-fated meeting of souls. As the perspectives of Lewis, Clark, Sacagawea, and others in the party emerge, Walker also gives voice to York’s knife, his hunting shirt, and the river waters that have borne thousands of travelers before and after the Lewis and Clark expedition. The alternately heartbreaking and uplifting poems in When Winter Come are told from multiple perspectives and rendered in vivid detail. When Winter Come exalts the historical persona of a slave and lifts the soul of a man; York ascends out of his chains, out of oblivion, and into flight.


LyonManyFinal2.inddMany-Storied House: Poems

“The speaker in George Ella Lyon’s smoldering poem, “What Won’t Burn” – in her smoldering new book of poems, Many-Storied House – declares: “I didn’t know / they outlasted / conflagration / like the diary’s / charred metal lock.” Indeed this book, rooted as it is in the reliquary of memory, and the power of words to raise the dead, and absolve the living, is determined to outlast fire. This volume is itself storied, assembled with an architect’s acumen; yet the true craft is commemoration, and the tool is the poet’s heart. Each room, each curio, each haunted nail and joist is catalogued, named, and invested with chiseled language. This house is Lyon’s muse. Within it, she commingles ethnography, archeology and catechism. Many-Storied House is a heartbreaking, yet triumphant, inventory of acquisition, loss, the sacramental offices of love, the vanished beloved, and their shades that forever walk the rooms of recollection.” –Joseph Bathanti, North Carolina Poet Laureate

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At Year’s End

LyonCvrCompFinal2.inddIt’s the darkest time of year when the days are longest;  and, more and more, all of us here at the University Press of Kentucky are finding ourselves curled up with a book of an evening.

Perusing A Kentucky Christmas, our Marketing and Sales Director (Amy) was struck again by the late, great James Still’s classic poem “At Year’s End.” Even after twenty years, something about this poem speaks to us during this season. Here it is just as it appears in A Kentucky Christmas with Still’s own special inscription:

At_Years_End

The Sale is on!

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We hope you enjoyed our Halloween ghost stories all week, but now that the ghoulish night is over, we can move on to more exciting things like The Holidays! Personally, this is my favorite time of the year. When else can you get amazing food, spend much-needed quality time with loved ones, and find the best shopping deals? We know you guys can take care of the first two things in that list, but if you find yourself asking, “What awesome shopping deals?”, you’ll be pleased to know that we’ve got you covered there!

Every year, UPK hosts their annual Holiday Sale where we discount books left and right for your holiday reading and gift-giving pleasures. This year, we’re featuring over 1500 books in our sale! We know that number can be a bit overwhelming and you may not know where to begin, so we’ve created a “Best of the Books on Sale” list that features the highlights from multiple categories of book genres. Whether you’re shopping for a history buff, local foodie, or poetry fanatic, this guide will help you find the perfect gift.

The way the holiday sale works is when you order from our website, you will enter a code (either “FHOL” or “FSNO”) at the time of check out and you will receive either 20% or 80% off your purchase depending on the title. In order to ensure that your package arrives before Christmas, all books should be ordered before December 4, 2015.

BEST OF THE BOOKS ON SALE:

Military History: Kentucky Maverick: The Life and Adventures of Colonel George M. Chinn
20% off
Colonel George M. Chinn’s (1902–1987) life story reads more like fiction than the biography of a Kentucky soldier. A smart and fun-loving character,Chinn attended Centre College and played on the famous “Praying Colonels” football team that won the 1921 national championship. After graduation, he returned to his home in Mercer County and partnered with munitions expert “Tunnel” Smith to dynamite a cliff. The resulting hole became Chinn’s Cave House—a diner that also functioned as an underground gambling operation during Prohibition. He even served as Governor A. B. “Happy” Chandler’s bodyguard before joining the Marine Corps in 1943.

Biographies: My Life as a Mankiewicz: An Insider’s Journey through Hollywood80% off
The son of famed director and screenwriter Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve [1950], Guys and Dolls [1955], Cleopatra [1963]) and the nephew of Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, Tom Mankiewicz was genuine Hollywood royalty. He grew up in Beverly Hills and New York, spent summers on his dad’s film sets, had his first drink with Humphrey Bogart, dined with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, went to the theater with Ava Gardner, and traveled the world writing for Brando, Sinatra, and Connery. Although his family connections led him to show business, Tom “Mank” Mankiewicz forged a career of his own, becoming a renowned screenwriter, director, and producer of acclaimed films and television shows. He wrote screenplays for three James Bond films—Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Live and Let Die (1973), and The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)—and made his directorial debut with the hit TV series Hart to Hart (1979–1984). My Life as a Mankiewicz is a fascinating look at the life of an individual whose creativity and work ethic established him as a member of the Hollywood writing elite.

