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The Kentucky Anthology

The Kentucky Anthology: Two Hundred Years of Writing in the Bluegrass State

Edited by Wade Hall
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 896
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    The Kentucky Anthology
    Book Description:

    Long before the official establishment of the Commonwealth, intrepid pioneers ventured west of the Allegheny Mountains into an expansive, alluring wilderness that they began to call Kentucky. After blazing trails, clearing plots, and surviving innumerable challenges, a few adventurers found time to pen celebratory tributes to their new homeland. In the two centuries that followed, many of the world's finest writers, both native Kentuckians and visitors, have paid homage to the Bluegrass State with the written word.

    In The Kentucky Anthology, acclaimed author and literary historian Wade Hall has assembled an unprecedented and comprehensive compilation of writings pertaining to Kentucky and its land, people, and culture. Hall's introductions to each author frame both popular and lesser-known selections in a historical context. He examines the major cultural and political developments in the history of the Commonwealth, finding both parallels and marked distinctions between Kentucky and the rest of the United States.

    While honoring the heritage of Kentucky in all its glory, Hall does not blithely turn away from the state's most troubling episodes and institutions such as racism, slavery, and war. Hall also builds the argument, bolstered by the strength and significance of the collected writings, that Kentucky's best writers compare favorably with the finest in the world. Many of the authors presented here remain universally renowned and beloved, while others have faded into the tides of time, waiting for rediscovery. Together, they guide the reader on a literary tour of Kentucky, from the mines to the rivers and from the deepest hollows to the highest peaks.

    The Kentucky Anthology traces the interests and aspirations, the achievements and failures and the comedies and tragedies that have filled the lives of generations of Kentuckians. These diaries, letters, speeches, essays, poems, and stories bring history brilliantly to life. Jesse Stuart once wrote, "If these United States can be called a body, Kentucky can be called its heart." The Kentucky Anthology captures the rhythm and spirit of that heart in the words of its most remarkable chroniclers.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-2899-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-xiv)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Come with me on a journey of exploration and discovery. It’s a Kentucky journey you can take anytime it pleases you—day or night, winter or summer, in sunshine or rain. Open this book and join the adventure at any point—from Daniel Boone’s account of his early years in the Kentucky wilderness to Bobbie Ann Mason’s memoir of her mother’s heroic contest with a fish of epic proportions in western Kentucky. It is a journey that will titillate, irritate, educate, delight, and enlighten you, a journey with a Kentucky accent that has been in the making for over two...

  5. When Kentucky Was Wilderness:: The Early Years

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 9-10)

      In the mid-eighteenth century, to the west, beyond the English colonies that bordered the Atlantic Ocean and were struggling to become independent, lay a vast, uncharted wilderness of great promise and wealth. Although this land was declared off limits to His Majesty George III’s subjects by the Proclamation of 1763, many hunters, adventurers, land speculators, and land-hungry settlers—especially from Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina— ignored the king’s edict and began trekking over the Allegheny Mountains into the new territory that some people, despite the hardships and dangers that awaited them, had dubbed the New Eden. The country was simply...

    • John Filson
      (pp. 11-12)
      John Filson

      It is appropriate that we start with a real man who became a myth. No man’s name says Kentucky and the early American West better than that of Daniel Boone, a native of Pennsylvania and onetime resident of North Carolina who, as he tells us in the “autobiography” written for him by Kentucky’s first historian, John Filson, came to Kentucky in 1769 with a band of friends to hunt and explore. Filson’s description of the new country begins after an introductory paragraph from Boone’s autobiography....

    • Colonel James Smith
      (pp. 13-23)
      Colonel James Smith

      Colonel James Smith, a native of Pennsylvania, in May 1755 went with a party of three hundred men to cut a wagon road from Fort Loudon to Braddock’s Road, near the present-day town of Connellsville in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. His capture by the Canasatauga and Delaware Indians, his travels and uncertain life with them, and his eventual escape are true-life adventures that still have the power to freeze the blood. Afterward, Smith settled in Bourbon County, Kentucky, and in 1799 published a book about his harrowing experiences....

    • George Rogers Clark
      (pp. 24-28)
      George Rogers Clark

      George Rogers Clark, the founder of Louisville on Corn Island at the Falls of the Ohio in 1778, was a soldier who was directed by Virginia’s Governor Patrick Henry to attack the British forts at Kaskaskia, Vincennes, and Detroit to eliminate the British presence in lands that would be claimed, should the American Revolution prove successful, by the new independent nation. Clark’s expedition was spectacularly successful—and so was the Revolution. In 1781 he was made a brigadier general by Governor Thomas Jefferson and established Fort Nelson at the Falls. He spent most of the rest of his life in...

    • Thomas Perkins
      (pp. 29-33)
      Thomas Perkins

      A rare and choice travel narrative is the following letter written by an anonymous visitor to Kentucky describing his dangerous trip through the Cumberland Gap, one of the two main avenues into the new land (the other was the water route down the Ohio River). The preponderance of evidence suggests that the author of the letter was Thomas Perkins, a Massachusetts-born lawyer who moved to Danville in 1784 from Fredericksburg, Virginia. It is a delightful eyewitness narrative by a close observer and good writer. Published in the September 1785 issue of theBoston Magazine, it is prefaced by this note:...

    • Gilbert Imlay
      (pp. 34-37)
      Gilbert Imlay

      The life of Gilbert Imlay, another early visitor to Kentucky, reads like an adventure novel. A native of New Jersey and a veteran of the American Revolution, he came to Louisville in 1784 and failed as a land speculator. He left in 1792 and moved to London, where he published hisTopographical Description of the Western Territory of North America, one of the most readable and accurate descriptions of early Kentucky life. His novel,The Emigrants, published in London in 1793, is the sentimental story of an English merchant and his family who move to Louisville. In a series of...

    • Christian Schultz
      (pp. 38-46)
      Christian Schultz

      In the two volumes of hisTravels of an Inland Voyage, Christian Schultz, apparently a native of New York City, takes us on an 1807–8 journey from New York through Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Ohio into Kentucky and on down to New Orleans. His travels through Kentucky are detailed and colorful and filled with marvelous stories and anecdotes, meetings with fellow travelers, and data regarding distances between various towns. In these selections he tells about the different kinds of boats seen on the Western waters, his encounters with wild animals and wild people, a visit to Big Bone Lick, and...

    • John James Audubon
      (pp. 47-53)
      John James Audubon

      John James Audubon, the most famous bird painter in history, moved to Louisville in 1808 and lived off and on in Louisville and Henderson for more than a quarter of a century. He spent his Kentucky years trying to be a good merchant and sawmill operator and roaming the woods in pursuit of birds he could shoot and stuff and paint. He was more successful with the birds, his bird prints, and his autobiographical books than with his business enterprise. He had mixed feelings about his Kentucky sojourn, but the selections below show him in a more positive mood—first...

    • Robert Emmett McDowell
      (pp. 54-55)
      Robert Emmett McDowell

      One of the Kentucky novelists who have written fiction about Kentucky’s pioneer period is Robert Emmett McDowell. McDowell, a historian who wrote history and historical fiction, is the author ofTidewater Sprig(1961), the story of Todd Medford, a ne’er-do-well from an aristocratic Virginia family who comes to Kentucky on an Ohio River flatboat, debarks at Louisville, and winds up working at the saltworks in Bullitt County. This excerpt describes Todd’s arrival in Louisville....

    • Jude Deveraux
      (pp. 56-59)
      Jude Deveraux

      River Ladyis a modern historical romance by the best-selling novelist Jude Deveraux, a native of Louisville. It is the story of Wesley Stanford, a handsome, wealthy philanderer from Virginia who moves his family to the wilderness of Kentucky in 1803. His unconventional family includes Leah, whom he marries in Virginia after she becomes pregnant, and his new girlfriend, Kimberly, whom he plans to marry after they reach their new Kentucky home and he divorces Leah. His plans don’t quite work out that way. Like many of the newcomers to the West, he finds that a new land opens up...

    • Carolyn Lott Monohan
      (pp. 60-60)
      Carolyn Lott Monohan

      Poets who have written about pioneer Kentucky are legion. The Louisville poet Carolyn Lott Monohan speaks about the strong women who accompanied their men into the wilderness and often suffered more than they did....

    • Charles Dickens
      (pp. 61-66)
      Charles Dickens

      One of the most famous visitors to Kentucky was Charles Dickens, who, accompanied by his wife, visited the United States and Canada between January and June 1842. As a passenger on a steamboat between Cincinnati and Louisville, he met Chief Pitchlynn of the Choctaw Indians, who impressed him with his intelligence and learning. He arrived about midnight in Louisville and went immediately to the Galt House, with which he was much impressed. Indeed, he liked it so much that he later spent a second night there on his way back to Cincinnati from St. Louis. On his way to board...

  6. The Scourges of Slavery and Civil War

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 67-68)

      It is hard to believe that less than a century and a half ago—when my great-grandparents were living—most people, north and south, in this “land of the free” still accepted human slavery as a part of civil society. There had been abolitionist sentiments and movements throughout the colonial and early national periods, but none of them had been effective enough to abolish slavery as a matter of national policy. Indeed, all the so-called Northern states had officially outlawed slavery by the time of the Civil War; but all the states that had been English colonies had at one...

    • Alexis de Tocqueville
      (pp. 69-73)
      Alexis de Tocqueville

      Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–1859) was born into a prominent French aristocratic family with royal connections, but he developed liberal, democratic ideas and came to America in May 1831, ostensibly to study our prisons but actually to gather information on our political institutions that might be useful in democratizing France. His American journey took him from New England and Canada through almost all the states east of the Mississippi River. The Kentucky portion of his trip took him from Pittsburgh down the Ohio River to Wheeling, Cincinnati, and Louisville, then on to the lower south and finally back to New...

    • William Wells Brown
      (pp. 74-74)
      William Wells Brown

      Slave narratives were based on the true stories told by escaped or emancipated slaves about their experiences. Many of them were told to educated writers who doctored them up to conform to literary standards and to give them dramatic flair. This is the way that William Wells Brown’s autobiography begins:...

    • Josiah Henson
      (pp. 75-79)
      Josiah Henson

      Josiah Henson, the presumed model for Uncle Tom in Harriet Beecher Stowe’sUncle Tom’s Cabin, was born a slave in 1789 in Charles County, Maryland, and grew up to become a trusted overseer and servant to his owner. His master put him in charge of a group of slaves being transported from Maryland to Owensboro, Kentucky, where Henson became a Methodist preacher. Here he also gained the confidence of his new master, who took him on a trading trip down the Mississippi River to New Orleans, where he planned to sell him. Had not his owner become disabled from an...

    • Harry Smith
      (pp. 80-82)
      Harry Smith

      Another Kentucky slave, Harry Smith, paints a vivid portrait of the infamous slave pens in Louisville and the nefarious work of the “patrollers,” who preyed upon runaway slaves....

    • Milton Clarke
      (pp. 83-85)
      Milton Clarke

      Milton Clarke, a Lexington slave, describes the gruesome reality of slave auctions, broken families, and floggings, giving a graphic portrayal of slave driving....

    • Jefferson Davis
      (pp. 86-87)
      Jefferson Davis

      Born in Fairview, in Todd County, Kentucky, Jefferson Davis attended St. Thomas Catholic School in Springfield and later Transylvania University; he graduated from West Point in 1828. When he was two years old, his family moved to Louisiana and then Mississippi, which became Davis’s political base. After the collapse of the Confederacy, he moved his family to Beauvoir, an estate on the Mississippi Gulf coast.

      The following is Davis’s farewell not only to the Senate but also to the Union; he was soon to become the first and only president of the Confederate States of America....

    • Abraham Lincoln
      (pp. 88-92)
      Abraham Lincoln

      Abraham Lincoln was born into a humble family in a log cabin in Kentucky in 1809, near Hodgenville, and he had the good fortune to remain in the state until he was seven, when his family moved westward, first across the Ohio River to Indiana, and later to Illinois, which now claims him as a native son. He became a lawyer, then courted and married the aristocratic Mary Todd from Lexington. His best friend was Joshua Speed of Louisville. He helped to found the Republican Party in 1856, which selected him as its candidate for president in 1860. He was...

