Lexington poet Jeff Worley has been named Kentucky Poet Laureate 2019-2020, Gov. Matt Bevin’s office announced Wednesday.
“I’m grateful for the recognition and I’m very eager to spread the gospel of poetry around the state,” Worley, 71, said in a statement. Worley, a Wichita, Ks. native, has written five books of poetry, including “Happy House at Two Keys Tavern,” which won the 2006 Kentucky Book of the Year in Poetry. After working at the University of Maryland and Penn State-Altoona, he came to Kentucky in 1986 and joined the staff of Odyssey, the University of Kentucky’s science research magazine. He became editor in 1997 and retired from UK in 2010.
In a telephone interview, Worley said he planned on visiting high schools, colleges and civic groups to give presentations about Kentucky writers and poets such as James Baker Hall, Wendell Berry, Leatha Kendrick, Maurice Manning and Richard Taylor.
Worley’s two year term will be inaugurated on April 24, the birthday of Kentucky native Robert Penn Warren, the first U.S. Poet Laureate and author of “All the King’s Men.”
Neil Chethick, executive director of the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning, said Worley has worked with the Carnegies Center over the years and will do a good job.
“He is a really good guy who loves to teach and help others,” Chethick said. “He’s a generous, generous person ... he’s a person who is really passionate about poetry and teaching poetry.”
In addition to the accolades for his books, Worley has received three Kentucky Arts Council Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowships and a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship.