James Baker Hall displays photos,
to speak at Hanover College in October
Helen E. McKinney
(Sept. 2002) James Baker Hall has held the prestigious
title of Kentucky Poet Laureate since April 24, 2001. Before his two-year
tenure expires, Hall will have been able to share his experiences through
written words and images with a wide audience.
He currently has an exhibit at the Smith-Berry Gallery and Winery in
New Castle, Ky. The winery opened in mid-August. Halls exhibit
there is titled, Tobacco Harvest, an Elegy. These photographs
were taken on the Owen Flood farm during the 1970s. The art gallery
will rotate works by various artists every six to eight weeks.
Hall, a native Kentuckian, was born in Lexington in 1935.
He said he cultivated an interest in photography at an early age, working
for a relative at the University of Kentucky. He later learned a great
deal about this art form from Lexington optician and photographer, Ralph
Hall attended UK along with fellow Kentuckian, Wendell Berry. The two
also met up again at Stanford University. Hall is a recipient of the
prestigious Wallace Stenger Fellowship from Stanford.
Teaching, photography and writing have intermingled with his life throughout
the years. His teaching resume includes jobs at MIT Cambridge and the
University of Connecticut. Since 1973 he has been Associate Professor
of English at UK, teaching classes in poetry and fiction.
In 1995 Hall displayed an exhibit at the University of Kentucky Art
Museum titled, Orphans in the Attic. Rachael Sadinski, curator
of collections at the museum, described this work as a haunting
and evocative collection of photographs.
Sadinski said Hall has the ability to manipulate the medium. In reference
to his nature-based photographs, she said he captures the essence
of the moment; you can see the sun, smell the grass.
Hall said he knew at age 19 that he wanted to be a writer, in response
to an introduction to literature class he had taken. Until that point
he had been an all-sports athlete and had never considered a career
in the literary field, he said.
His latest book is titled, A Spring-Fed Pond. It contains
photographs made over a 40-year period with five Kentucky friends,
Hall has photographed many of his Kentucky peers, and the five who appear
in this book are his friend, Berry, Bobbie Ann Mason, Gurney Norman,
Ed McClanahan, and his wife, Mary Ann Taylor-Hall.
Hall was named Kentucky Poet Laureate during the Kentucky Writers
Day celebration in Frankfort, Ky.
Its an important program, said Daniel Strauss, Arts
Program Branch Manager for the Kentucky Arts Council. Its
not very formulized, meaning each Kentucky Poet Laureate decides what
they will do, said Strauss.
A selection committee studies the different nominations for the position
and decides who best qualifies, said Strauss.
There are two duties the Kentucky Poet Laureate must perform: Must make
a presentation at the annual Kentucky Writers Day on April 24
and strive to promote the literary arts in Kentucky through readings
of their work at meetings, seminars and conferences across the state.
There are three criteria the nominees must meet: Be a Kentucky resident,
be a published author of a work that is informed by living in Kentucky,
and have written a work which exhibits a high degree of creativity and
clarity of form and style.
Hall meets all three criteria very well, said Strauss.
Hall has also been a featured speaker with the Kentucky Humanities Council
since August 2001. Our poets laureate are ambassadors for Kentucky
writers, said Executive Director Virginia Smith. I believe
that in person readings and presentations make all the difference
in the experience we call poetry, which is an out loud art.
Hall takes his position as Kentucky Poet Laureate very seriously, frequently
traveling throughout the state to present lectures and poetry readings,
I am quite surprised at the interest in the Kentucky Poet Laureate,
said Hall. In order to bring about an increased awareness of Kentucky
literature to the public, Hall said he has given readings to colleges,
retirement homes, historical societies and womens clubs.
NOTE: On Oct. 11-13, Hall is tentatively scheduled
to be the keynote speaker and workshop leader for the Kentucky State
Poetry Societys Annual Poetry Workshop and Awards Weekend. This
event will be held at Rough River Dam State Resort Park, falls of Rough,
Ky. He will also give the keynote address at a writers conference
Oct. 4-6 at Hanover College in Hanover, Ind.
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