    • Harriet Beecher Stowe
      (pp. 93-105)
      Harriet Beecher Stowe

      Harriet Beecher Stowe was not a Kentucky writer, but she wrote the most influential book ever written in this country and set it in Kentucky. She did live close to Kentucky, just across the Ohio River in Cincinnati, where her husband taught in a theological seminary. Moreover, she apparently made a number of visits into Kentucky’s slavocracy, with trips to Maysville, Paint Lick, and Daviess County, where the slave Josiah Henson lived, who may have been a model for Uncle Tom in her novelUncle Tom’s Cabin(1852). Stowe did a considerable amount of research before writing her big book,...

    • Clara Rising
      (pp. 106-108)
      Clara Rising

      Kentucky’s own Clara Rising wrote a fact-filled novel about Kentucky’s dashing Confederate raider, John Hunt Morgan.In the Season of the Wild Roseresurrects her hero and clothes him in the burnished armor of doomed chivalry. (Another twentieth-century Kentucky novelist, Gene Markey, wrote about the family of one of Morgan’s raiders and the harsh realities of Reconstruction inKentucky Pride[1956].) Here are two passages from Rising’s magnificent reenactment of the Battle of Shiloh, one of the war’s crucial turning points, which occurred near a little country church on a cliff overlooking the Tennessee River, close to where the states...

    • Alfred Leland Crabb
      (pp. 109-120)
      Alfred Leland Crabb

      No one has written more historical novels about the Civil War than Alfred Leland Crabb, who was born in Plum Springs, in Warren County, Kentucky, in 1916. Six of his novels are set in Tennessee, and only one—his most popular and best—takes place in Kentucky. Although focused on the war,Peace in Bowling Green(1955) presents a grand panorama of the history of Bowling Green, from the town’s founding in 1803 through the Civil War, Reconstruction, and Reconciliation. Briefly designated the Confederate capital of Kentucky, Bowling Green was a hotbed of passion and violence, which was quelled at...

    • Charles Bracelen Flood
      (pp. 121-124)
      Charles Bracelen Flood

      Charles Bracelen Flood, a naturalized Kentucky citizen who has lived in Richmond for some thirty years, has written popular and acclaimed fiction and nonfiction about numerous wars, from the American Revolution to World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. His biographyLee: The Last Years(1981) includes this moving portrait of General Robert E. Lee at his finest hour, when he chose to surrender to Grant and end the war, thereby helping the South to pick up the pieces and survive....

    • Allen Tate
      (pp. 125-128)
      Allen Tate

      Finally, we come to what is probably the most eloquent tribute to those who did not survive the Civil War, or any war, Allen Tate’s “Ode to the Confederate Dead.” The poem contrasts egocentric, materialistic visitors to the cemetery, who cannot comprehend dedication to cause and duty, with the young men who are buried there. People of the modern age are incapable, Tate suggests, of such sacrifice because they are guilty of the unpardonable sin of total self-centeredness—“narcissism,” he called it. Tate was born near Winchester and attended Vanderbilt University, where he studied with John Crowe Ransom and became...

  7. Politicians, Teachers, Preachers, and Occasional Poets:: Writing as an Avocation

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 129-131)

      Throughout most of the nineteenth century most Kentucky writing was done by men and a few women whose vocation was elsewhere—politics, law, business, education, journalism, ministry, or soldiering. There were few if any professional writers. Except for writing connected with literary-based professions such as the law, the ministry, and journalism, a person simply couldn’t make a living from his or her pen. Even so, fine writing was practiced by Kentuckians, usually after they had done the day’s practical chores. In the privacy of their offices or kitchens or bedrooms, they wrote poems, essays, orations, and autobiographies—most of which...

    • Julia A. Tevis
      (pp. 132-134)
      Julia A. Tevis

      Julia A. Tevis, born in 1799 near Winchester, founded Science Hill Academy for young women in Shelbyville in 1825. Her autobiography isSixty Years in a School-Room(1878), from which this selection is taken. Here she describes the custom of crowning a May queen each year and the year the crowning almost didn’t take place because the winner came down with measles....

    • Henry Clay
      (pp. 135-137)
      Henry Clay

      Kentucky’s most famous citizen before the Civil War was undoubtedly Henry Clay, a master lawyer and a master politician who offered himself in vain three times for the presidency. He was born in Virginia in 1777, moved to Lexington to practice law at twenty, and then became a Kentucky congressman and senator. His political oratory in Congress was unmatched. During an 1824 debate with Senator John Randolph of Virginia, he responded to Randolph’s attack on him in words that would have crushed even a worthy opponent....

    • J. Proctor Knott
      (pp. 138-140)
      J. Proctor Knott

      Perhaps the most famous speech ever made in the U.S. Congress by a Kentuckian is J. Proctor Knott’s “Duluth Speech,” which he delivered before a roaring audience on January 27, 1871, during a debate on a land grant that would pay for a railroad to the northern Minnesota town of Duluth. Knott would serve in Congress for several more terms and then become governor of Kentucky, but this was his finest hour. His “Duluth Speech” is a comic masterpiece of mock-seriousness and irony....

    • Henry Watterson
      (pp. 141-141)
      Henry Watterson

      Henry Watterson did not, to my knowledge, write poetry; but he was a genius with editorials, which were read and copied all over the country. Here is his hard-hittingCourier-Journaleditorial of July 13, 1911, on the death of Carrie Nation, the antiliquor crusader who was born in Kentucky and attacked saloons with her hatchet. The Meg Merrilies whom Watterson refers to is a crazed Scottish folk figure featured in a poem by John Keats and a novel by Sir Walter Scott....

    • Amelia B. Welby
      (pp. 142-143)
      Amelia B. Welby

      “The Sweet Singer of Louisville,” Amelia B. Welby, was born in Maryland in 1819 but moved to Louisville with her family when she was fifteen. In 1837, with his wonderful nose for finding female poets, the editor George D. Prentice invited her to publish a poem in hisLouisville Journal. There was no stopping her after that, and soon she was publishing poems in newspapers all over the nation; her fans demanded a collected edition, which they got in 1845, whenPoems by Ameliacame out. By 1870, when she had been dead for eighteen years, the book was in...

    • William Shakespeare Hays
      (pp. 144-145)
      William Shakespeare Hays

      An unlikely poet is William Shakespeare Hays, whose day job was serving as captain of steamboats on the Ohio River. He penned the words for one of the most popular songs of the late nineteenth century—and it’s still sung today—“Mollie Darling.” During his lifetime he published more than 350 songs, including “The Drummer Boy of Shiloh” and “The Union Forever.” He was the most successful songwriter with Kentucky roots until Haven Gillespie (1888–1975), a Covington-born writer whose songs include “Breezin’ Along with the Breeze,” “Lucky Old Sun,” and “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.”...

    • Thomas Johnson Jr.
      (pp. 146-147)
      Thomas Johnson Jr.

      Thomas Johnson Jr. was born in Virginia about 1760 and came to Danville in 1785. By 1789 he had published a collection of his poems,The Kentucky Miscellany, a satire on just about everything in Danville: the town itself, all the churches, most of the professions, and human nature. He is known as one of the two Drunken Poets of Danville, for reasons that probably need no explanation....

    • William F. Marvin
      (pp. 148-148)
      William F. Marvin

      Another Drunken Poet of Danville was William F. Marvin (1804–1879), a shoemaker by day and a drunkard by night. He was a veteran of the Mexican War and published in 1851The Battle of Monterey and Other Poems. A short poem from this collection will give a good sample of his wit and style....

    • William O. Butler
      (pp. 149-150)
      William O. Butler

      William O. Butler was born in 1791 in Nicholasville, fought in the War of 1812, and was with General Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans. His most famous poem is not about the military. It is a sentimental tribute to a bygone era when ferries were the only bridges across rivers....

    • Henry T. Stanton
      (pp. 151-152)
      Henry T. Stanton

      Henry T. Stanton was born in 1834 in Virginia but moved with his parents to Maysville; he attended West Point and became a major in the Confederate Army. After the war he practiced law, journalism, and politics and, from time to time, wrote sentimental poems. “The Moneyless Man” is a melodramatic portrait in irregular couplets of poor people who find themselves not welcome in society. The moneyless man, alas, must wait for his reward in Heaven....

    • Theodore O’Hara
      (pp. 153-156)
      Theodore O’Hara

      Theodore O’Hara, remembered for one poem only, was probably born in Danville. He wrote a poem to honor the Kentuckians who had lost their lives in the Mexican War. “The Bivouac of the Dead” is generally considered the greatest military poem in the English language, and it has come to encompass and celebrate the sacrifices of all men in all wars. Its lines can be seen on tablets in cemeteries and at Civil War battlefields....

  8. Turning the Century:: Kentucky Writing Comes of Age

    • James Lane Allen
      (pp. 158-165)
      James Lane Allen

      Both James Lane Allen and John Fox Jr. were a part of the literary movement following the Civil War known as local color, which exploited the culture and folkways of people in “odd corners” of the nation. Most of Allen’s fiction and nonfiction portrays the gentry and their servants in the antebellum and postwar Bluegrass region of central Kentucky, where Allen was born on a farm near Lexington in 1849. After graduating from Transylvania University in 1872, he taught in several high schools and colleges for a decade or more, then turned his time and talents to writing stories and...

    • John Fox Jr.
      (pp. 166-173)
      John Fox Jr.

      John Fox Jr. was from the Bluegrass country (he was born in 1862 at Stony Point, in Bourbon County), but he took his literary material from the Kentucky mountains, which he explored in the mid-1880s when he accompanied his father and brother on visits to their mining interests in the Cumberland Mountains. He began to study the folklife of the mountain people and write stories about them. After James Lane Allen read the draft of one of Fox’s stories, he encouraged him to complete it and send it toCentury Magazine. “A Mountain Europa,” which appeared in two installments in...

    • Annie Fellows Johnston
      (pp. 174-176)
      Annie Fellows Johnston

      No one who has ever seen Shirley Temple in the 1935 screen version ofThe Little Colonelcan forget the famous opening scene in which two members of an estranged family, the little colonel and her grandfather, meet each other; the old colonel is an unreconstructed rebel who has given his son and his right arm to the Southern cause. Annie Fellows Johnston, the author of this most Southern of novels, was born in Evansville, Indiana, in 1863, and moved to Pewee Valley in Oldham County to live with her stepchildren and her aunt after the death of her husband....

    • Alice Hegan Rice
      (pp. 177-178)
      Alice Hegan Rice

      Alice Hegan Rice was born in Shelbyville in 1870, but she spent most of her life in Louisville, where she met and married a popular and good-looking poet, Cale Young Rice, whose own illustrious career was later eclipsed by his wife’s. In Louisville she also found the characters and the settings for a number of books, including the one that brought her wealth and fame,Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch(1901), which became a major motion picture in 1934, starring W. C. Fields, Pauline Lord, and ZaSu Pitts. It had already been filmed twice, in 1914 and 1919, and...

    • Virginia Cary Hudson
      (pp. 179-180)
      Virginia Cary Hudson

      A short drive from Louisville to Versailles will take you to a fine neighborhood, the home of a ten-year-old girl named Virginia. She is a delightful girl who goes to the best church in town and is somewhat of a snob, but you will like her anyway. Virginia’s clever little essays about life among the gentry were written about 1904, but it was not until 1962 that her family published them under the titleO Ye Jigs and Juleps!...

    • John Uri Lloyd
      (pp. 181-183)
      John Uri Lloyd

      John Uri Lloyd (1849–1936), a local-colorist of note, took as his literary domain his home turf of Boone and the surrounding counties of northern Kentucky; he was by profession a pharmaceutical chemist. Indeed, he was a prolific writer of scientific books and papers, but it was his Stringtown cycle of books, which chronicles the folklore and history of Florence and Boone County, that merits him a spot in this anthology. The following excerpt fromStringtown on the Pike(1900) sets the stage for the love stories and Civil War tales he told....

