Spalding MFA in Writing Director Kathleen Driskell wins Transylvania book award

Author Kathleen Driskell, who is the director of Spalding’s Master of Fine Arts in Writing program, has won Transylvania University’s 2018 Judy Gaines Young Book Award for her collection of poems, “Next Door to the Dead.”

Now in its fourth year, the Judy Gaines Young Book Award recognizes recent works by writers in the Appalachian region.  It’s the second straight year a member of the Spalding MFA in Writing faculty has won the award, following Crystal Wilkinson in 2017 for her novel “The Birds of Opulence.”

Driskell found inspiration for her book while visiting a cemetery next to a former country church where she lives outside Louisville.

Transylvania professor Jeremy Paden praised her work. “In ‘Next Door to the Dead’​ Kathleen has written eloquent, gripping, tender and even humorous poems that explore loss and longing,” he said. “This is a wonderful collection of poems that have much wisdom and art to teach the reader. Death can pull us apart; it can bring us together.”

According to the book’s publisher, University Press of Kentucky, Driskell often strolls through the cemetery, imagining the lives and loves of those buried there. “’Next Door to the Dead’ transcends time and place, linking the often disconnected worlds of the living and the deceased. Just as examining the tombstones forces the author to look more closely at her own life, Driskell’s poems and their muses compel us to examine our own mortality, as well as how we impact the finite lives of those around us.”

Driskell, who is also associate editor of the Louisville Review, was a longtime associate director of the Spalding MFA program before being promoted to director in January. She has written numerous books and collections, including “Laughing Sickness” and “Seed Across Snow.”

Driskell will give a reading and receive her award on March 21 at 5 p.m. in Transylvania’s Cowgill Center, Room 102. The event will be free and open to the public.

Driskell will be introduced by this year’s judge, Jason Howard, editor of Appalachian Heritage at Berea College.

Transylvania’s annual book award is funded by Byron Young, who graduated in 1961, in honor if his late wife Judy Gaines Young, a ’62 graduate.

Driskell’s award comes with a cash prize, and a signed copy of the volume will be preserved in the Transylvania Special Collections.

A reception and book signing will follow the ceremony.

The Cowgill Center is in Old Morrison Circle off West Third Street. Free, nearby parking is available.

Read more about Spalding’s low-residency MFA program, which has been ranked in the top-10 nationally by Poets and Writers, at Here is the link for Driskell’s “Next Door to the Dead.”