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Former Kentucky Poet Laureate Jane Gentry honored posthumously by Appalachian Writers Association

University Press of Kentucky author and former Kentucky Poet Laureate Jane Gentry (1941–2014) has been named the recipient of Appalachian Writers Association’s 2017 Appalachian Book of the Year for Poetry for her posthumous collection The New and Collected Poems of Jane Gentry, edited by Julia Johnson. The AWA’s mission is to recognize and promote writing about the Appalachian region. They work to celebrate writers who are living or have lived in the Appalachian region and those who have significant Appalachian connections through heritage or scholarship. The AWA currently gives out three annual Book of the Year Awards, one each in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.

Alternately startling and heart-wrenching, The New and Collected Poem of Jane Gentry offers a valuable retrospective of the celebrated poet’s work. Upon being diagnosed with cancer, Gentry and her daughters began collaborating with editor Julia Johnson to organize this definitive collection. The result is the entirety of Gentry’s published work alongside new, previously unpublished poems. This volume includes both of her poetry collections—A Garden in Kentucky and Portrait of the Artist as a White Pig—in their entirety. The final section includes Gentry’s unpublished work, from verses written for loved ones to a large group of recent poems intended for future collections. Johnson uses Gentry’s own methodology to organize the book, showcasing the range of the poet’s work and the flexibility of her style—sometimes ironic and humorous; sometimes poignant; but always clear, intelligent, and revelatory.

“In poem after poem in this rich and important collection, Jane Gentry commemorates her personal history through the lens of poetry—family, friends, the seasons, the flora and fauna she moves through. This book is a love song to Kentucky,” commented Jeff Worley, editor of What Comes Down to Us: 25 Contemporary Kentucky Poets. This publication will delight readers of poetry, supporters of Kentucky literature, teachers and students engaged in ensuring the future of literature from our region, and anyone who honors the exploration of what it truly means to be fully alive and fully human.

The New and Collected Poetry of Jane Gentry is the ninth University Press of Kentucky book to win an AWA award, joining Driving the Dead: Poems by Jane Hicks and From the Mountain, From the Valley: New and Collected Poems by James Still as the winner of the poetry award. In addition, Bloodroot: Reflections on Place by Appalachian Women Writers by Joyce Dyer, Songs of Life and Grace: A Memoir by Linda Scott DeRosier, My Appalachia: A Memoir by Sidney Saylor Farr, Bloody Breathitt: Politics and Violence in the Appalachian South, by T.R.C. Hutton, and Helen Matthews Lewis: Living Social Justice in Appalachia by Helen Lewis all won the AWA’s Book of the Year Award for Nonfiction, and The Birds of Opulence by Crystal Wilkinson won for fiction.

Jane Gentry (1941–2014) worked as a professor of English at the University of Kentucky for forty years. The author of a large body of poetry as well as critical essays and book reviews, she served as Kentucky’s Poet Laureate from 2007 to 2008.

Julia Johnson is a professor of English and teaches in the MFA program in creative writing at the University of Kentucky. She is the author of three collections of poetry, Subsidence, The Falling Horse, and Naming the Afternoon.

From University Press of Kentucky

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