Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame inducts five new members


Travis Fannon

Shayla D. Lynch, Executive Director of the Carnegie Center, speaks during the 2023 Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Thursday, March 23, 2023, at the Kentucky Theatre in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Travis Fannon | Staff

Justice McKinney, Reporter

The Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning hosted the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame 2023 Induction Ceremony at The Kentucky Theatre on March 23. 

The Carnegie Center’s Executive Director, Shayla D. Lynch, and Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton introduced the start of the ceremony, giving thanks to the sponsors, the committee members and the Kentucky Arts Council that helped organize the event. 

“Here in the heart of the Bluegrass we cherish the art of writing and we celebrate our authors. Fine writing is a Kentucky tradition,” Gorton said. 

The inductees were the late Madison Cawein, the late Blanche Taylor Dickinson, Richard Taylor, Suzan Lori-Parks and Marsha Norman. 

Tom Eblen, literary arts liaison for the Carnegie Center, presented several writers from Kentucky who had reputable and awarded pieces from last year. The list included those who wrote novels, playwrights, poems and songs. 

The event showcased the writers’ pieces and upcoming projects they may be bringing into the 2023 year. 

“Kentucky writers are so numerous and talented, it’s hard to keep up with everyone,” Eblen said. 

U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón spoke via video in admiration for the Carnegie Center and the honor of requesting her attendance, though she could not attend in person due to a prior commitment. Limón praised being a Kentuckian and the state for holding such high honors toward writers.

“Kentucky is such an incredible place to be a writer and all of you who are in the audience know that it is an exceptional community of writers — of friends — that lift each other up and never fail to celebrate one another,” Limón said. 

Eblen spoke of the late Cawein, a Louisville native known for his romantic poetry. Cawein was born in 1865 and died in 1914.

Louisville writer David Dominé read a few select poems from Cawein, all of which highlighted the nature and beauty of Kentucky’s land.

Late inductee Dickinson was a poet, short story writer and journalist. Dickinson was among other Black poets of the Harlem Renaissance, whom people praised for highlighting the difficulty of Black women’s lives.

Richard Taylor is a sixth-generation Kentuckian known for poetry and novels. Many of Taylor’s pieces focus on the history and landscape of Kentucky. 

Taylor read from his piece “In Praise of Sycamores.” 

Lori-Parks, from Fort Knox, Kentucky, was the first African American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for drama. The musician, novelist, playwright and performer couldn’t attend the induction in person due to her upcoming play premiere, but she sent a video to give her thanks and appreciation for being recognized in the ceremony. 

Instead of showcasing a written piece from Lori-Parks, actors performed scene five from her play “Topdog/Underdog.”

The final inductee of the ceremony, Norman, is a playwright, screenwriter and novelist. The Louisville native has also won a Pulitzer Prize, Tony Awards and received many other accreditations. 

Norman chose a song from her musical, “The Secret Garden,” to be performed instead of reciting her literary works. Kelli Jo Summers performed the song, “Hold On,” with accompaniment by Caleb Ritchie.