Unique Kentucky Voice and Former Poet Laureate's Collected Work Hits the Shelves
Jane Gentry (1941-2014) was a consummate poet, beloved and influential teacher, a mentor to generations of young writers, Poet Laureate for the Commonwealth from 2007-2008, and a unique Kentucky voice.
A true practitioner of her craft, she had an uncanny ability to spin quietly expansive and wise verses from small details, objects, and remembered moments, perfectly capturing the essence of lyricism. Her poetry is deeply rooted in place, exuding a strong connection to the life and land of her native Kentucky.
When she passed away from cancer in 2014, shortly after her retirement from the University of Kentucky, Jeff Clymer, chairman of the English department, and Mark Kornbluh, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, wrote in a joint letter to the university, "As a poet, Jane wrote with insight and grace of family, of the intricacies of our emotions, and of the ironies of everyday life. Her moving and elliptical poetry gave us new ways to think about life's complexities, often with a dash of ironic humor."
Alternately startling and heart-wrenching, The New and Collected Poetry of Jane Gentry offers a valuable retrospective of the celebrated poet's work. Upon learning of her diagnosis, 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 The result is the entirety of Gentry's published work alongside new, previously unpublished poems.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 two previously published full-length collections of poetry in their entirety-A Garden in Kentucky and Portrait of the Artist as a White Pig. The final section includes Gentry's unpublished work, from verses written for loved ones to a large group of recent poems intended for future collections.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. Since many of the poems are undated, Johnson arranged the final section, "Late Poems," by thematic principles into four sections. Additionally, several early unpublished poems are included.
"Like Elizabeth Bishop, Jane Gentry is a poet of houses and family history; like Muriel Rukeyser, she is a poet of the body and the body politic. At once earthy and learned, wild and restrained, she is a poet of the whole self. Her work draws strength and subject from its Kentucky roots," said George Ella Lyon, Kentucky Poet Laureate (2015-2016) and author of Many-Storied House: Poems. The New and Collected Poetry of Jane Gentry has also been selected as the 2017 Thomas D. Clark Medallion Book Award recipient, an award given to a book that highlights Kentucky history and culture.
"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," wrote 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.
Jane Gentry (1941-2014) worked as a professor of English at the University of Kentucky for forty years. The author of 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 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.
The New and Collected Poems of Jane Gentry
Jane Gentry | Edited by Julia Johnson