Gurney Norman Named Kentucky Poet Laureate
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Gurney Norman, director of the University of Kentucky Creative Writing Program, has been named Kentucky Poet Laureate for a two-year term.

For over 30 years, Norman has been a driving force in the literature of Appalachia and the South. He was instrumental in the founding of the Appalachian Poetry Project and the Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative. He is also known as a stellar and life-changing teacher, and his students include Kentucky writers Frank X Walker, Chris Holbrook and Rebecca Howell.

His first novel, Divine Right's Trip, was originally published in the margins of the Last Whole Earth Catalog, which sold two million copies worldwide. Norman has also published Book One From Crazy Quilt: A Novel in Progress and Kinfolks: The Wilgus Stories. Norman’s short story “Fat Monroe” was made into a film starring Ned Beatty in 1990, and the film was shown at the New York Film Festival. 

Norman was born in Grundy, Virginia, in 1937 and attended the University of Kentucky from 1955 to 1960, majoring in journalism and English. He then studied writing at Stanford University as a Stegner Creative Writing Fellow. Norman will soon complete his 30th year teaching at UK. 

The word “poet” in the position’s title is interpreted in its broadest sense to include writers whose accomplishments are in any literary form, including the novel and short fiction. Norman succeeds 2007-2009 Kentucky Poet Laureate Jane Gentry Vance, who is also a professor in the UK Department of English. 

Gurney Norman

From the Odyssey archives: Gurney Norman (left), filmmaker Andy Garrison, and actor Ned Beatty take a break from filming Norman’s short story “Fat Monroe” in 1989. In his new role as Kentucky’s poet laureate, Norman will be the state’s official arts ambassador, promoting Kentucky arts and artists across the state.

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