'Black Nature' Poet Camille Dungy to Headline Kentucky Women Writers Conference

By Whitney Hale

Poet Camille T. Dungy, known for her groundbreaking anthology of African-American nature poetry, will be the keynote speaker for the 2017 Kentucky Women Writers Conference, running Sept. 15-16. Dungy, who has two books scheduled to be released this year including her debut memoir, will present her keynote address 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15, at the University of Kentucky Singletary Center for the Arts. The event is free and open to the public.

“Camille Dungy’s seminal anthology of African-American environmental poetry, 'Black Nature,' redefined the American poetic canon. At the same time, her own volumes of poetry have enlarged our sense of the possibilities for nature poetry. Kentucky’s proud tradition of writing about the land, together with the remarkable 25-year run of accomplishments by the Affrilachian Poets, says to me that Camille Dungy’s visit to Kentucky is long overdue. We are thrilled to welcome her as our keynote speaker,” said Conference Director Julie Kuzneski Wrinn.

Dungy is the author of four collections of poetry: "Trophic Cascade," "Smith Blue," "Suck on the Marrow" and "What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison." She edited "Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry," co-edited "From the Fishouse" poetry anthology, and served as associate editor for "Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade."

Poet Camille T. Dungy, known for her groundbreaking anthology of African-American nature poetry, will be the keynote speaker for the 2017 Kentucky Women Writers Conference, running Sept. 15-16. Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffith

Dungy's debut collection of personal essays, "Guidebook to Relative Strangers," will be published this year by W.W. Norton and Company. The book was inspired by Dungy's life as a poet-lecturer who traveled America with her young child and how intensely aware she became of how they were seen, not just as mother and child but as black females. Through her essays, Dungy explores our inner and outer worlds ― her multitudinous experiences of mothering, illness and the ever-present embodiment of race ― finding fear and trauma but also mercy, kindness and community.

A celebrated poet, Dungy has earned much critical acclaim. Her honors include an American Book Award, two Northern California Book Awards, two NAACP Image Award nominations, and a California Book Award silver medal. Dungy is the recipient of fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Sustainable Arts Foundation, the Diane Middlebrook Residency Fellowship of the Djerassi Resident Artist Program, and other organizations. Her poems and essays have been published in "Best American Poetry," "The 100 Best African American Poems," nearly 30 other anthologies, and over 100 print and online journals. Dungy is currently a professor in the English department at Colorado State University.

The 39th annual Kentucky Women Writers Conference, will take place Sept. 15-16, 2016, at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning and other Lexington venues. A program of the UK College of Arts and Sciences, the conference is the longest running literary festival of women in the nation. Registration opens May 1.

For more information on the conference, visit online at www.kentuckywomenwriters.org.

UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: uky.edu/uk4ky. #uk4ky #seeblue

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