Classic Film: Rex Ingram: Visionary Director of the Silent Screen
20% off
In Rex Ingram, Ruth Barton explores the life and legacy of the pioneering filmmaker, following him from his childhood in Dublin to his life at the top of early Hollywood’s A-list and his eventual self-imposed exile on the French Riviera. Ingram excelled in bringing visions of adventure and fantasy to eager audiences, and his films made stars of actors like Rudolph Valentino, Ramón Novarro, and Alice Terry—his second wife and leading lady. With his name a virtual guarantee of box office success, Ingram’s career flourished in the 1920s despite the constraints of an increasingly regulated industry and the hostility of Louis B. Mayer, who regarded him as a dangerous maverick.

Civil Rights: The Antislavery Movement in Kentucky
80% off
As one of only two states in the nation to still allow slavery by the time of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, Kentucky’s history of slavery runs deep. Based on extensive research, The Antislavery Movement in Kentucky focuses on two main antislavery movements that emerged in Kentucky during the early years of opposition. By 1820, Kentuckians such as Cassius Clay called for the emancipation of slaves—a gradual end to slavery with compensation to owners. Others, such as Delia Webster, who smuggled three fugitive slaves across the Kentucky border to freedom in Ohio, advocated for abolition—an immediate and uncompensated end to the institution. Neither movement was successful, yet the tenacious spirit of those who fought for what they believed contributes a proud chapter to Kentucky history.

Bourbon: The Birth of Bourbon: A Photographic Tour of Early Distilleries
20% off
More than two hundred commercial distilleries were operating in Kentucky before Prohibition, but only sixty-one reopened after its repeal in 1933. As the popularity of America’s native spirit increases worldwide, many historic distilleries are being renovated, refurbished, and brought back into operation. Unfortunately, these spaces, with their antique tools and aging architecture, are being dismantled to make way for modern structures and machinery. In The Birth of Bourbon, award-winning photographer Carol Peachee takes readers on an unforgettable tour of lost distilleries as well as facilities undergoing renewal, such as the famous Old Taylor and James E. Pepper distilleries in Lexington, Kentucky. This beautiful book also includes spaces that well-known brands, including Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, Four Roses, and Buffalo Trace, have preserved as a homage to their rich histories.

Politics: Writing Southern Politics: Contemporary Interpretations and Future Directions
80%
In Writing Southern Politics, leading scholars review the key research and writing on southern politics since World War II. This essential volume covers topical areas such as civil rights, public opinion, political behavior, party development, population movement, governors, legislatures, and women in politics.
“Provides the most comprehensive overview of the southern politics literature. The subfield has been crying out for a volume such as this … it will likely become required reading for both students and scholars of southern politics.” — Jonathan Knuckey, University of Central Florida

Cultural Studies: Virtual Afterlives: Grieving the Dead in the Twenty-First Century
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Virtual Afterlives investigates emerging popular bereavement traditions. Author Candi K. Cann examines new forms of grieving and evaluates how religion and the funeral industry have both contributed to mourning rituals despite their limited ability to remedy grief. As grieving traditions and locations shift, people are discovering new ways to memorialize their loved ones. Bodiless and spontaneous memorials like those at the sites of the shootings in Aurora and Newtown and the Boston Marathon bombing, as well as roadside memorials, car decals, and tattoos are contributing to a new bereavement language that crosses national boundaries and culture-specific perceptions of death.

Food: Eating as I Go: Scenes from America and Abroad
80%
What do we learn from eating? About ourselves? Others? In this unique memoir, Doris Friedensohn takes eating as an occasion for inquiry. Munching on quesadillas and kimchi in her suburban New Jersey neighborhood, she reflects on the meanings of cultural inclusion and what it means to our diverse nation. Enjoying couscous in Tunisia and khatchapuri (cheese bread) in the Republic of Georgia, she explores the ways strangers maintain their differences and come together. Friedensohn’s subjects range from Thanksgiving at a Middle Eastern restaurant to fried grasshoppers in Oaxaca. Her wry dramas of the dining room, restaurant, market, and kitchen ripple with geopolitical, economic, psychological, and spiritual tensions. Eating as I Go is Friedensohn’s distinctive combination of memoir, traveler’s tale, and cultural commentary.

