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Poet Irene McKinney (April 20, 1939 – February 4, 2012) was born in Belington, Barbour County. She received her bachelor’s degree from West Virginia Wesleyan College in 1968, her master’s from West Virginia University in 1970, and her Ph.D. from the University of Utah in 1980. Her first book of poems, The Girl with the Stone in Her Lap, was published in 1976. She was the director of creative writing at West Virginia Wesleyan College, having also taught at the University of California at Santa Cruz, the University of Utah, and Huttonsville Correctional Center.

In 1984, McKinney’s collection of poetry, The Wasps at the Blue Hexagons, was published. She won a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1985. She has also won the Utah Arts Council Prize Award in Fiction, the Breadloaf Scholarship, the Cincinnati Review Annual Poetry Prize, the Kentucky Foundation for Women Award, and the Appalachian Mellon Fellowship. Following the death of Louise McNeill, Governor Gaston Caperton appointed McKinney state poet laureate in 1993; she served in that role until her death. McKinney also was poet-in-residence for the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and cofounder of Trellis, a West Virginia poetry journal. Her other collections of poetry were Quick Fire and Slow Fire (1988), Six O’clock Mine Report (1989), Vivid Companion (2004), and Unthinkable: Selected Poems 1976-2004 (2009).

Irene McKinney died in Buckhannon. She was succeeded as poet laureate by Marc Harshman.

This Article was written by James Slack

Last Revised on July 21, 2023

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Cite This Article

Slack, James "Irene McKinney." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 21 July 2023. Web. 21 July 2024.


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