UK Happenings

Shayla Lawson, Keith Wilson Bring Affrilachian Poetry to Visiting Writers Series at UK

photo of headshots for Shayla Lawson and Keith Wilson
Shayla Lawson and Keith Wilson are among the esteemed writers known as the Affrilachian Poets.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 4, 2020)  The Visiting Writers Series (VWS), hosted by the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program in the University of Kentucky Department of English, is set to welcome Affrilachian Poets Shayla Lawson and Keith Wilson. The free public discussion, presented in partnership with Gaines Center for the Humanities, will begin 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6, in the William T. Young Library UK Athletics Auditorium.

The VWS began in the spring of 2014 with a reading by poet Roger Reeves. Each year, the program continues to bring nationally renowned authors to UK’s campus.

"This series is a source of inspiration and excitement for our students and continues to add to the overall vibrant literary culture of Lexington,” Crystal Wilkinson, associate professor of English and series organizer, said.

Gaines Center Director Melynda Price agreed, "We are so excited to collaborate with the MFA Visiting Writers Series, to bring these two poets to campus, particularly Shayla Lawson who is a former Gaines Fellow. For 35 years the Gaines Center for the Humanities has worked to immerse undergraduate students in the study of the humanities. This has led them down many different paths, so we are honored, when we can, to welcome one so accomplished in their field back to campus."

A UK alumna and Gaines Fellow, Shayla Lawson is the author of three books of poetry — “A Speed Education in Human Being,” the chapbook “PANTONE” and “I Think I’m Ready to see Frank Ocean” — and the forthcoming essay collection “THIS IS MAJOR” (Harper Perennial, 2020). Her work has appeared in print and online at Tin House, GRAMMA, ESPN, Salon, The Offing, Guernica, Colorado Review, Barrelhouse and MiPOesias.

Lawson curates The Tenderness Project with Ross Gay and writes poems with Chet’la Sebree. A MacDowell and Yaddo Artist Colony Fellow, she currently serves as writer-in-residence and chair of creative writing at Amherst College. She is also supported by Cini Foundation of Venice, Italy, and the Allen Fellowship at New York Public Library.

Keith S. Wilson is a Cave Canem Fellow. He is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, as well as fellowships/grants from Bread Loaf, Kenyon College, Tin House, MacDowell, Vermont Studio Center, UCross and Millay Colony, among others. Wilson serves as assistant poetry editor at Four Way Review and digital media editor at Obsidian Journal.

Wilson’s first book, “Fieldnotes on Ordinary Love,” was published by Copper Canyon. His work in game design includes Once Upon a Tale, a storytelling card game designed for Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago in collaboration with The Field Museum of Chicago, and alternate reality games (ARGs) for the University of Chicago. He has worked with or taught new media with Kenyon College, the Field Museum, the Adler Planetarium and the University of Chicago.

VWS will continue with two more talks this semester featuring “Stay and Fight” author Madeline ffitch scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, March 12, at Gatton Student Center, and poet Li-Young Lee 7 p.m. Thursday, April 9, at a location to be determined.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.