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Silas House is Kentucky’s next poet laureate

Silas House sits on the edge of a desk in a room. The walls of the room are lined with books. Silas wears a dark blue shirt with a floral print.
C. Williams
Silas House, photo by C. Williams

Gov. Andy Beshear named Laurel County-born writer Silas House as the 2023-2024 Kentucky poet laureate.

House’s love for writing started as a child growing up in the Appalachian mountains.

“Most Kentuckians have an innate sense of how to tell a story,” Silas said in an interview with LPM News. “I certainly grew up around people who knew how to tell stories. And all I did was take it a step further and put it down on the page.”

House took note of the oral storytelling traditions he was raised in and used them to inform his own writing.

“I remember as a child thinking, I love these stories, but I'm afraid that they'll disappear if they're not written down. And that was my first goal as a writer was to preserve,” House said.

House also credited the public education system for making him the writer he is.

“I'm so proud to have gone through the public school system and Kentucky and to have had wonderful, caring, encouraging teachers who were able to see that I had something in me and bring that out in me,” House said.

He said that all young people need figures who recognize their potential and can uplift them to reach it.

In his role as the state’s poet laureate, House aims to represent as many Kentuckians as possible.

House describes himself as a multi-faceted person.

He was raised working class in a rural area. His accent can’t be missed. He’s a person of faith. And he’s the state’s first openly gay poet laureate.

“There are many identities that I have ,and I think that I can represent a big chunk of our population for those reasons,” House said.

Following the past state legislative session, which featured many bills that targeted trans and other people in the LGBTQ community, House sees being an openly gay person chosen to represent the state as particularly important.

“One of the main intentions of that legislation has been to negate and erase people,” House said. “I will certainly make sure that I'm visible, and that all the facets of myself are seen, and that I represent as many people as possible.”

Growing up, House said he would have loved to have the representation he hopes to provide as poet laureate.

He hopes his writing and position as Kentucky poet laureate will allow people to see Kentucky, particularly the rural parts, in a fuller context.

“Some people think about Kentucky as an illiterate place and a backward place,” House said. “I think it's really important to remind people of what a rich history we have as a place of literature.”

During his tenure as poet laureate, House said he wants to increase celebrations of authors from the state, like bell hooks, Wendell Berry and Barbara Kingsolver.

“I want to celebrate them, I want more people to know that they are Kentuckians,” House said.

House will be inducted as poet laureate at a ceremony on April 24, Kentucky Writers’ Day.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.