    • Eliza Calvert Hall
      (pp. 184-187)
      Eliza Calvert Hall

      A character who became a Kentucky icon in the early twentieth century, along with Mrs. Wiggs and the Little Colonel, was Aunt Jane, the garrulous old woman who tells stories of olden times in the Pennyrile area of western Kentucky. Writing under her maiden name, Eliza Calvert Hall (she married a Mr. Obenchain) lived all her life in the country she wrote about. She was also an advocate of women’s rights, including the right to vote, and, for her time and place, held views that were at least liberal if not radical. In her fiction, however, she was traditional, sentimental,...

    • Irvin S. Cobb
      (pp. 188-197)
      Irvin S. Cobb

      West of Louisville, on the lower Ohio River, lived one of Kentucky’s best-known writers, Irvin S. Cobb. Born in 1876 in Paducah, in western Kentucky, Cobb wrote about his hometown with a deep, almost filial affection. There we find a typical Kentucky character from the early years of the twentieth century, the backward-looking (he’s a Confederate veteran) but noble and gracious country judge who will go against the local grain if a woman (who is not even a lady) is in distress. In this case, she is dead and greatly in need of a decent Christian funeral. Unfortunately, none of...

    • Lucy Furman
      (pp. 198-202)
      Lucy Furman

      Not far from Paducah, in Henderson, lived Lucy Furman. Except for the last five years, she lived her entire life in Kentucky. Born in Henderson in 1870, she lost both parents when she was very young and was reared by an aunt. Early in her twenties she began publishing stories inCentury Magazine; in 1897 she publishedStories of a Sanctified Town, set in nearby Robards, which had recently experienced a huge religious awakening. In 1907 she joined the faculty of the Hindman Settlement School in the mountain county of Knott, where she taught for seventeen years and served as...

    • James H. Mulligan
      (pp. 203-205)
      James H. Mulligan

      There were poets scribbling all over Kentucky at the turn of the century, but the quality of the poems had not improved much since the earlier generations of poets, despite the fact that several of them achieved national reputations. New voices were beginning to emerge, but they were mostly weak and imitative. Isaac Joseph Schwartz (1885–1971), for example, a Jewish immigrant from Lithuania, came to New York in 1906 and in 1918 moved to Lexington, where he opened a millinery shop and began writing poetry. He called his work “a Yiddish poet’s love song to America.” Nine of his...

    • Robert Burns Wilson
      (pp. 206-206)
      Robert Burns Wilson

      Robert Burns Wilson, who was born in Pennsylvania in 1850 but moved to Kentucky in the 1870s, fell in love with the rivers and creeks and landscapes of central Kentucky and used them for his double calling of painter and poet. He was a much better painter than poet. Although acclaimed as an important nature poet, he wrote his best-known poem, “Battle Song,” in 1898 as a response to the Spanish sinking of the American battleship theMaine. As the final three lines of the first stanza demonstrate, he loved rhymes: “From ship to ship, from lip to lip, /...

    • Joseph S. Cotter Sr.
      (pp. 207-209)
      Joseph S. Cotter Sr.

      One of Kentucky’s first African American poets, Joseph S. Cotter Sr. was largely a man of his time, although he does attempt, sometimes successfully, to sound a new voice in Kentucky poetry. He was born in Nelson County in 1861; but when he was an infant his family moved to Louisville, where he grew up, became a prominent educator and pioneer in black education, and lived the rest of his life. His poems are typically written in the common three- or four-line stanzas in rhythms of iambic pentameter or tetrameter with recurring patterns of rhyme. The four poems that follow...

    • Madison Cawein
      (pp. 210-212)
      Madison Cawein

      Madison Cawein was better known and respected in his lifetime than he is now. He was a Louisville native who, despite considerable critical praise, never could seem to sell enough copies of his thirty-six books of poetry to support himself, his family, and his magnificent house on Louisville’s St. James Court, which he finally had to give up. (The novelist Sena Jeter Naslund has in recent years restored the home to its former elegance and fame as the residence of a prominent writer.) As a boy Cawein learned to appreciate the beautiful parks and natural haunts in and around Louisville...

    • Cale Young Rice
      (pp. 213-214)
      Cale Young Rice

      Cale Young Rice, an almost forgotten poet, was born in Dixon in 1872 and earned a master’s degree at Harvard; he then settled in Louisville and married Alice Hegan, whose literary reputation would soon eclipse his, despite his lifetime production of some thirty-five books of poetry, verse drama, fiction, and autobiography. Most critics consider him a competent but uninspired poet. He was a traditionalist who would have nothing of the new poetry being encouraged and brought to light by Ezra Pound, Hart Crane, and T. S. Eliot. Rice was thirty when he married Alice Hegan, but he must have loved...

  9. From Arnow to Warren:: The Flowering of Kentucky Writing

    • Elizabeth Madox Roberts
      (pp. 216-231)
      Elizabeth Madox Roberts

      Elizabeth Madox Roberts was born in Perryville in 1881 but spent most of her life in nearby Springfield and the rolling fields and knobs of Boyle, Washington, and Nelson Counties. Here she found the landscapes, the people, and the history for her fiction and poetry. Descended from pioneers herself, she had for many years the desire to write a novel about the westward migration into Kentucky. She publishedThe Great Meadowin 1930, when she was almost fifty, and it is the best novel written so far about Kentucky’s early history. Beginning in 1774 and ending in 1781, the story...

    • Caroline Gordon
      (pp. 232-236)
      Caroline Gordon

      Caroline Gordon was born in 1895 in Todd County. She was homeschooled by her father, and she then attended his school for boys in nearby Clarksville, Tennessee. After graduating from Bethany College in West Virginia, she taught school for several years before becoming a critic for a newspaper in Chattanooga. Through her family friend Robert Penn Warren she met members of the literary movement “The Fugitives” at Vanderbilt University. These included her fellow Kentuckian Allen Tate, whom she married in 1924 and divorced in 1959. Her first novel wasPenhally(1931), in which she follows a Kentucky family like her...

    • Ben Lucien Burman
      (pp. 237-245)
      Ben Lucien Burman

      Ben Lucien Burman was born in 1895 in Covington, Kentucky, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. He was a traveler and an adventurer and seemed to live more than one life. In his eighty-eight years he wrote twenty-two books, most of them based on his love for rivers and his travels around the world. During World War II he covered the Free French forces in Africa; that experience resulted inMiracle on the Congoand his being awarded the French Legion of Honor. Late in his career he began a hugely popular series of children’s books set in Catfish...

    • Harriette Simpson Arnow
      (pp. 246-260)
      Harriette Simpson Arnow

      Harriette Simpson Arnow was a little woman who wrote a very big book,The Dollmaker, a classic of Kentucky writing and of American writing. When I met her some thirty years ago, I was astounded that such a modest and unpretentious woman had created one of the strongest and most enduring characters in American fiction. Indeed, Gertie Nevels is a woman who can commandeer a military car to take her ailing son Amos to a doctor and then, before they can get under way, perform a lifesaving tracheotomy on him using a pocket knife. It is Gertie’s love of the...

    • Robert Penn Warren
      (pp. 261-276)
      Robert Penn Warren

      In this anthology Robert Penn Warren is surrounded by great writers, but he stands above them all. As a master of all genres—short stories, essays, novels, plays, poems, criticism, memoirs—he won three Pulitzer Prizes. For the depth and breadth and artistry of his achievements in writing, he should also have won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Warren was born in 1905 in Todd County at Guthrie, on the Tennessee- Kentucky border, and studied at Vanderbilt University during the heyday of the “Fugitives” and the “Agrarians,” both of which were conservative literary and political groups. He then studied at...

    • James Still
      (pp. 277-288)
      James Still

      Nobody has written better poetry or prose about the southern mountains, particularly those in southeastern Kentucky, than James Still, the Alabama-born writer who, the people in Knott County used to say (according to Still), “just come in and sot down.” Indeed, in 1932, in the depths of the Great Depression, he came in to be the librarian at Hindman Settlement School and sat down—after all, he needed a job—and stayed until his death in 2001. And he is still there, buried on the school campus. But he did more than sit down and stay. He observed the people...

    • Jesse Stuart
      (pp. 289-304)
      Jesse Stuart

      Jesse Stuart was the first Kentucky writer I ever met in person. It was in the early 1960s, and I was a young assistant professor of English at the University of Florida. The head of the department had asked me to drive to the airport to pick up Jesse Stuart, who was scheduled to speak to our students. I was nervous about the prospect of being in a car for as much as an hour with a world-famous author. I should not have worried. Within ten minutes of our meeting, we were calling each other by our first names and...

    • Janice Holt Giles
      (pp. 305-310)
      Janice Holt Giles

      Janice Holt Giles was not a native Kentuckian; she was born in Arkansas in 1909 and grew up there and in Oklahoma. She married Otto Jackson Moore, with whom she had one daughter, Elizabeth. A couple of years after her divorce in 1939, she moved to Kentucky to work briefly as a church secretary and then as a secretary to the dean at the Louisville Presbyterian Seminary. In the summer of 1943 she met Henry Giles while riding a bus to visit her daughter in Texas. After a lengthy correspondence during the war, Henry returned to Kentucky, and they married...

    • Gwen Davenport
      (pp. 311-318)
      Gwen Davenport

      Not many authors have the talent or luck to create a fictional character who leaves the pages of a novel and assumes an independent life outside the book. Huck Finn and Scarlett O’Hara come to mind. Among Kentucky creations, there are the Little Colonel and Mrs. Wiggs and maybe a few others. What about Lynn Belvedere? He’s the creation of Gwen Davenport, who was born in the Panama Canal Zone in 1910 but had the good fortune to marry a Louisville stockbroker, John Davenport, in 1931 and live in Kentucky until her death in 2002. Shortly after World War II,...

    • Thomas Merton
      (pp. 319-327)
      Thomas Merton

      Thomas Merton’s life was of not much consequence until December 10, 1941, when he joined the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, commonly called the Trappists, entered the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, near Bardstown, Kentucky, and began a life based on prayer, silence, and work. His spiritual journey led finally to his ordination as a priest on May 26, 1949, when he became Father Louis. Two years later he became an American citizen. It was an unlikely destination for this man who was born in 1915 in Prades, France, the son of Ruth Jenkins Merton, an American-born...

    • Elizabeth Hardwick
      (pp. 328-336)
      Elizabeth Hardwick

      A Lexington native, Elizabeth Hardwick is not a household name in Kentucky—not even in the households where books are often read. Blame it on her decision to move to New York as soon as she finished her master’s degree at the University of Kentucky in 1939 and then to maintain a rather cold distance from her family and hometown. During her time away from home, however, she has been busy creating a reputation for herself as a no-nonsense critic and author of essays and short stories and several novels, including her very promising first novel,The Ghostly Lover(1945)....

    • Hollis Summers
      (pp. 337-344)
      Hollis Summers

      Hollis Summers wrote short stories, novels, and poems and wrote them very well—with humor, irony, and master craftsmanship. The son of a Baptist minister, he grew up in parsonages all over Kentucky, from Eminence, his birthplace in 1916, to Louisville and Campbellsville and Madisonville. Much of the subject matter of his fiction and poetry is taken from his own life as a preacher’s boy and as a high school teacher and college professor at Georgetown College, the University of Kentucky, and Ohio University.Brighten the Corner(1952) is about the motley members of a Baptist church, from the former...

    • Cordia Greer Petrie
      (pp. 345-348)
      Cordia Greer Petrie

      The Angeline Keaton stories by Cordia Greer Petrie are a variation of the ancient wise fool archetype: a naive country bumpkin goes to town (or court) speaking a rustic dialect but, under the cloak of ignorance and innocence, preaches good lessons to his or her betters. Sometimes he is a sidekick-servant to a master, such as Sancho Panza to Don Quixote; sometimes the comic moralist is a loner, like Angeline, who moves through a “superior” society and reveals its hypocrisy and hollowness. In most of her sketches the educated, affluent Cordia Greer Petrie assumes the mask of Angeline to take...

    • John Jacob Niles
      (pp. 349-350)
      John Jacob Niles

      Perhaps the best known of Kentucky’s composer-collector-poets is John Jacob Niles, who was born in Louisville in 1892 into a musical family. After serving in World War I as a pilot, he became a popular singer in nightclubs and on concert stages. His favorite songs were the ballads, folksongs, and Christmas carols of the southern mountains that he collected during his tours of the Appalachians. He arranged or composed more than one thousand ballads and folksongs, some of which were gathered in 1961 in hisBallad Book of John Jacob Niles. In 1980 he died at his Boot Hill Farm...

