MARSHA NORMAN
(1947)

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Marsha Norman is a prolific playwright, screenwriter and novelist who since the early 1980s has been one of the best-known writers in American drama. She has won the Pulitzer Prize, Tony Awards and a long list of other major honors.

Norman grew up near Audubon Park in Louisville, the oldest of two daughters and two sons of an insurance salesman and a homemaker. She has described her childhood as isolated, which she said turned out to be good for a future writer. Many of her plays are about family dynamics and relationships.

Norman graduated from Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, and earned a master’s degree from the University of Louisville.  She wrote for the Louisville Times and Kentucky Educational Television and worked as an educator in Jefferson County. 

The first of Norman’s 14 stage plays, “Getting Out” was produced at the Actors Theatre of Louisville and then Off Broadway in New York in 1979. The play is about a young woman paroled after an eight-year prison sentence for robbery, kidnapping and manslaughter. It was inspired by Norman’s experiences working with disturbed adolescents at Central State Hospital in Louisville.

SUZAN-LORI PARKS
(1963)

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Suzan-Lori Parks, the first African American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for drama (2002), is a playwright, musician, novelist, essayist and performer who has been called one of the most creative forces in modern theater.

She was one of three children born to a career Army officer and an educator. She was born at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and grew up there and in West Germany, California, North Carolina, Texas, Vermont and Maryland.

Parks earned a B.A. in English and German literature (Phi Beta Kappa) at Mount Holyoke College. She studied with James Baldwin, who encouraged her to become a playwright. She then studied acting for a year at Drama Studio London to better understand the stage. 

“It's not the imitation of life; it is actually life,” Parks said of writing drama. “Once you get to the moment of the curtain up at 7 o'clock at the Golden Theatre on Broadway, those people in the show, they're alive. And the people in the seats are alive. And at the end of the day, literally, when they take their bows, it's about what it means to be alive, what it means to be a community. I love action and activity. I love all the things about theater. It's not just action. It's not just dialogue. It's not just description. It's not just narrative arc. Often it includes song. It includes interacting with living people.”

RICHARD TAYLOR
(1941)

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Richard Lawrence Taylor, a sixth-generation Kentuckian who lives near Frankfort, is the author of 12 books of poetry, two novels and four books of nonfiction. His primary material has been the colorful history and landscape of Kentucky.

Taylor earned his B.A. in English from the University of Kentucky in 1963 and an M.A. in English from the University of Louisville in 1964. He earned a law degree from U of L (1967) and a Ph.D. in English from UK (1974). 

Beginning in 1975, he taught for many years at Kentucky State University, where he received the Distinguished Professor Award in 1992. He recently retired as the Kenan Visiting Writer at Transylvania University. He also regularly taught high school students in the summer Governor’s Scholars program.

Taylor may be best known as a poet, having served as Kentucky’s poet laureate from 1999 to 2001. The first of his 12 poetry collections, Bluegrass, was published in 1975 as one of the first books printed by Gray Zeitz at his legendary Larkspur Press in Owen County.

MADISON CAWEIN
(1865 - 1914)

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Madison Julius Cawein was a nationally-recognized and popular Romantic poet from Louisville in the decades before and after the turn of the 20
th century. Most of his poetry was about nature, extolling the natural beauty of his native Kentucky. Comparisons to the British poets Percy Shelley and John Keats earned him the nickname “Keats of Kentucky”.

Cawein was born in Louisville on March 23, 1865, one of four sons and a daughter of William Cawein, a confectioner, chef and herbal doctor, and Christina Stelsley Cawein, a spiritualist. The couple had four sons, a daughter and little money. 

When Cawein was 9, the family moved to rural Oldham County, where his father managed the Rock Springs Hotel for nearly two years. They later lived on a 20-acre hilltop farm near New Albany, Indiana, for three years. “Here I formed my great love for nature,” he said. 

The family returned to Louisville in 1879. Cawein graduated from Male High School in 1886 and was selected “class poet.” Unable to afford college, he worked as a cashier at the Newmarket pool room, a center for horse race gambling, and read classic literature when things weren’t busy.

BLANCHE TAYLOR DICKINSON
(1896 - 1972)

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Blanche Taylor Dickinson was a poet, short story writer and journalist whose poetry was published in a number of magazines and newspapers in the 1920s and has been widely anthologized with other Black poets of the Harlem Renaissance.

Dickinson was born in Franklin, Kentucky, on April 15, 1896 to a farmer, Thomas Taylor, and his wife, Laura. She attended segregated schools in Simpson County, Bowling Green Academy and Simmons College in Louisville and taught for several years in Black schools. She married truck driver Verdell Dickinson (1898-1978). One of her earliest published poems appeared in the local newspaper, The Franklin Favorite, in July 1925. At the time, Dickinson and her husband were living in his hometown of Trenton in nearby Todd County. 

Exactly two years later, the couple was living in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, and she was among a number of Black writers and artists featured in the magazine Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life.  In the magazine’s annual literary awards two months earlier, she had received a Buckner prize for “conspicuous promise” and for her poem “A Sonnet and a Rondeau.”

“As far back as I can remember I have had the urge to write poetry and stories,” Dickinson told the magazine. “My mother says that her youthful dreams were based on the same idea and perhaps she gave it to me as a pre-natal gift. I do write a salable story once in a while and an acceptable poem a little oftener. The American Anthology (Unicorn Press), just released, contains three of my poems. I am intensely interested in all the younger Negro writers and try to keep in touch with them through the Negro press.”

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