Athens County poet Kari Gunter-Seymour has been selected as the Ohio Poet of the Year for 2020 by the The Ohio Poetry Day Association. Gunter-Seymour was selected for her latest book of poems, A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen..
Gunter-Seymour formerly served as the City of Athens Poet Laureate and currently holds the position of Ohio Poet Lauerate. She is the third person to hold this position and was appointed by Gov. Mike DeWine in June 2020.
A ninth generation Appalachian, Gunter-Seymour seeks to honor that heritage in her poetry, often writing 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 said. “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.
“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.”
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 Judge Kathy 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.”