    • Edwin Carlile Litsey
      (pp. 351-351)
      Edwin Carlile Litsey

      Edwin Carlile Litsey was born in 1874 in Washington County; he grew up and lived the rest of his life in nearby Lebanon, in Marion County, where he worked in the Marion National Bank, first as a runner and later as a bank officer. He wrote romantic novels resembling those of Sir Walter Scott and composed verses that were much better, including the poem below, “To John Keats,” written in traditional iambic pentameter couplets. (An interesting footnote to Kentucky literary history is that John Keats’s brother George moved to the United States in 1818 and, after a year in Henderson,...

    • Sarah Litsey
      (pp. 352-353)
      Sarah Litsey

      Sarah Litsey, daughter of Edwin Carlile Litsey, was born in the home of her mother in Springfield in 1901. After a career as a teacher, she married Frank Wilson Nye in 1933 and lived the remainder of her life in Connecticut, writing novels and poetry, many of them about her native state. “Star Reaper” tells of a gruesome Kentucky tragedy in dialect and verse....

    • Cotton Noe
      (pp. 354-357)
      Cotton Noe

      Cotton Noe was born in 1869 in Washington County near Springfield and attended Franklin College in Indiana, Cornell University, and the University of Chicago. After practicing law for several years, he became a professor and administrator, teaching at Williamsburg Institute, Lincoln Memorial University, and the University of Kentucky, where he was head of the Department of Education. He was made the first official poet laureate of Kentucky in 1926, an honor that he held until his death in 1953. “Umbrella Jim” is one of his popular, easy-to-read portrait poems....

    • Olive Tilford Dargan
      (pp. 358-358)
      Olive Tilford Dargan

      Olive Tilford Dargan was born in Grayson County near Leitchfield in 1869 but spent most of her life in New York and North Carolina. Her earliest writings were long, poetic dramas that are almost unread today, but her proletarian novels written in North Carolina in the 1930s under the pseudonym of Fielding Burke have earned her considerable acclaim. She died in 1968. Her short poem “We Creators” is a tribute to writers and all artists who try—and try again....

  10. The Contemporary Kentucky Writer

    • Billy C. Clark
      (pp. 360-363)
      Billy C. Clark

      Billy C. Clark was born in 1928 into a mostly illiterate family of eight children near the junction of the Big Sandy and the Ohio Rivers at Catlettsburg. As he once wrote, “In nineteen years of growing up in the valley, hunger was my most vivid memory and an education my greatest desire.” InA Long Row to Hoe(1960) he tells his growing-up story through high school. Despite the straitened circumstances of his boyhood, his memories of struggle and survival are warm and gratifying. It was a boyhood that he would not have swapped with anyone. After high school,...

    • Walter Tevis
      (pp. 364-368)
      Walter Tevis

      Walter Tevis was born in San Francisco in 1928, but when he was ten his family moved to Lexington. He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Kentucky and taught English at high schools in Science Hill, Hawesville, Carlisle, and Irvine. He later taught at Northern Kentucky University and Ohio University, from which he resigned in 1978; he lived in New York until his death in 1984. Throughout his teaching career he wrote stories and novels, many of which were made into excellent films, includingThe Hustler(1959) andThe Man Who Fell to Earth(1963). The excerpt...

    • Ed McClanahan
      (pp. 369-371)
      Ed McClanahan

      To secure his fame for all time, Ed McClanahan probably didn’t need to write any other books after his first.The Natural Man(1983) is the sort of story that most writers dream about: a short novel that will surely be around when we, and most of the books of our times, will have turned to dust. It’s the natural, honest story of a boy named Harry Eastep trying to grow up in the fictional town of Needmore, in the fictional county of Burdock, a boy very like McClanahan himself, who was born somewhere up there in northern Kentucky at...

    • Pat Carr
      (pp. 372-375)
      Pat Carr

      Pat Carr taught at Western Kentucky University for only about seven years. She was born in Wyoming in 1932, educated at Rice and Tulane, from which she received a Ph.D., and taught at Rice, Texas Southern, Dillard, the University of New Orleans, the University of Texas at El Paso, and, from 1988 through the mid-1990s, at Western Kentucky; she is now at rest in Arkansas. In her years of moving about the country she learned a lot about writing. She is a superb poet and a master of the short story. Her several collections, includingThe Women in the Mirror...

    • Jane Stuart
      (pp. 376-384)
      Jane Stuart

      On August 22, 1942, a young Kentucky father in Riverton wrote to a friend in Cincinnati: “Born to us a daughter, 9 1/2 pounds, Jessica Jane Stuart, King’s Daughters Hospital, Ashland, Ky., Aug. 20th, 11:14 a.m. . . . Our baby is one of the tallest born at the King’s Daughters. She’s a bundle of energy and joy.” Thus did Jesse Stuart announce the birth of a daughter, who grew up to continue the Stuart family writing tradition. In many ways, she bettered the family tradition, earning degrees, including a Ph.D., from Case-Western and Indiana University. She went on to...

    • Leon Driskell
      (pp. 385-392)
      Leon Driskell

      Leon Driskell was barely sixty-two when he died in 1995. It was a short life for one so talented—as a fiction writer, a poet, and a teacher. A native of Georgia, he earned degrees from the University of Georgia and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas. He served in the U.S. Army from 1956 to 1958, and when he became a civilian again he had teaching stints at the University of Texas, Birmingham-Southern College, and the University of Cincinnati; from 1964 until his death he taught at the University of Louisville. In 1971 he coauthored with Joan Brittain...

    • Martha Bennett Stiles
      (pp. 393-394)
      Martha Bennett Stiles

      In 1933 Martha Bennett Stiles was born a Virginian. She finally made it through the Cumberland Gap into the promised land of Kentucky in 1977, where she lives on a thoroughbred horse farm in Bourbon County and writes delightful stories for children and adolescents and novels for adults, includingLonesome Road(1998), a sinister story of a little boy who quietly disappears one morning as he starts to school and the horror that builds inside his family after his disappearance. The reader enters this mystery on its very first page....

    • Wendell Berry
      (pp. 395-404)
      Wendell Berry

      A perceptive comment by the critic Jack Hicks of the University of California at Davis is a good way to introduce Kentucky’s preeminent writer about the human relationship to the land and, indeed, all of nature. Berry’s own life and work, he says, “has nourished and been nourished by an extraordinarily rich metaphor: man as husband, in the oldest senses of the word, having committed himself in multiple marriage to wife, family, farm, community, and finally, to the great cycle of nature itself.” It is, he says, “the central stream of Wendell Berry’s writing.” Berry’s novels and short stories, his...

    • Gurney Norman
      (pp. 405-411)
      Gurney Norman

      Like a lot of readers, I was introduced to Gurney Norman through “Divine Right’s Trip,” a rite-of-passage story that appeared inThe Last Whole Earth Cataloguein 1971 and documented the flower children and the drug-drenched counterculture of the 1960s. The central character is a young man from Kentucky who goes west to experience this culture and find himself, then returns home to find the meaning he was looking for. In 1977 Norman publishedKinfolks, a collection of ten stories about Wilgus Collier that chronicle his maturation into adulthood through his relationships with members of his own family. At the...

    • Sallie Bingham
      (pp. 412-418)
      Sallie Bingham

      Sallie Bingham was born during the hugely destructive 1937 Ohio River flood that inundated most of downtown Louisville. Despite, and to some extent because of, the wealthy, powerful Bingham family into which she was born, she became a gifted writer of short stories, novels, poetry, and plays. As a successful writer she has in many ways been able to live out the dreams of her father, Barry Bingham Sr., who once told me that he had always wanted to write and publish a good book. Instead, he ran the family communications business, which included radio and television stations, two newspapers,...

    • Sue Grafton
      (pp. 419-429)
      Sue Grafton

      Kinsey Millhone may not yet be as well known as Poe’s Auguste Dupin, Christie’s Miss Marple, or Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, but give her time. Her creator, Sue Grafton, a Louisville native born in 1940 now living half the year in California and the other half back home, has cast Kinsey as the hero and private investigator par excellence in a series of “alphabet mysteries,” beginning with“A” Is for Alibiand currently extending to“R” Is for Ricochet. By the time she gets to Z, we’ll know Kinsey better than we know ourselves. Each new alphabetic installment of her life...

    • Hal Charles (Harold Blythe and Charlie Sweet)
      (pp. 430-433)
      Hal Charles, Harold Blythe and Charlie Sweet

      Harold Blythe and Charlie Sweet, two professors of English at Eastern Kentucky University who write as Hal Charles, have made quite a name for themselves among detective and mystery story lovers, from readers ofEllery Queen Mystery Magazineto readers ofKentucky Monthly. They’ve even contrived and solved mysteries all over the state in their 2001 collection,Bloody Ground: Stories of Mystery and Intrigue from Kentucky. A devilishly clever story appeared in the February 2005 issue ofKentucky Monthly, which proves that they’re a talented twosome when it comes to dastardly crime and sweet revenge....

    • Bobbie Ann Mason
      (pp. 434-454)
      Bobbie Ann Mason

      Bobbie Ann Mason may not have as many murders and high crimes in her books as Sue Grafton, but the stories, novels, and memoirs she has based on the people and places in her home turf of Graves County are just as dramatic and interesting. I became aware of her work in 1980, when a friend called to tell me about a short story in theNew Yorker. I read the story, which is reprinted below; it was clear that here was a writer to be reckoned with, a writer of great natural talent who had found her literary turf...

    • Joe Ashby Porter
      (pp. 455-466)
      Joe Ashby Porter

      Joe Ashby Porter’s main piece of Kentucky ground is east and a bit north of Mason’s, but Porter’s people are more than likely to be outlaws who inhabit a Gothic universe of murder and mayhem and revenge. If you were to meet the mild-mannered, attractive, well-groomed Porter, you might be surprised that he has fathered such awful offspring, especially if you knew his credentials. Born in Madisonville in 1942, he studied at Harvard and Cambridge (as a Fulbright Fellow), earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, and has taught in the Department of English...

    • Sena Jeter Naslund
      (pp. 467-478)
      Sena Jeter Naslund

      In 1988, when William Ward published his nearly comprehensive study of Kentucky writing, Sena Jeter Naslund was not even mentioned in a footnote. The reason, I’m sure, is that despite the fact that she had already written and published many stories, she had no book in print. Indeed, her first book of short stories,Ice Skating at the North Pole, came out in 1989, followed by two novels, both published in 1993,The Animal Way to Love and Sherlock in Love; these were followed by another book of stories,The Disobedience of Water, in 1999, the same year her blockbuster,...

    • Lucinda Dixon Sullivan
      (pp. 479-480)
      Lucinda Dixon Sullivan

      Lucinda Dixon Sullivan, a very talented Kentucky-born latecomer to the high art of writing good fiction, was once a student of Sena Jeter Naslund’s in the Spalding University writing program. In this elegant and sad story of passion, murder, and salvation set in the fully realized towns of Milan and Hickman, you will find an emerging writer who has already written a book of epic dimensions that most veteran writers would envy. Sullivan introduces her two principal protagonists with surcharged sexuality and a confidence and deftness reminiscent ofA Long and Happy Life, Reynolds Price’s 1962 debut novel....

    • Michael Dorris
      (pp. 481-484)
      Michael Dorris

      In 1997 Michael Dorris ended his too-short life alone in a motel room in New Hampshire, estranged from his wife and accused of indiscretions with his children. It was a sad conclusion for the talented writer, born in Louisville in 1945 and reared by his devoted mother and aunt. He graduated from St. Xavier High School in 1963, earned a degree in classical languages from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and studied anthropology at Yale in order to research his American Indian ancestors on his father’s side. While in Alaska in 1971, he was able to adopt an Indian boy...

