National Poetry Month is a celebration of poetry which takes place every April. It was introduced in 1996 and is organized by the Academy of American Poets as a way to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States.
The Jackson County Public Library in Ripley will be celebrating National Poetry Month on Saturday, April 6 with a book reading by Kirk Judd and a poetry workshop by Susanna Holstein.
Beginning at noon, guest speaker Kirk Judd will be reading from a new book of poems from his long-time friend, the late Joseph Barrett. The book is titled “Blue Planet Memoirs” and it has a story of its own.
Barrett, originally from Richwood, West Virginia, attended Bethany College where he studied abroad as an exchange student at Oxford.
He published his first poetry collection, “Roots Deep in Sand” at just 19 years-old.
In 1975 he arrived at Antioch College/Appalachia in Beckley and quickly became associated with the Soupbean Collective. Bob Snyder was one of Barrett’s mentors.
Barrett, met Judd in 1977 at a writers conference and they soon became great friends.
Judd was a founding member of the West Virginia Writers and Barrett soon became a member as well.
In 1978 Barrett published his second poetry collection, “Periods of Lucidity.”
Throughout the years Barrett and Judd attended other writing conferences and events. Barrett continued to write his poetry and completed work on a third collections of poems in the 1980s.
In 1990, Barrett lost his life in a tragic accident.
Judd knew Barrett has completed a manuscript of his poetry that was ready to be published prior to his death. He knew there were two copies, one he gave Judd and the other he gave to his wife.
The years following Barrett’s passing, Judd continued to remain in contact with Barrett’s wife. He had discussed taking the manuscript to a publisher, but Barrett’s wife was not ready.
In time, she remarried and after additional discussion, in 2015 she agreed to let Judd take the manuscript to be published.
Judd contacted several publishers, all wanted an electronic copy of the manuscript to review; however, being written in the 80s, electronic capabilities were not available at that time.
Later in 2015, Judd attended an Appalachian Studies Association Conference in Johnson City, Tennessee where he ran into Chris Green, a former professor at Marshall University.
Green being a professor at Berea College at the time, was also a member of the Southern Appalachia Writers Cooperative (SAWC). He suggested Judd allow him to take Barrett’s manuscript and have his grad student make an electronic copy that Judd could then send to publishers.
Once the manuscript was in electronic form, Scott Goebel, also of the SAWC became involved and contacted Dos Madres Press.
Dos Madres Press had recently begun publishing pieces of literature by authors posthumously and they decided to take on the project.
Barrett’s book, “Blue Planet Memoirs” was finally published in October 2018. Since the publication, Judd has travelled all over WV presenting his friends work at libraries, conferences, and events.
“I am proud of Joe and the work he accomplished during his time here,” said Judd. “My goal now is to make sure he is remembered for the literary legend he is. I will always be his number one fan.”