A career-spanning selection of verse from the award-winning emeritus Kentucky State Poet Laureate Jeff Worley
Robert Frost famously celebrated his appointment as Poet Laureate of Vermont with the question “Breathes there a bard who isn’t moved / When he finds his verse is understood / And not entirely disapproved / By his country and his neighborhood?” As if in answer, the title of emeritus Kentucky Poet Laureate Jeff Worley’s new volume of poetry, selected from his six previous full-length collections, makes reference to his Lexington, Kentucky home of many decades, where it is very clear that his verse indeed is celebrated by his neighborhood and well beyond. That’s because Worley is a peoples’ poet, whose verse is instantly accessible and relatable; but while he often writes with a humorous touch (really, his poem about his wife Linda and him batting an opossum around their kitchen, stark naked in the middle of the night, is worth the price of admission!), make no mistake – he is very serious about his craft, and his light lines carry a great weight of feeling (see his poems about his parents). Often that feeling is for nature and animals – indeed, the true POET LAUREATE OF AURORA AVENUE is revealed to be a spider dozing in her web, “hoping for / some small attention / a captive audience of one.” Prepare to be made captive yourself, because like this spider Worley weaves an entrancing web, gossamer fine, of well-wrought words, words enhanced here with lovely illustrations by Laura Lee Cundiff.
“Jeff Worley is a poet’s poet. He is a veteran practitioner of what a functioning and fruitful poem should look, taste, and feel like. His work seems motivated not by what he thinks editors want to publish but by what people want to read, something that gives us a fresh angle of perception on the world as he sees it but one that is recognizable in our common experience. His poems are couched in language that breathes vitality.... There is a generosity of spirit in these poems, a trait it would behoove all of us to admire and imitate.” —from the Introduction by Richard Taylor, Kentucky Poet Laureate 1999-2000
“Though it’s the delicate, yet hard-edged love poems that I love best in this wonderful debut, there are pleasures here on every page.” —Stephen Dunn, winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry
“Jeff Worley’s deceptively simple narratives evoke an affirmative generosity of spirit. This is an alluring and unforgettable first book.” —Ron Wallace
“Jeff Worley is a poet of uncommon precision, whose sense of detail reminds me of the ‘perfect pitch’ of some musicians—so that his poems seem to glow with an inner light, with the aura of a thing looked at with such love and attention it becomes a projection of the speaker’s most inner self.” —Michael Van Walleghen
Jeff Worley, Kentucky Poet Laureate for 2019-2021, is the author of six books of poetry and an anthology from University Press of Kentucky titled What Comes Down to Us: 25 Contemporary Kentucky Poets. His book The Only Time There Is won the Mid-List Press first-book competition. Happy Hour at the Two Keys Tavern was named 2006 Kentucky Book of the Year in Poetry, won the 2006 Society of Midland Authors Award, and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Worley has received numerous other awards for his writing, including three Al Smith Fellowships from the Kentucky Arts Council and a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship; over 500 of his poems have appeared in literary magazines and journals. He divides his time between Lexington and a cabin at Cave Run Lake.