    • Linda Bruckheimer
      (pp. 485-487)
      Linda Bruckheimer

      Americans have been going west since the first Europeans landed on the East Coast and began looking for a better life beyond the sunset. Until the 1890s, when the frontier was officially closed, there was always a place to go. For a long time, Kentucky was the West; then it filled up. Even Daniel Boone said it was getting too crowded for him and moved to Missouri, when that was the frontier. In the twentieth century, the West still beckoned. When movies got big and Hollywood became the movie capital of the world, people—young people, especially—went west to...

    • Ralph Cotton
      (pp. 488-492)
      Ralph Cotton

      Ralph Cotton, a native of Louisville and the author of a dozen and more novels about the Old West, takes Jeston Nash, the hero of his trilogy of Western novels, through a series of fast-action adventures. This is the original Old West of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Texas, and the time is the lawless era between 1860 and 1900. The Civil War is still raging, and Jeston is a Kentuckian who kills a Union soldier over a horse trade in Louisville and, like a latter-day Huck Finn, heads west to find safety, a new identity, and a new life....

    • Gayl Jones
      (pp. 493-496)
      Gayl Jones

      The elusive, reclusive, and highly praised author Gayl Jones was born in 1949 in Lexington, the daughter of a cook and a housewife. She attended Connecticut College and earned a Ph.D. at Brown University; she then taught at the University of Michigan, which she left to move with her new husband, Bob Higgins, to Paris, where they lived for some ten years. In 1988 they moved to her hometown, where her husband’s violent nature and erratic demands sometimes caused him to clash with the police. On February 20, 1998, they barricaded themselves in their home against police who were trying...

    • George Ella Lyon
      (pp. 497-501)
      George Ella Lyon

      Most people think of George Ella Lyon as an author of children’s books. Indeed, she is, but she’s much more. She’s a poet, a teacher, a playwright, and an author of books for readers of all ages. Hailing from Harlan County, she holds degrees from Centre College, the University of Arkansas, and Indiana University, where she wrote her dissertation on Virginia Woolf. She has taught at the University of Kentucky, Transylvania University, Centre College, and Radford University. She has taught at the Appalachian Writers Workshop in Hindman for many years. Her poetry collections includeMountain(1983) andCatalpa(1993). Her...

    • John Hay
      (pp. 502-510)
      John Hay

      Although John Hay has published four popular children’s books and several superb stories in theSewanee Reviewand other periodicals, he is surely one of Kentucky’s best-kept secrets. Born in Frankfort in 1944, he grew up on nearby Scotland Farm caring for horses. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of the South, a master’s degree in writing from Hollins College, and a J.D. from the University of Louisville. He has received a number of awards for his writing and continues to live and write and care for the horses on the family farm. “Renascence,” which first appeared in...

    • Silas House
      (pp. 511-515)
      Silas House

      Silas House of Lily, in the Kentucky mountains, was one of the biggest literary discoveries of the late twentieth century in Kentucky—and American—letters. The publication of his first novel,Clay’s Quilt, in 2001 was greeted with almost universal enthusiasm and approval. Lee Smith called him “a young writer of immense gifts,” and Robert Morgan said that he was “one of the truest and most exciting new voices in American fiction.” The novel is focused on Clay Sizemore, who has lost both parents by the time he is four; he has to learn that, like a quilter who takes...

    • Dwight Allen
      (pp. 516-525)
      Dwight Allen

      Dwight Allen, with one novel to his credit at the beginning of his writing career, is a man who has been involved in the literary world for some time, studying the art of writing at Iowa and practicing a bit of writing and fact-checking at theNew Yorker. In 2000 he brought together some of his previously published stories into a book that chronicles the activities of a prominent, upper-middle-class family in his hometown of Louisville. It is not quite a novel, but all the pieces focus on the members of the Sackrider family and, in particular, Peter Sackrider. For...

    • Crystal Wilkinson
      (pp. 526-531)
      Crystal Wilkinson

      A bright new African American voice in Kentucky is that of Crystal Wilkinson, who describes herself inBlackberries, Blackberriesas “a black, country girl” who “grew up in rural Kentucky, and teaches creative writing.” Born in Hamilton, Ohio, she went to live with her Wilkinson grandparents on their sixty-four-acre tobacco farm in Casey County when she was six. She has been director of the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning in Lexington and serves as chair of the creative writing department for the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts. She is a charter member of the Affrilachian Poets, a group...

    • Barbara Kingsolver
      (pp. 532-548)
      Barbara Kingsolver

      Barbara Kingsolver, one of Kentucky’s most distinguished contemporary authors, was born in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1955, but she moved when she was two with her family to Carlisle, Kentucky, where she grew up. She holds degrees in biology and English from Depauw University and the University of Arizona. She became a celebrated author with the publication of her first novel,The Bean Trees(1988), which is the story of a young Kentucky woman, Taylor Greer, who moves west to Tucson and acquires an unusual family that includes an orphaned baby girl she names Turtle, a Guatemalan refugee couple, a single...

    • Chris Holbrook
      (pp. 549-556)
      Chris Holbrook

      Chris Holbrook is an award-winning young writer who grew up in Soft Shell in Knott County, but he has lived long enough to see and chronicle the changes that have come to Appalachia in his time—some good and some not. Many of his characters leave home to find better jobs and lives elsewhere, then return hopefully to a reality of unemployment and springs poisoned by runoff from strip mines. Sometimes the people who stay behind must compromise to survive, some living from one welfare check to the next....

    • Gayle Compton
      (pp. 557-560)
      Gayle Compton

      Gayle Compton was born and grew up in a coal camp in Pike County. With lively humor, good will, and respect, he writes poems and stories about the mountain people and their way of life, including the ones who move to Detroit and sometimes have difficulty communicating with their loved ones back home....

    • Chris Offutt
      (pp. 561-566)
      Chris Offutt

      In the August 16, 1998, issue of theLexington Herald-Leader, Art Jester, the book editor, announced excitedly that Chris Offutt had moved back to his native Rowan County, calling him “the outstanding Kentucky-born writer of his generation.” He included a quick rundown of the forty-year-old writer’s achievements: teaching at the universities of New Mexico and Montana; three acclaimed books:Kentucky Straight(1992), a collection of stories;The Same River Twice(1993), a memoir; andThe Good Brother(1997), his first novel; and coveted awards and grants from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Jester quoted Offutt,...

  11. The Dramatic Tradition in Kentucky

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 567-569)

      This is a short chapter because Kentucky has produced relatively few good dramatists. Playhouses in Kentucky, especially on college campuses, originally preferred to present plays written by Greek, English, or European playwrights (such as Sophocles, Aeschylus, Shakespeare, Marlowe, Congreve, Goldsmith, Sheridan, and Ibsen) or American playwrights (such as Clyde Fitch and William Vaughn Moody). In Kentucky theaters, even well into the twentieth century, producers and managers were reluctant to provide a venue for homegrown talent. It was safer to go with Eugene O’Neill, Arthur Miller, or even Tennessee Williams than to risk failure with an unknown local playwright. One of...

    • John Patrick
      (pp. 570-571)
      John Patrick

      Four twentieth-century playwrights who have enjoyed international recognition are Marsha Norman, Jane Martin, George C. Wolfe, and John Patrick, whose story begins here. Born John Patrick Goggan in 1906 in Louisville, he wrote plays that had little to do with his native state. He was abandoned by his parents when he was a small boy and grew up in foster homes and boarding schools. In his teens he became a hobo, and at nineteen he was a radio announcer in San Francisco, where he legally dropped his last name. After service in World War II he made a name for...

    • Marsha Norman
      (pp. 572-573)
      Marsha Norman

      Marsha Norman, who was born in Louisville in 1947, won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1983 for ’Night, Mother. After she earned degrees from Agnes Scott College and the University of Louisville, she worked with mentally disturbed children at Central State Hospital in Anchorage, taught in the Jefferson County Public Schools, and edited the “Jelly Bean Journal,” the children’s supplement of the oldLouisville Times. Her first play,Getting Out, premiered at Actors Theatre of Louisville in 1977. Other plays by Norman includeThird and Oak: The Laundromat, Third and Oak: The Pool Hall(1978), andD. Boone(1992)....

    • Jane Martin
      (pp. 574-575)
      Jane Martin

      Actors Theatre of Louisville is the home theater for the elusive Jane Martin, the pen name of a playwright who, so far, has refused to identify herself (or himself ). All we know is that her scripts appear mysteriously at ATL from time to time and are accepted and produced on its stage, generally with great popular and critical success. Her agent at ATL is Sandy Speer, the executive director of the theater, who handles all her professional and business work. Everyone is quite certain that Speer is not Jane Martin. Most of her plays have been published; they include...

    • George C. Wolfe
      (pp. 576-580)
      George C. Wolfe

      In New York, Frankfort-born George Wolfe was the talk of the town for much of the 1990s as he wrote, produced, and directed some of the most daring and successful shows in years, such asThe Colored Museum, Jelly’s Last Jam, Bring in ’da Noise, Bring in ’da Funk, and Angels in America. Then in the spring of 1997 he suffered kidney failure and spent a year on three-times-a-week dialysis. He kept his condition mostly a secret until he received a kidney transplant in March 1998. During the dialysis period he was hopping around like a completely healthy man, not...

    • Mary Anderson
      (pp. 581-584)
      Mary Anderson

      There is one area in American theater history to which Kentucky has made a significant contribution—actors for the stage, the radio, the big screen, and the little screen. Who doesn’t know these names: Patricia Neal, Victor Mature, Tom Cruise, Ned Beatty, Ashley Judd, Irene Dunne, Harry Dean Stanton, Una Merkel, Arthur Lake. Well, maybe you don’t know some of them, but they all belong to Kentucky-born actors.

      Another actor who once called Kentucky home was Mary Anderson. Who was she? She was the most acclaimed and popular actor of her day. In fact, there used to be a theater...

  12. Contemporary Nonfiction

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 585-587)

      At this stop on our Kentucky journey, I have prepared a feast of nonfiction to satisfy every palate. Here are writings for your enjoyment ranging from Dr. Thomas Clark’s description of pioneer life to the sportswriter Jerry Brewer’s homecoming piece. There are even a few Kentuckians who leave home temporarily to write about other places. There will also be some new voices who will celebrate Kentucky as a state of admirable diversity.

      Few historians merit mention in a literary anthology, but Kentucky has been blessed for over two hundred years with historians who were also good writers, from John Filson...

    • Thomas D. Clark
      (pp. 588-593)
      Thomas D. Clark

      The dean of Kentucky historians, Thomas Dionysius Clark, was born in Mississippi in 1903. After a brief sojourn in Lexington in the late 1920s to pick up a master’s degree, he had the good sense to move to Kentucky permanently in 1931, remaining there until his death on June 28, 2005. What he accomplished as Kentucky’s preeminent historian in over three quarters of a century is amazing: as a teacher, writer, lecturer, collector, faculty leader, and inspiration for generations of Kentuckians at the University of Kentucky, and as father of the state archives, the UK Library Special Collections, and the...

    • John Fetterman
      (pp. 594-600)
      John Fetterman

      Another capable guide to the hills and mountains of southeastern Kentucky is John Fetterman, the late newspaperman and photographer. In the 1960s Fetterman recorded the hardscrabble lives of the mountain people who lived along Stinking Creek in Knox County, a creek possibly named for the foul odors caused by the rotting carcasses of game animals thrown into it by pioneer hunters. Fetterman basedStinking Creek(1967), a book of photographs and reportage, on numerous visits and interviews with the citizens of what was then a remote, almost inaccessible part of Kentucky. In these two selections we witness a baptism by...

    • Kathy Kahn
      (pp. 601-605)
      Kathy Kahn

      Kathy Kahn is a freelance journalist, author, community organizer, and country singer from the mountains of northern Georgia. Kahn conducted a series of interviews for her oral historyHillbilly Women(1985), and one of her subjects was the labor organizer Granny Hager. Born and bred in the coal camps of eastern Kentucky, Granny Hager brought an eloquent voice to the black-lung controversy of the 1960s. She tried desperately to get the coal miners of Perry County to organize a union to obtain a living wage and decent working conditions in the mines. In the selection that follows, we witness the...