Poetry: Many-Storied House
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Collectively, the poems tell the sixty-eight-year-long story of the house, beginning with its construction by Lyon’s grandfather and culminating with the poet’s memories of bidding farewell to it after her mother’s death. Moving, provocative, and heartfelt, Lyon’s poetic excavations evoke more than just stock and stone; they explore the nature of memory and relationships, as well as the innermost architecture of love, family, and community. A poignant memoir in poems, Many-Storied House is a personal and revealing addition to George Ella Lyon’s body of work.

Nature Books: Rare Wildflowers of Kentucky
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Rare Wildflowers of Kentucky provides an introduction to Kentucky’s signature rare plants with 220 full-color photographs by naturalist and award winning photographer Thomas G. Barnes. The book draws attention to the beauty of Kentucky’s old-growth forests, prairies, wetlands, and other habitats while focusing on the state’s endangered flora. The authors note that as of this year, 275 plant species in Kentucky are considered endangered or threatened, with more than 50 potential additions to the list. The book includes an overview of ecological communities and the ways in which they are threatened, an explanation of how various plants have become endangered, and suggestions for conservation and preservation. The Bluegrass State’s rare wildflowers take center stage with gorgeous color photography and descriptions, organized by habitat. Rare Wildflowers of Kentucky will appeal to any nature lover, and the inclusion of references, a complete list of scientific and common species names, and a list of each plant’s endangered status makes the book especially useful to gardeners and to botanists and horticultural professionals.

Graveyards, Infants, and Poems — Oh My!

Back on track with our ghostly countdown, today we have another poem for you that is sure to raise the hair on your neck. But first, a little background information. Graveyards have become one of the most iconic symbols of Halloween today. The idea that the remains of thousands of ancient corpses are resting just six feet below your feet when you are walking through a graveyard can make even the most stoic of people paranoid. Can you imagine living next to one? For Kathleen Driskell, this is a reality.

When Kathleen Driskell tells her husband that she’s gone to visit the neighbors, she means something different than most. The noted poet—whose last book, Seed across Snow, was twice listed as a national bestseller by the Poetry Foundation—lives in an old country church just outside Louisville, Kentucky. Next door is an old graveyard that she was told had fallen out of use. In this marvelous new collection, this turns out not to be the case as the poet’s fascination with the “neighbors” brings the burial ground back to life.

The following poem is an excerpt from Driskell’s book Next Door to the Dead, a compilation of poems that were inspired by her neighborly visits:

Infant Girl Smithfield

My mother
looked at me,
then turned away.

The midwife tried
to hand me
to my da

who shook his head
to say he would not
like to hold me either.

Her rough hands
that swaddled me
were quick
and competent,

and took care to tuck
my blue toes
snug within
a little blanket, soft

and clean

and newly knitted pink

and embellished with rosebuds,
leaves of green,
and bustling honeybees…

but those hands were not
related to me

and neither were
the hands of the man
who lay me
in a narrow box

into the grave he’d dug
no deeper than
his knees

and who with his shovel
had already begun
to return the dirt
over the top of me

when the preacher arrived
and jumped off
his slumping horse
and quickly said his words.

I saw into his withering heart
and knew he thought
he’d come too late
to save my infant soul.

No matter. For now
I sleep, soothed within
the loving arms

of my opening rose
and rest best next to

my blood, my beloved,
my five brothers
and six sisters.

If you enjoyed today’s poem, be sure to check out the rest of Driskell’s collection from Next Door to the Dead by clicking the image below.

Driving with the Dead

We hope we haven’t spooked you too much with our “Haunted Lexington” story from yesterday. To keep up the creepy Halloween spirit, we decided to switch it up and give you some poetry today. Today’s excerpt comes from Driving with the Dead by Jane Hicks. While it’s not exactly a ghost story, the book laments the struggles and loss of the Appalachian region, which is all the more scary to us in a much more realistic way.

Certainly, Appalachia is no stranger to loss. The region suffers regular ecological devastation wrought by strip mining, fracking, and deforestation as well as personal tragedy brought on by enduring poverty and drug addiction. In Driving with the Dead, Appalachian poet, teacher, and artist Jane Hicks weaves an earnest and impassioned elegy for an imperiled yet doggedly optimistic people and place. Exploring the roles that war, environment, culture, and violence play in Appalachian society, the hard-hitting collection is visceral and unflinchingly honest, mourning a land and people devastated by economic hardship, farm foreclosures, and mountaintop removal. So without further introduction, today’s excerpt is the book’s title poem:


Driving with the Dead

The little bus ate the road, rose toward the sky,
topped the mountain, perched on the edge before
falling toward the valley, white lines clicked
in rhythm to Mickey’s drums, tape deck humming,
there is a road, no simple highway,
between the dawn and the dark of the night.

The mist gathered, fell in a steady drum
on the roof, merged to rivers on glass.
Truck tire spray, like white angel wings,
washed us, on our flight through the dark.

For more poems like this one, be sure to check out the rest of Driving with the Dead.

Kathleen Driskell at the Kentucky Women Writers Conference 2015

One of Lexington’s most anticipated literary events is happening this weekend! The Kentucky Women Writers Conference is the longest running literary festival of women in the nation. Launched by the University of Kentucky in 1979, it is a premier destination for the celebration of women’s arts and letters. See some of the highlights from this year’s conference below.

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Also, don’t miss out on the opportunity to see one of UPK’s very own authors, Kathleen Driskell! She will be doing a reading at the conference from her most recent book, Next Door to the Dead, which features poems on Driskell’s life and experiences living in an old church that was just steps away from a graveyard.

“I’ve always loved Keats’s phrase “the mighty dead,” but I never understood it fully until I read Kathleen Driskell’s quietly explosive meditations on life and death. There’s a somber beauty to these poems; in them, the dead and living visit each other easily, singing of the rich mysteries on both sides of the divide.” — David Kirby

Congratulations Writing Contest Winners

The Winners of our First Micro-Fiction Contest

First of all, a huge THANK YOU to everyone who submitted an entry to UPK’s very first, Micro-Fiction contest! We had a great time reading through the entries, and it was incredibly difficult to select the grand-prize winner and runners up. But select we did!

Our entrants were asked to write an ekphrastic micro-fiction (300 words, or less!) piece of prose or poetry in response to one of two images:

3 Runners-Up will win 1 Kentucky fiction or poetry book of their choice published by the University Press of Kentucky, and 1 Grand Prize Winner will win a prize pack of 3 Kentucky fiction or poetry books published by the University Press of Kentucky.

View our fiction titles here. Find poetry titles here.

And now, we present to you, the

Grand Prize Winner

Congratulations Patricia Holland of Paris, Kentucky, for her prose piece: “Threads!”

And, congratulations to our three runners-up:

Liz K. (“Thread Baring”)
Sarah H. (“Sewing Not”)
& Rich G. (“And Still You Sew On”)

Threads

My great-grandmother Nanny believed she could foretell the future by studying the clipped threads and bits of fabric that caught on the hem of her skirt whenever she made a new dress.

She taught me to sew and as I pedaled away on her treadle machine, she also taught me to respect her strange, Irish superstitions. To her, those stray threads found on my clothing had landed there to help her analysis my future. Different colored threads meant different things. Black did not mean death. Blank was the color of my true love’s hair. Threads in red, yellow, green or pink were fine unless they were from my wedding dress. My Nanny sang, “Married in red, you’ll wish you were dead/ Married in yellow, you’re ashamed of your fellow/Married in green, you’ll be ashamed to be seen/Married in pink, your spirit will sink/ But when you marry in white, you’ll find the love of your life.”

For a time after she taught me how to sew, I believed that stray threads really could show me a glimpse of my future. Do I still believe that those bits of colored thread have a mystical meaning and power? No, I don’t; but I still remember and treasure Nanny’s long-ago lessons. So as I sew up my white wedding gown and think about the pattern my life will take, I’ve taken a mare’s nest of tangled threads from the bottom drawer of Nanny’s sewing machine and made a small silk drawstring bag to hold them.

I do believe in traditions so I’ll make sure that on my wedding day I’ll have something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. Nanny’s tangled threads are old, my dress is something new. My Irish lace veil will be borrowed and my garter will be blue.

Read the entries from our runners-up after the jump

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