Jane Gentry Vance

Jane Gentry

Kentucky’s shining literary world dimmed over the weekend.  Jane Gentry Vance, former Kentucky poet laureate, University of Kentucky professor, poet, died Thursday after a long battle with cancer.

I had the pleasure of meeting Jane Gentry in June of 2008, during her tenure as poet laureate.  She read from her lovely book of poetry, A Garden in Kentucky, and we talked briefly about the upcoming Lincoln Celebration in Washington, D.C. in which we both would be participating.

The Lexington Herald-Leader’s obituary says that Jane Gentry’s family lived in Kentucky since Boonesboro was settled, around 1775.  http://www.kentucky.com/2014/10/04/3463523_former-kentucky-poet-laureate.html?rh=1

Her poetry not only reflects, but develops from her love of the state, the people, the flora and the fauna, the lifestyle, the lives of Kentucky.  If you want to understand Kentucky, read Jane Gentry Vance.

The Old Place, from A Garden in Kentucky

Sun pools

under the high trees

in the leafy rooms

birds crisscross

their songs.

Up the cliff, crows

fire war cries

at each other.

Men and women slap

cards on the table,

laugh, holler.

The creek

cold, mud-sucking

fresh and mossy

arcs with crawdads,

minnows. Boys

and girls skate

its slick floor

balancing like

tightrope walkers

arms outstretched.

Pepsi-Colas frosted

in the ice chest.

Warm sweet beans,

Mary’s potato salad.

Chicken fried

to crumbled bites.

Across the valley

the red-and-white barn

breathes cool

silky tobacco dust.

Around the white-

washed outhouse

mud daubers write

in terrifying loops

the script of this day

so bright, invisible.