Lee Pennington, Jill Baker, and Appalachian Newground [5.24.16]

Lee Pennington’s latest book of Poetry and stories, Appalachian Newground, Illustrated by Jill Baker, is the first book in 23 years and marks his 20th published.  He is 2 time Pulitzer nominee and Former Poet Laureate of Kentucky. Lee and Jill will both be joining me on the radio hour this Tuesday, 9am, on 97.1 WXOX louisville, artxfm.com (global).

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“Those of us who know and love Lee Pennington’s work have waited 23 years for this book, and it was well worth the wait! Appalachian Newground , his twentieth book, holds the universe between its covers in the poems and short stories. You do not have to be from Appalachia to relate to the contents. He honors the land and people everywhere. There is something for each reader that will illuminate the mind, warm the heart, and touch the soul forever. It is beautifully illustrated by renowned artist, Jill Baker. Lee was Poet Laureate of Kentucky in 1984 and was twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. This book will undoubtedly earn him another nomination! This is a book you must buy and keep close at hand when you need to read something beautiful and inspirational!” -Roberto Brown, Amazon Review 

LEE PENNINGTON is the author of 19 books including I knew a Woman (1977 Love Street Books) and Thigmotropism (1993 Green River Writers/Grex Press)–both nominated for Pulitzer Prize. He has had over 1300 poem published in more than 300 magazines in America and abroad. In 1984 he was designated Poet Laureate of Kentucky by the state legislature. He has had nine plays produced, wrote the script for The Moonshine War (MGM, 1970, starring Alan Alda, Richard Widmark, etc.), and has published thousands of articles in everything from Playgirl to Mountain Life and Work. Since 1990, through his video production company, JoLe Productions (joleproductions.com), Lee, along with his late wife, Joy, produced 23 documentaries including In Search of the Mudmen (1990), Wales: History in Bondage (1995), and Secret of the Stones (1998), Eyes that Look at the Sky: The Mystery of Easter Island (2001), The Mound Builders (2001), The Serpent Fort: Solving the Mystery of Fort Mountain, Georgia (2005), Let Me Not Drown on the Waters: Fred Rydholm, Michigan’s “Mr. Copper”(2008), Sometimes You Clean, Sometimes You Litter: The Amazing Warner Sizemore (2012), Room to Fly: Anne Caudill’s Album (2013). Lee is a graduate Berea College in KY and the University of Iowa. He holds two Honorary Doctor degrees: Doctor of Literature from World University, and Doctor of Philosophy in Arts from The Academy of Southern Arts and Letters. He taught for nearly 40 years, the last 32 as Professor of English and creative writing at University of Kentucky Jefferson Community College until he retired in 1999 He has traveled extensively (in all the United States, all the Canadian Provinces except one, and in 78 foreign countries). He lives with artist Jill Baker in Kratz House, a designated historic home, in Middletown, KY. For the past six years, he has served as president of the Ancient Kentucke Historical Association, a group dedicated to the study and research of pre-Columbian contact in the Americas. In June of 2013 the University of Louisville in Kentucky dedicated and opened THE LEE AND JOY PENNINGTON CULTURAL HERITAGE GALLERY which houses Pennington’s body of work.  Link to Lee’s Documentaries
Jill Baker’s driving force in life is to show the beautifully complex design of the world. The softness or power of color and light she observes is so much more than meets the eye, that it is only through realism, either impressionistic or hard edge, that a painting can approach it.
“I began creating art when I about 2 years old. According to my mother, I spent hours a day and used up reams of paper drawing quietly by myself throughout my childhood.
“I was driven to try to recreate what I saw. I was determined to capture the beautiful things I saw around me. Others saw what I did and encouraged me. My grandmother was a prolific artist and created big, impressionistic paintings of ladies on patios, and landscapes with dark woods and open plains with mountains. Teachers in schools made me take art; my mother saw that I had painting lessons all during my teens. My high school art teacher threatened that if I didn’t have a picture on the front of Post Magazine when I grew up that he would come back at night and rattle the paintbrushes in my studio.
“In high school I was called upon to create posters and program covers. Everyone in my class asked me to draw them. I helped make backdrops and paintings for school assemblies and hundreds of charity auctions. I realized that, along with the talent I had, came responsibilities.
“As I grew older, I felt guilty when I didn’t have the time to paint, raising children in Bowling Green, Kentucky. But I was driven to return to creating art, driven by the thousands of visual images in my head that needed to be put down on paper or painted.
“In the early 1970’s I was asked if I would like to illustrate a book for Jim Wayne Miller, and then for Frank Steele. Following the publication of those books, I was asked by Love Street Books to design a cover for a prize-winning book of poetry for Bruce Rogers, Minoan Starships. In Louisville, Lee Pennington saw my illustrations in Jim Wayne Miller’s book and asked his publisher if he could ask me to design the cover of his book of poetry called Songs of Bloody Harlan. I did that and it turned out beautifully – a large block print of a man standing on an Appalachian ridge, while the evil ghost of Bloody Harlan swirls around him and the pine trees he stands with. I then was asked to illustrate a few other books by Lee Pennington and he and Joy developed a friendship with my husband and me. We visited them and they us over the years, exchanging Christmas cards every year, with me always surprised to find my images printed on the front of Lee’s cards, to illustrate his yearly poem. Eventually, when I was single and Lee’s wife of 49 years died, we got together and now live in Louisville in Kratz House.
As a young mother and faculty wife, I showed my work in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and gradually to a wider audience in Kentucky. The State of Kentucky chose my work to hang in the capital and called me an official ‘Kentucky Artist.’ I was chosen to exhibit my work in Paris at a major exhibition of American Art. My work was at the Speed Museum in Louisville and, after attending the Academia di Belle Arti and having a solo show at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, Italy I enjoyed a one-person show at the Parthenon in Nashville and a major show at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea.”
“I eventually moved to the SoHo district of New York City and earned my M.F.A. from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, in Painting, in 1981. I use a variety of techniques in painting, from Old Masters’ to Impressionistic. The oil paintings I have been doing lately are impressionistic landscapes on canvas.
“But I have continued to illustrate books of poetry and prose and illustrated three of my own books, My Turn, Poems of Accord and Satisfaction and Elba Journal. The last book I illustrated, of course, is Lee’s new book of poetry, Appalachian Newground.”

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Write on,
Rachel Short, Host

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