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Halifax County produces newest poet laureate

South Boston News
Kelly Cherry / January 17, 2011
Kelly Cherry of Halifax County has been named poet laureate for the state of Virginia, Gov. Bob McDonnell has announced.

“I’m delighted. I think it’s an honor,” said Cherry from her home outside the Town of Halifax over the weekend. “I’m happy to join the company of previous poets laureate.”

Cherry and her husband, the fiction writer Burke Davis III, have lived here for 10 years.

During her two-year tenure as poet laureate, Cherry said she would like to focus on senior citizens, although she’s not sure precisely how she’ll do this — perhaps with readings at nursing homes, assisted living facilities or to senior groups. Mostly, Cherry hopes to reach out into Virginia’s communities, and she would like to hear from citizens on how she might do this.

The title of poet laureate has no formal duties or expectations from the governor, “and they don’t pay a penny, either,” she laughed.

Cherry was born in Baton Rouge, La., and grew up in Richmond. In 1999, she retired as Eudora Welty Professor Emerita of English and Evjue-Bascom Professor Emerita in the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 2000, she and Davis married. The couple wanted to relocate either to Virginia or North Carolina, and they found a fixer-upper farmhouse here.

While Halifax is very much their home, the couple travels often to short-term teaching positions,

readings, conferences and residencies.

“I write because I have ideas that can be realized only by writing. I should also mention that I love to write,” her website says. “And I love the thought that somewhere there may be someone who reads my work and responds to the heart of what I write.”

Cherry is the author of 20 books of fiction (novels, short stories), poetry, and nonfiction (memoir, essay, criticism), eight chapbooks, and translations of two classical plays.

Her short fiction has been reprinted in Best American Short Stories, Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards, The Pushcart Prize, and New Stories from the South, and has won three PEN/Syndicated Fiction Awards. In 2000, her collection “The Society of Friends: Stories,” received the Dictionary of Literary Biography Award for the best volume of short stories published in 1999. She was the first recipient of the Hanes Poetry Prize given by the Fellowship of Southern Writers for a body of work. Other awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bradley Major Achievement (Lifetime) Award.

To contact Cherry, e-mail her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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