    • Patricia Neal
      (pp. 606-611)
      Patricia Neal

      Patricia Neal is a celebrated screen actress who hailed from Packard, now an abandoned coal town in Whitley County, on the Tennessee state line. Here is Packard, where she was born in 1926 and which she left as a teenager, as she remembers it in her autobiography,As I Am(1988)....

    • Verna Mae Slone
      (pp. 612-615)
      Verna Mae Slone

      Verna Mae Slone, who was born in 1914, has lived all her life in Knott County, where she wrote her first book,In Remembrance(1977), when she was sixty-three. Since then she has published several more books of memoirs and autobiographical fiction, includingWhat My Heart Wants to Tell(1979) andRennie’s Way(1994). For several years she also wrote a column for the Hindman-basedTroublesome Creek Times, which was founded in 1980 and calls itself “The Voice of Knott County.” In the March 31, 1982, issue she writes about pets and laments that the housing project where she lives...

    • Linda Scott DeRosier
      (pp. 616-622)
      Linda Scott DeRosier

      Linda Scott DeRosier has deep roots in Appalachia reaching back to the early 1800s. She was born in a log house at Two-Mile Creek in the mid-twentieth century and grew up in a closely knit family and community, which has been lovingly and realistically detailed in her memoir,Creeker: A Woman’s Journey(1999). It is an inspiring story of a woman whose girlhood ambition was to get married and have four children, whose names she had already picked out. Her dream, she says, was thwarted because she was a scrawny girl, not the full-figured woman that local boys found most...

    • Harry M. Caudill
      (pp. 623-625)
      Harry M. Caudill

      One of the most eloquent voices of the southern mountains was the Whitesburg lawyer, legislator, and author Harry M. Caudill, who was born in Letcher County in 1922 and died in 1990. Late in his life he taught history at the University of Kentucky. His great contribution to Kentucky letters, however, is in his articles and books depicting the robbing and raping of the mountain riches by wealthy coal and timber companies and the robber barons who led them. One of the most influential books in American reform writing isNight Comes to the Cumberlands: A Biography of a Depressed...

    • David Dick
      (pp. 626-629)
      David Dick

      In recent years David Dick, the former CBS correspondent, journalist, educator, and author, and his wife, Eulalie Dick, have traipsed all over Kentucky in pursuit of interesting characters to write about. Although born in 1930 in Cincinnati, he moved with his mother to her native Bourbon County when he was eighteen months old. While exploring the waters of the commonwealth inRivers of Kentucky(2001), he meets a gallery of colorful people—rich and poor, famous and unknown—and he shares them with his readers. In his autobiographicalFollow the Storm(2002), Dick’s work as a news reporter takes him...

    • Muhammad Ali, with Richard Durham
      (pp. 630-637)
      Muhammad Ali and Richard Durham

      One man who needs no introduction is Muhammad Ali, a man of strength, intelligence, cunning, and principle who rose from a black ghetto in West Louisville to become not only one of the best-known athletes of the century but ultimately a global spokesman for peace, tolerance, and reconciliation. InThe Greatest: My Own Story(1975), the autobiography he wrote with his friend Richard Durham, Ali recalls the pride he felt after winning an Olympic gold medal in 1960 and how, after an episode of racism and intimidation in his hometown, his feelings turned to shock, pain, and bitterness. This excerpt...

    • Virginia Honchell Jewell
      (pp. 638-641)
      Virginia Honchell Jewell

      In the far western Kentucky county of Hickman, Virginia Honchell Jewell did an unusual profile of her adopted county—“a collection of historical sidelights,” she calls her book,Lick Skillet and Other Tales of Hickman County(1986). She graduated from Murray State University with a degree in journalism and has been a reporter, editor, and writer for theHickman County Gazetteand a stringer for thePaducah Sun Democratand other regional papers. Here are two of her stories: a piece about growing marijuana for the government during World War II and a portrait of a storyteller from the Tarheel...

    • Jo Anna Holt Watson
      (pp. 642-648)
      Jo Anna Holt Watson

      Jo Anna Holt Watson, or “Pig,” as she is nicknamed by Joe Collins, the black majordomo of Grassy Springs Farm, is the narrator of the memoirA Taste of the Sweet Apple(2004), which reads like an enchanted novel. Her eccentric and delightful family has lived on this magical piece of Kentucky for generations, and she had the good fortune to be born before the arrival of television into an affluent family of colorful relatives and servants three generations deep—all of them master storytellers. Indeed, they are so good that she sometimes turns the narrative over to her long-winded...

    • Harlan Hubbard
      (pp. 649-655)
      Harlan Hubbard

      Harlan Hubbard lived an independent life in the woods longer than did Henry David Thoreau, who spent only a little more than two years at Walden Pond. Born in 1900 in Bellevue, across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, Hubbard was a loner who didn’t marry until he was forty-three; then he and his new wife, Anna Eikenhout, a retired librarian, built a shanty boat, which they maneuvered over the next seven years down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, stopping each spring to squat and raise a garden, then resuming their river journey. In 1952 they moved to Payne Hollow, a...

    • Hunter S. Thompson
      (pp. 656-659)
      Hunter S. Thompson

      Hunter Thompson invented what he called Gonzo, or Outlaw, Journalism, a kind of irreverent, in-your-face, iconoclastic journalistic aberration, and for that reason he is a well-known writer. Actually, it can be a very effective form of reportage. InThe Great Shark Hunt(1979), he defines his invention as a combination of a master journalist’s talent, an artist’s and photographer’s eye, and an involved participant.Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga(1966) is based on his participation in the controversial motorcycle club and conversations and interviews with its members. He went to Las Vegas to cover a desert motorcycle race...

    • Guy Davenport
      (pp. 660-665)
      Guy Davenport

      Everybody said that Guy Davenport was a genius. He even won one of the MacArthur genius grants to prove it. Certainly, he was one of the most radically original, surprising, witty, quirky, learned, difficult, and sensual writers of his time. Born in South Carolina in 1927, he received undergraduate degrees from Duke and Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and a Ph.D. in English from Harvard. He came to the University of Kentucky in 1963 and taught there until his MacArthur grant made him financially independent, and he resigned. He lived in Lexington until his death on January 4,...

    • Joseph Phelps
      (pp. 666-668)
      Joseph Phelps

      The quest for ultimate meanings is not restricted, of course, to seekers like monks, ministers, rabbis, priests, and so on; but they are the ones who are most likely to write on the subject. Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk at Gethsemani, near Bardstown, was perhaps the best-known spiritual writer in Kentucky in the second half of the twentieth century. In sermons, readings, homilies, and the religious petitions and proclamations of many religious groups, Kentuckians for over two hundred years have heard men and women of the spirit speak on holy days. The form most familiar to the vast majority of...

    • Paul Quenon
      (pp. 669-673)
      Paul Quenon

      The religious life, whether clerical or lay, is not all pious seriousness. Humor, which is surely a divine gift that humans need to endure the vicissitudes of their lives, is as much a part of life lived inside a monastery as it is outside. Here is an excerpt from the diary kept by Brother Paul Quenon, one of the novices who studied under Father Louis, as Thomas Merton was known at the Abbey of Gethsemani. Brother Paul’s diary is the first part of a three-part collection of light and serious writings by three monks, who, in addition to Brother Paul,...

    • Abraham Flexner
      (pp. 674-676)
      Abraham Flexner

      Not everyone who has lived in Kentucky over the past two hundred years has been the stereotypical white, Christian male, yet, except for the slave narratives of antebellum Kentucky, few minority voices have been heard in our literature. In the midnineteenth century, large numbers of Irish, German, and Jewish immigrants began coming to America and to Kentucky. One of the best-known Jewish families in Louisville were the Flexners, who within a generation were producing sons and daughters who became leaders in their fields. Three sons of Morris and Esther Abraham Flexner, immigrants from Bohemia and Alsace, for example, were all...

    • Alanna Nash
      (pp. 677-679)
      Alanna Nash

      Country music is a big business in Kentucky. Bill Monroe, Randy Atcher, John Jacob Niles, Loretta Lynn, Ricky Skaggs, Tom T. Hall, Pee Wee King—these are some of the Kentuckians who have made big names for themselves as composers and performers in country and folk music. Probably the most popular performer in this state, however, was a native of Tupelo, Mississippi, whose grandfather lived in Louisville. Yes, Elvis was—and still is—big in Kentucky. In 2003 Bobbie Ann Mason published a biography of Elvis. In the same year, Alanna Nash, who has made a big name for herself...

    • Wade Hall
      (pp. 680-691)
      Wade Hall

      The abolition of slavery in 1863 and 1865 did not make the freedmen and freedwomen full citizens of the United States. It took another hundred years for full equality to become the law of the land. Two of Louisville’s prominent African American leaders after World War II were Lyman Tefft Johnson and Mae Street Kidd. Both were subjects of oral biographies that I wrote with their cooperation in the 1980s and 1990s. Johnson was born in 1906 in Columbia, Tennessee, where his father was principal of the local school for blacks and one of the best-educated men in Columbia, black...

    • Anne McCarty Braden
      (pp. 692-695)
      Anne McCarty Braden

      Black people were always in the forefront of the battles that freed them and later earned them their citizenship rights. From William Lloyd Garrison and John Brown to the Louisville journalists and civil libertarians Carl and Anne McCarty Braden, however, many white people of conscience and goodwill have been their able supporters. In 1954 the Bradens sought to enable a black couple to live in an all-white neighborhood in Shively, a Louisville suburb, by buying a house on their behalf. The house was dynamited. The Bradens were accused of being Communists and became pariahs in their hometown. Carl Braden was...

    • Georgia Davis Powers
      (pp. 696-702)
      Georgia Davis Powers

      Like her friend Mae Street Kidd, Georgia Davis Powers was active in politics, and she served in the Kentucky General Assembly from 1968 to 1989. She was the first woman and the first African American to serve in the state senate. She was born in 1923 in Springfield and later came to Louisville to attend and graduate from both Central High School and Louisville Municipal College. In the 1960s she became a force in local politics, serving as a campaign head for a number of Democratic candidates for public office. InI Shared the Dream(1995) she recalls her active...

    • Cass Irvin
      (pp. 703-708)
      Cass Irvin

      Cass Irvin is a Louisville quadriplegic who uses a wheelchair. Her brave struggles for access and fair treatment are detailed in her inspiring autobiography,Home Bound(2004). The passage below shows how the tables are turned when, disabled though she is, she is able to help her father at the end of his life. The moral? At some point in life, everyone becomes disabled....

    • Fenton Johnson
      (pp. 709-715)
      Fenton Johnson

      Fenton Johnson is as much a daring pioneer of unexplored wilderness as Daniel Boone ever was. He is an openly gay man who exposes himself to homophobia and twisted religious zealots who write letters to the newspaper saying, “Jesus hates fags.” Born into a large Catholic family of nine children in New Haven in 1953, he attended local Catholic schools, then graduated from Larue County High School. His college degree is from Stanford University, and he has studied at the prestigious Iowa Writers Workshop. He now teaches writing at the University of Arizona. His books includeCrossing the River(1989),...

    • Jerry Brewer
      (pp. 716-718)
      Jerry Brewer

      Jerry Brewer, a Paducah native who joined theCourier-Journal’s staff as a sports writer in late 2004, was clear about his feelings for the state. This is an October 2004 column in which he introduces himself to his fellow Kentuckians and tells of his homecoming. Where once “success was an exit sign,” Brewer realizes that Kentucky is indeed where he wants—and needs—to be. It is a fitting conclusion to this chapter of nonfiction writing....

  13. A Shower of Poets:: Contemporary Kentucky Poetry

    • Albert Stewart
      (pp. 720-721)
      Albert Stewart

      It is fitting that we begin our poets’ tour of Kentucky with Albert Stewart, born in 1914 at Yellow Mountain in Knott County. He studied at Hindman Settlement School, Berea College, and the University of Kentucky; he later taught at Kentucky, Morehead State University, and Alice Lloyd College. He founded and for twelve years editedAppalachian Heritage, where he nurtured other poets and writers. A poem, he once wrote, is “one of man’s most vital undertakings.” In the following poem he suggests that the poet, like the high diver, is also in a dangerous business....

