Friday, July 31, 2020

Kari Gunter-Seymour is named Ohio Poet of the Year 2020

The Ohio Poetry Day Association has selected Kari Gunter-Seymour as its Ohio Poet of the Year for 2020. Gunter-Seymour was selected for her latest book of poems, A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions, 2020).

Residing near Athens, Ohio, Gunter-Seymour is a ninth generation Appalachian and seeks to honor that heritage in her poetry. She often writes in the voices of those she encounters and uses a regional accent when she performs.

“As an Appalachian poet, I take great pride in my heritage,” Gunter-Seymour says. “For generations my ancestors have loved and worked the land, read their Bibles and migrated as the weather or wanderlust prescribed, handing down their knowledge and experiences through story and song.”

Chosen from among eight books nominated for Ohio Poet of the Year, A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen is Gunter-Seymour’s second poetry collection.  [The first is Serving.]

“This [Ohio Poet of the Year] award feels like a victory for all who came before me,” she said, “as well as all yet to come and for the untold number of Appalachian poets, writers and singer/songwriters who have touched my life and my writing in so many ways.”

Kathy Fagan, one of four judges and the 2017 Ohio Poet of the Year for her book Sycamore, calls Gunter-Seymour “a poet for whom family and region provide a well-source of words.”

Gunter-Seymour’s winning the award comes on the heels of her recently being selected as Ohio’s third State Poet Laureate by Governor Mike DeWine. She also previously was Poet Laureate of Athens, Ohio.

Gunter-Seymour is also the founder and Executive Director of the Women of Appalachia Project. This organization offers opportunities for women artists of Appalachian descent and diverse backgrounds, ages and experiences to participate in artistic programs as a way, according to its website, “to embrace the stereotype, to show the whole woman.” The Women of Appalachia Project sponsors spoken word events, poetry readings, fine art exhibitions and other artistic programs and publications.

The Ohio Poetry Day Association was founded in 1937 by authorization of the Ohio Legislature. Since 1976, it has selected annually an Ohio Poet of the Year, basing its choice on a book published in the previous one to two years. The award is based on the one book and not on an aggregation of work published over time. Four judges are selected to review the nominees, one of which is always a previous poet of the year winner.

“I was honored to read books by all the outstanding nominees for Ohio Poet of the Year,” said Fagan. “Gunter-Seymour joins an impressive list of previous winners, re-inscribing for each of us just how rich and deep Ohio’s poetic heritage has been.”

Another judge, Robin Mullet (co-author with Holli Rainwater of The Curve of Her Arm) said that being a judge was one of the most challenging tasks she has ever had because each of the nominees was deserving of the award.

“Although I have long known that Ohio was a treasure chest of poetry, I was still blown away by the depth, diversity and richness of the language of these skilled poets,” she said.

For more about the 2020 Ohio Poet of the Year, please visit


The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau