Showcasing the Arts


Kentucky Poet Laureate
Jeff Worley: Biography

Jeff Worley
Kentucky Poet Laureate

“I’m grateful for the recognition and I’m very eager to spread the gospel of poetry around the state,” — Jeff Worley, Kentucky Poet Laureate


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Jeff Worley was born in Wichita, Kan., on July 10, 1947. He received his Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Wichita State University.

Prior to moving to Kentucky in 1986, Worley taught in the University of Maryland’s European Division in Heidelberg, Germany, and at the University of Cincinnati, Penn State University and Transylvania University. He has also served as Writer in Residence and conducted poetry writing workshops at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning.

Worley is the author of six book-length collections of poetry: “The Only Time There Is” (Mid-List Press, 1995), which won Mid-List’s yearly national first-book competition, “A Simple Human Motion” (Larkspur Press, 2000), “Happy Hour at the Two Keys Tavern” (Mid-List Press, 2006), “Best to Keep Moving” (Larkspur Press, 2009), “Driving Late to the Party: The Kansas Poems,” (Woodley Press) and “A Little Luck” (Texas Review Press).

“Happy Hour at the Two Keys Tavern” was named co-winner in the Society of Midland Authors Literary Competition, won 2006 Kentucky Book of the Year in Poetry (award given at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest) and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Worley has received three Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowships from the Kentucky Arts Council and a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship.

His poems have appeared in over 500 literary magazines and journals, including “College English,” “The Threepenny Review,” “Poetry Northwest,” “Black Warrior Review,” “Chicago Review,” “The Georgia Review,” “Harvard Review,” “New England Review,” “Shenandoah,” “DoubleTake,” “The Sewanee Review,” “The Southern Review” and “The Missouri Review,” and in the anthology Writing Poems (Pearson, Longman, 6th ed.).

The Kentucky poet laureate promotes the literary arts in Kentucky through readings of his work at community and educational events, meetings, seminars and conferences across the state. Since 1995, the governor has appointed the position in consultation with the arts council. Worley succeeds poet laureate Frederick Smock, who was appointed in 2017. Worley will serve through the end of 2020.


Page last updated: July 24, 2019
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