    • John Filiatreau
      (pp. 722-723)
      John Filiatreau

      Now we stop off in Louisville, where John Filiatreau used to write for theCourier-Journaland apparently learned a thing or two about writer’s block....

    • Betty Layman Receveur
      (pp. 724-725)
      Betty Layman Receveur

      Betty Layman Receveur was first and last a poet, whether she called a piece of her writing poetry or a historical novel. She was a proud seventh-generation Kentuckian and showed her pride in poetry and prose, including this poem about an ancestor looking out from a tintype portrait....

    • Jonathan Greene
      (pp. 726-726)
      Jonathan Greene

      Although not a native Kentuckian, Jonathan Greene has contributed significantly to Kentucky’s literature as a poet and as a publisher. His Gnomon Press, based in Frankfort, has published poetry and prose by some of Kentucky’s best-known authors. His poem about a family photograph album for sale at an auction focuses on the brevity of life and identity....

    • Miriam Woolfolk
      (pp. 727-728)
      Miriam Woolfolk

      In this poem Miriam Woolfolk, who lives in Lexington, pays tribute to her father, a railroad worker, and to a time when trains could take you anywhere you wanted to go....

    • Aleda Shirley
      (pp. 729-730)
      Aleda Shirley

      In this poem Aleda Shirley remembers a summer night in Oakland, in Warren County, when she was a girl and surrounded by her loved ones—and ice cream, a moon, and a mimosa tree....

    • Virginia Pile
      (pp. 731-732)
      Virginia Pile

      Virginia Pile of Hardinsburg, in Breckinridge County, remembers a childhood lost to time....

    • Jeffrey Skinner
      (pp. 733-733)
      Jeffrey Skinner

      Jeffrey Skinner, a husband and father, paints a Louisville street scene with people that he knows will not stay—except in his poem. Skinner is a professor of English and the director of creative writing at the University of Louisville. His collections includeLate Stars(1985) andThe Company of Heaven(1992)....

    • Lee Pennington
      (pp. 734-734)
      Lee Pennington

      A native of Eastern Kentucky, Lee Pennington now lives and writes in Middletown and is a longtime professor of English at Jefferson Community College, where he also nurtures new poets. This poem is a dirge for the death of spring and for one who loved the seasons of life....

    • Leonard A. Slade Jr.
      (pp. 735-736)
      Leonard A. Slade Jr.

      Formerly a professor of English at Kentucky State University in Frankfort, Leonard Slade was born in North Carolina and now writes poetry and teaches in Albany, New York. He has published numerous collections of poems, includingAnother Black Voice(1988),The Beauty of Blackness(1989),Pure Light(1996), andLilacs in Spring(1998). His poems have been praised by such luminaries as Maya Angelou and Gwendolyn Brooks. This poem is a tribute to his ancestors, who survived slavery on faith and hope....

    • Catherine Sutton
      (pp. 737-738)
      Catherine Sutton

      Catherine Sutton’s poem is a lament for the African American women who washed the clothes and served the whites of Louisville in 1880—and for those who still do. She has been a member of the faculty and staff of Bellarmine University for many years....

    • Frank X Walker
      (pp. 739-741)
      Frank X Walker

      Founder of the Affrilachian writers’ movement, which is composed of African American writers of the Appalachian Mountains, Frank X Walker is a poet and teacher whose work is a model and an inspiration for younger poets. The first selection, “Black Box,” paints an ironic family portrait of burley farmers who will lose their youth and lives to the tobacco that once supported them....

    • Jane Mayhall
      (pp. 742-742)
      Jane Mayhall

      A native of Louisville, Jane Mayhall has lived in New York City most of her life. When she writes poems, however, she often returns to her girlhood and the common domestic rituals that have been seared into her memory....

    • Ron Seitz
      (pp. 743-744)
      Ron Seitz

      A Louisville native and former Bellarmine University professor, Ron Seitz, and his wife, Sally, were close friends of the Trappist monk and writer Thomas Merton, whose untimely death in 1968 left memories and a void that Seitz has turned into numerous poems. The first poem is a canticle to his lost friend....

    • R. Meir Morton
      (pp. 745-746)
      R. Meir Morton

      Victor Mature, the original Hollywood “hunk,” was from Louisville. R. Meir Morton of Louisville decided to do an imaginary interview with the actor. First, she did some research, and then she cast the results as a monologue; and so we have her poem. It’s amazing how much a good poet can get into a short poem....

    • Jane Gentry
      (pp. 747-748)
      Jane Gentry

      You’ve seen the gardens. An elderly couple has moved into town to be close to their children. They miss the earth’s seasonal rotation of seeds into fruit and more. So, bit by bit, they bring the farm to town, complete with a rooster. What you get is a contented couple and a fine poem by Jane Gentry of Versailles....

    • Eve Spears
      (pp. 749-750)
      Eve Spears

      Eve Spears grew up in Jesse Stuart country in northeast Kentucky, but she lived most of her life in Georgetown, Kentucky, where her husband, Woodridge, taught at the college. She grew up in a culture in which the folkways of growing food and cooking, of worshiping and playing, were their way of life. Ballads and folksongs from England, Scotland, and Ireland were still being sung. It’s hard to read this poem, with its balladlike rhyme ofabcband its story about a dying woman and her mysterious mother, without wanting to sing it....

    • Woodridge Spears
      (pp. 751-751)
      Woodridge Spears

      The second half of the Spears writing team is Woodridge Spears, who, like his wife, is from Jesse Stuart country. His poetry tends to be academic and occasionally laden with remote allusions, but this one is just as dark and foreboding as his wife’s poem....

    • Quentin Howard
      (pp. 752-753)
      Quentin Howard

      Quentin Howard is one of the three Pikeville poets gathered here, so named for their frequent publishing in the Pikeville College literary magazine,Twigs, edited by Bruce Bennett Brown. In this selection Howard accompanies a Vietnam War veteran home on a train that carries the ghosts of veterans of more than one war....

    • Lillie D. Chaffin
      (pp. 754-755)
      Lillie D. Chaffin

      Born in Pike County in 1925, where she lived most of her life, Lillie D. Chaffin is perhaps best known as an author of children’s books, includingBear Weather(1969), a verse story about a mother bear and her cub in winter, which was selected as one of the fifteen best juvenile books of 1969. She also wrote deceptively simple and cynical poems for adults....

    • Carolyn Wilford Fuqua
      (pp. 756-757)
      Carolyn Wilford Fuqua

      Carolyn Wilford Fuqua of Hopkinsville found inspiration for this poem in the Bible, specifically in Second Samuel 14:25–26: “Now in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty; from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him. And when he polled [trimmed] his head—now it was at every year’s end that he polled it; because the hair was heavy on him, therefore he polled it—he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred shekels, after the king’s weight.” Absalom...

    • Reid Bush
      (pp. 758-758)
      Reid Bush

      Reid Bush was born across the Ohio River in southern Indiana. He lived in California as a youth, then went to school in Arkansas, Indiana, and Kentucky. He has lived in Kentucky since 1969 and has been married to a Kentuckian for a long time. He has children living in five states and Malaysia. He was an English teacher at various levels until he retired in 2000....

    • Bruce Bennett Brown
      (pp. 759-760)
      Bruce Bennett Brown

      One of the least-known of Kentucky’s important literary figures is the reclusive Bruce Bennett Brown of Zebulon, near Pikeville, in Pike County. In the 1960s and 1970s at Pikeville College he was editingTwigs, one of the most lively and experimental literary magazines in the country, which published established, well-known writers alongside fresh and fragrant talent. He has written some of the most brilliant and original—sometimes enigmatic—poetry of anyone in Kentucky. In addition, he is a master of two almost extinct genres—the diary and the personal letter. The poem below is but a nugget of the riches...

    • Jim Wayne Miller
      (pp. 761-762)
      Jim Wayne Miller

      No Kentucky poet has been more beloved than Jim Wayne Miller, a native of North Carolina who attended Berea College and, after graduating with a Ph.D. in German from Vanderbilt, spent the rest of his career at Western Kentucky University, where he wrote poetry about the southern Appalachians and where he promoted and supported other poets and prose writers who wrote about his cherished mountains. For many of his poems, he invented a persona called “the Brier,” a native of the mountains much like Miller himself who loves the old ways and crafts and tries to come to terms with...

    • Logan English
      (pp. 763-764)
      Logan English

      Logan English was Bourbon County’s poet-errant, a man who loved Kentucky but who could never live for very long in the land that formed and nourished him and provided him with material for his poetry, plays, and songs. He was a strolling player, a singing poet, a lyrical dramatist, a thespian whose love for the state lasted as long as his life. He was most influenced by his grandfather, a Baptist minister, and the tenants who worked his family’s farm when he was a boy. In his epic poem “No Land Where I Have Traveled,” he recalls his Kentucky roots,...

    • Maureen Morehead
      (pp. 765-766)
      Maureen Morehead

      One of Kentucky’s most talented poets, Maureen Morehead writes about agonizing emotions and early loss with perfect control. She holds graduate degrees in English and composition from the University of Louisville and teaches in the Jefferson County school system. The first poem is fromOur Brothers’ War, a collection of poems and stories that she and Pat Carr, who has taught English at Western Kentucky University at Bowling Green, based on actual letters and diaries from the period of the American Civil War. Morehead’s second poem is about a more recent, and devastating, loss....

    • Cora Lucas
      (pp. 767-768)
      Cora Lucas

      A native of Louisville, Cora Lucas wrote her first poem when she was seven. Her mother’s tragic early death and her father’s piano performances (he was a piano graduate of the Conservatory Verdi in Milan) are recurring themes in her poetry. The wife of a Louisville surgeon, she and her husband, a soldier, lived through World War II. In this poem about the constancy of love and loss she recalls a furlough when her husband returned home briefly to see her and their young daughter, who is now grown and caring for her widowed mother....

    • Leatha Kendrick
      (pp. 769-769)
      Leatha Kendrick

      Leatha Kendrick, the mother of three daughters, lives with her husband in eastern Kentucky. Her poetry has been published widely in such periodicals asConnecticut Reviewand theAmerican Voice. She has taught creative writing at the University of Kentucky and Morehead State University and has been coeditor ofWind Magazine. Robert Morgan has said that she gives “a fresh voice to the poetry of motherhood and family.” In this poem she writes a postcard to her late mother while driving one of her daughters through an everlasting landscape....

    • Charlie Hughes
      (pp. 770-770)
      Charlie Hughes

      Charlie Hughes is a Lexington poet, a writer of fiction, and the editor ofWind Magazine, the venerable periodical founded years ago by the indefatigable Quentin Howard, who put his resources and his life into one of the best of our literary journals. His is a tradition being honored and built upon by Hughes. The dark, haunting memories of childhood are the subject of many of his poems, including this one about the night noise in a new house, a defiant, protective mother, a son, and an absent husband and father....

    • John Spalding Gatton
      (pp. 771-772)
      John Spalding Gatton

      A native of Louisville and a professor of English at Bellarmine University, John Spalding Gatton is an academic writer who also writes occasional poems, like these heartrending lines about the early death of a friend....

    • Charles Semones
      (pp. 773-775)
      Charles Semones

      Charles Semones would have been a major poet no matter where he was born. Fortunately for us, he was born in 1937 in Mercer County, which over the past forty and more years he has written into a poetic landscape that he calls “the Sabbath Country,” which is as real and as vivid as Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County in Mississippi. The author of several volumes of poems, includingWitch Cry(1973),Homeplace(1993),Hard Love(1994), andAfternoon in the Country of Summer(2003), Semones is like no other poet you’ve ever read, even though one critic called him “an improbable...

    • Roberta Scott Bunnell
      (pp. 776-777)
      Roberta Scott Bunnell

      A friend once suggested that Roberta Scott Bunnell was a poor man’s Dorothy Parker. I said, “Roberta can write rings around Parker.” No one can write bittersweet poems about love and life with more incisiveness than Roberta Scott Bunnell. Born in 1910 in Paducah, she attended Logan College in Russellville and later the University of Louisville. She worked for many years at radio stations in Louisville. She has published inCosmopolitan, Saturday Evening Post, andMcCall’s, as well as in a multitude of local and regional publications. Gregg Swem, a former arts writer for theCourier-Journal, has written a one-woman...

    • Dot Gibbs
      (pp. 778-778)
      Dot Gibbs

      Welcome to the enchanted world of Louisville’s Dot Gibbs, who, while her husband was busy as an executive with a large printing company, spent her time seeing God in such ordinary things as sweet pea vines, dragonfly wings, and green peas in pods. Her companion in literary history may well be William Blake—the one who wrote “The Lamb” and “The Tyger.” Here is a sampling of the epiphanies that Dot Gibbs found in nature and made into poems....

    • Patricia Ramsey
      (pp. 779-780)
      Patricia Ramsey

      Patricia Ramsey is a native of Barbourville and grew up among Elizabethan ballads and folklore transplanted to Appalachia. She has taught in the public schools of Jefferson County, served as a counselor at Indiana University Southeast, and been a poetry therapist at the Southern Indiana Mental Health and Guidance Center in Jeffersonville. She is also a playwright and has won several prestigious awards with her play about coal mining in eastern Kentucky,A Killin’. In this poem she returns to her native mountains to take a stand against the giant, destructive “cats” that eat up the hills....

    • Prentice Baker
      (pp. 781-781)
      Prentice Baker

      A native of Leitchfield, in Grayson County, Prentice Baker was an office worker at the L&N Railroad by day and a poet by night. Although he has lived in the city most of his life, his poems recall his boyhood and youth in rural Kentucky.Down Cellar, a collection of his poetry, was published in 1973. This poem is a festival of country living and loneliness....

    • Mary O’Dell
      (pp. 782-782)
      Mary O’Dell

      As I’m sure Mary O’Dell will agree, you’re never too young or too old to write and enjoy poetry. Every age has its gifts and its visions. O’Dell, a native Appalachian now living in Louisville, is president of Green River Writers, an important support group for writers of all ages, and the author of some five volumes of verse. The fifth volume,Living in the Body, is the source of the poem below about living fully every moment of life....

    • Mary Ann Taylor-Hall
      (pp. 783-783)
      Mary Ann Taylor-Hall

      Novelist and short-story writer Mary Ann Taylor-Hall of Sadieville is also a very fine poet, as the following imagist-tinged, philosophical poem will show. Responding to the aborted life of a bird and the plaintive night cries of animals in distress or dying, she experiences only temporary consolation in the thought that “we are all one thing” and finishes the poem with its big question unanswered—or perhaps unanswerable....

    • Ann Jonas
      (pp. 784-785)
      Ann Jonas

      Ann Jonas is a poet’s poet—one whose craftsmanship is sure, whose focus is certain, and whose control is total, whether she is writing about urban life or a casket maker in Wendover, in the mountains of eastern Kentucky....

    • Vivian Shipley
      (pp. 786-787)
      Vivian Shipley

      Vivian Shipley was born in Chicago but grew up in Kentucky in and around Hardin County, where her family were farmers—“hillbillies,” she fondly calls them. She was educated at the University of Kentucky in the 1960s and received her Ph.D. from Vanderbilt in 1975. Since 1969 she has taught at Southern Connecticut University, where she also edits theConnecticut Review. Her poems have appeared in numerous prestigious periodicals and have been collected under such titles asPoems Out of Harlan County(1989),Fair Haven(2000), andWhen There Is No Shore(2002). Her poems are filled with allusions to...

    • Charles Williams
      (pp. 788-788)
      Charles Williams

      Munfordville attorney Charles Williams, who holds degrees from Duke University and the University of Kentucky, finds poems in his travels, his law practice, and the flora and fauna of his native Hart County....

    • Donald Vish
      (pp. 789-789)
      Donald Vish

      Donald Vish is a lawyer, a nature lover, and a photographer who, he says, enjoys the company of good books and good friends. He has, to my knowledge, just one book to his credit; but it is a delight.Prideful Violets(2001) contains thimble-sized poems filled with wit and wisdom, plus short, witty paragraphs, an “impolitical dictionary,” and various other odds and ends that will mostly surprise and please you. Here are two examples of his short poems....

    • Sarah Gorham
      (pp. 790-791)
      Sarah Gorham

      Sarah Gorham is a fine publisher and a fine poet. Her poems have appeared in such places as theNation, Paris Review, Poetry, and Antaeus. She has also published several collections:Don’t Go Back to Sleep(1989),The Tension Zone(1996), andThe Cure(2003). She is cofounder and editor-in-chief of Sarabande Books in Louisville. In the following poem she and her new husband have fun at the old Shaker settlement near Harrodsburg....

    • Boynton Merrill Jr.
      (pp. 792-793)
      Boynton Merrill Jr.

      Born in Boston in 1925, Boynton Merrill Jr. served in the navy during World War II, then earned a degree from Dartmouth College. In the early 1950s he moved to Henderson, Kentucky, to manage his mother’s family farm. He soon became involved in real estate development and poetry. In 1976 he published bothA Bestiary, a collection of poems, andJefferson’s Nephews: A Frontier Tragedy, a highly praised historical study of the gruesome murder of a family slave by two nephews of Thomas Jefferson living in far western Kentucky in the early nineteenth century. Two of the poems below are...

    • Hortense Flexner
      (pp. 794-794)
      Hortense Flexner

      Hortense Flexner, who spent most of her life in Louisville, was a graduate of the University of Michigan and worked as a journalist early in her career. She wrote several competent plays and popular children’s books, and her collections of poetry—Clouds and Cobblestones(1920),The Stubborn Root(1930), andNorth Window(1943)—were reviewed favorably in several publications. She published numerous poems in national magazines, including theNew Yorker. After her death in 1973 at the age of eighty-eight, several of her admirers published additional volumes of her poetry. Many of her poems, including the three below, were short,...

    • Joy Bale Boone
      (pp. 795-795)
      Joy Bale Boone

      A native of Evanston, Illinois, Joy Bale Boone married Dr. Garnett Bale of Elizabethtown in the early 1930s and lived most of her life in Kentucky. She became one of the state’s leading advocates for the prevention and treatment of heart disease and for women’s rights, as well as a major promoter of Kentucky’s literary culture. In the early 1960s she was a cofounder ofApproaches, a magazine of poetry by Kentuckians, which later evolved intoKentucky Poetry Review. In 1997 she became the first Kentucky poet laureate to be chosen under upgraded guidelines that specified that the office could...

    • James Baker Hall
      (pp. 796-798)
      James Baker Hall

      James Baker Hall was named Kentucky poet laureate in 2001. A native of Lexington born in 1935, he has been a poet, novelist, photographer, and professor of writing at the University of Kentucky. In addition to his novels, he has published short stories in such periodicals as theSaturday Evening Post, Shenandoah Review, and theParis Review. His poems have appeared in theSewanee Review, Southern Poetry Review, andPoetry. The poem below, which first appeared in theNew Yorker, is a daring, cutting-edge look into the presumed abyss....

    • Joe Survant
      (pp. 799-799)
      Joe Survant

      Selected as the Kentucky poet laureate for 2003–5, Joe Survant, a graduate of the University of Kentucky and the University of Delaware, teaches contemporary literature and creative writing at Western Kentucky University. He has published three collections of poetry:We Will All Be Changed(1995),Anne & Alpheus(1996), andThe Presence of Snow in the Tropics(2001), which is based on a year he spent with his family teaching at the Universiti Sains Malaysia, where he learned to tread lightly and carefully among the snakes and other denizens of the forest....

    • Richard Taylor
      (pp. 800-801)
      Richard Taylor

      A professor of English at Kentucky State University in Frankfort, Richard Taylor also owns a bookstore and writes poetry, includingBluegrass(1975) andEarth Bones(1979).Girty(1977) is a long narrative poem about a renegade white man who went to live with the Seneca Indians and took on their ways and attitudes against the encroaching whites. For his two years as poet laureate, 1999–2001, Taylor was also an eloquent spokesman for literature throughout Kentucky.

      In a dialogue between the poet and a rock—yes, a rock—in his ironically named “Upward Mobility,” Taylor pokes fun at human pride...

    • Tony Crunk
      (pp. 802-803)
      Tony Crunk

      Tony Crunk is one of three young Kentucky poets who have won the coveted Yale Younger Poets competition in recent years. A native of Hopkinsville, Crunk earned degrees from Centre College, the University of Kentucky, and the University of Virginia. He has taught at the University of Montana and Murray State University and now teaches at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. His church-drenched Baptist boyhood in western Kentucky is the material out of which he has written an impressive collection,Living in the Resurrection(1995). In these unapologetically spiritual poems, there are echoes of familiar passages from hymns and...

    • Davis McCombs
      (pp. 804-805)
      Davis McCombs

      When he won the Yale Younger Poets contest, Davis McCombs was working as a guide and “parking-lot guy” at Mammoth Cave National Park, near his home in Munfordville. He was somewhat overqualified for his work, with degrees from Harvard and the University of Virginia and a writing fellowship from Stanford. His long familiarity and love for the cave, however, provided him with the inspiration and subject for his prizewinning collection,Ultima Thule(2000), a term that originally referred to the place nearest to the North Pole that people could live. McCombs uses it to refer to what was the most...

    • Maurice Manning
      (pp. 806-807)
      Maurice Manning

      A recent winner of the Yale Younger Poets prize is Maurice Manning, a native of Danville, with degrees from Earlham College, the University of Kentucky, and the University of Alabama, where he received his M.F.A. in 1999. He now teaches at Indiana University.Lawrence Booth’s Book of Visions(2001) is a collection that the poet W. S. Merwin calls “an outrageous, lit-up, wide-ranging sequence of poems” gathered loosely around a gothic pilgrim possessed by visions. In his second book of poems,A Companion for Owls(2004), Manning assumes the persona of Daniel Boone as he explores and tries to understand...

    • Kathleen Driskell
      (pp. 808-808)
      Kathleen Driskell

      A young poet who is beginning to make a name for herself as a writer, a teacher, and a promoter of writers and writing is Kathleen Driskell, a professor of English at Spalding University in Louisville and a founder of the Kentucky Writers’ Coalition. She has published a number of poems in literary journals and has editedKentucky Writer’s Directory(1999) andPlace Gives Rise to Spirit(2001). The poem below appeared in the fall 1990 issue ofKentucky Poetry Review, which was dedicated to the North Carolina author Fred Chappell, under whom Driskell studied at the University of North...

    • Joe Bolton
      (pp. 809-809)
      Joe Bolton

      I’d like to pay homage to a young man who, sadly, did not survive the demons, the passions, the impulses that perhaps gave him the sensibility to become a great poet. In his twenty-eight years, however, he wrote some very moving and astounding poems. Joe Bolton was born in Cadiz in 1961 and studied at the University of Arizona, where he earned an M.F.A. He taught at the University of Florida in Gainesville and published two collections of poetry,Breckinridge County Suite(1987) andDays of Summer Gone(1990).The Last Nostalgia: Poems 1982–1990was published posthumously in 1999....

    • Abigail Gramig
      (pp. 810-811)
      Abigail Gramig

      If Abigail Gramig is any indication, the new generation of Kentucky poets is ready to assert itself. Still in her early twenties and a recent graduate of Bellarmine University, she has already demonstrated remarkable maturity and originality in her first collection of poems,Dusting the Piano(2004). She is a protean poet with a unique voice and many faces and disguises. In her youthful poems she has created an enchanted garden of delights and insights written in compact free verse. In this new poem she assumes the disguise of a college professor who sees and understands why her nursing students...

    • Frederick Smock
      (pp. 812-812)
      Frederick Smock

      Frederick Smock is a professor of English and writer-in-residence at Bellarmine University, where Abigail Gramig was his student. Still a young man himself (he was born in 1954), he is a vital link between the aging contemporary poets of this gathering and the fledgling writers in his classes waiting to put their inspired words into print for all of us to read. Smock has published several collections of poems:12 Poems(1991),Gardencourt(1997),Guest House(2003), andThe Good Life(2000), the last from which this poem was taken. “Kentuckie” is a summation as well as a good ending...

  14. Appendix: Biographies
    (pp. 813-860)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 861-866)
  16. Copyrights and Permissions
    (pp. 867-872)
  17. Index
    (pp. 873-880)