English professor receives statewide poetry honor

Anthony Hellmueller

Joe Survant spent his life teaching and writing poetry.

This spring the semi-retired English Professor is going to spread his passion throughout Kentucky.

Survant, who has been teaching at Western for 32 years, was selected as the Kentucky Poet Laureate from 2003 until 2005.

Ed Lawrence, Spokesman for the Kentucky Arts Council, said Survant’s duties as poet laureate will include speaking and reading poetry at various events and forums in Kentucky that include grade-schools, literary clubs and universities to help promote the arts in Kentucky.

The Kentucky Poet Laureate is chosen by a selection committee that includes librarians, writers and educators. Survant was chosen from a pool of nominated candidates.

Survant was nominated by Richard Taylor, an English professor at Kentucky State University and a former poet laureate.

English Professor Mary Ellen Miller has been a colleague of Survant for about 30 years. She said he is a great poet and a fine speaker and teacher.

“He is very serious in his purposes,” she said.

Survant will officially start on April 24 when Gov. Paul Patton will induct him in a special ceremony at the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort.

Survant’s induction coincides with Kentucky Writers’ Day, which celebrates the birthday of Robert Penn Warren, who was Kentucky’s first poet laureate.

Besides teaching, he has published several collections of poetry including “Anne & Alpheus, 1842-1882” and “Rafting Rise.”

He will begin another work –with a working title of ‘The First West’– this year. “The First West,” “Anne & Alpheus, 1842-1882” and “Rafting Rise” will complete a trilogy of his poetry about Kentuckians in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

Survant said the new position should help him gain more exposure for his work.

“It should make me more visible around the state,” Survant said.

Reach Anthony Hellmueller at [email protected]