Irene McKinney

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Irene McKinney (April 20, 1939 – February 4, 2012)[1] was an American poet and editor, and served as the Poet Laureate of the state of West Virginia from her appointment by Governor Gaston Caperton in January 1994[2] until her death.


One of six children, Irene McKinney grew up in Barbour County, WV on a 300-acre farm that had been in her family for generations.[3] She attended a one-room school, Concord School, for first through fifth grades. McKinney recalls that her second grade teacher, Mrs. Teeter, recognized and encouraged her by giving her a double promotion from second to fourth grade.[4]

McKinney was born in Belington and earned her B.A. in English Literature at West Virginia Wesleyan College, in addition to an M.A. at West Virginia University and her PhD in English literature from the University of Utah.[1] She was a protégé of and editor for Louise McNeill; a relationship which helped form her commitment to regionalism in writing—McKinney's poetry is steeped in the rural Appalachian landscape and frequently explores the connections between people and place.[5] She died of cancer at the family home in Barbour County at the age of 72.[2]

McKinney was proud of her West Virginia rural heritage. She shows the depth of her value for her home state in this quote: "When people say this state is backward, I simply am astounded. I had access to a farm community, a small peaceful town and school and good, dedicated teachers. I was in nature and in literature--a perfect combination for a writer".[4]

Poetry collections[edit]

  • Unthinkable: Collected Poems 1976-2004 (Red Hen Press, 2009)
  • Vivid Companion (Vandalia Press, 2004)
  • Six O'Clock Mine Report (U of Pittsburgh Press, 1989)
  • Quick Fire and Slow Fire (North Atlantic Books, 1988)
  • The Wasps at the Blue Hexagons (Small Plot Press, 1984)
  • The Girl With the Stone in Her Lap (North Atlantic Books, 1976)

As editor[edit]

Backcountry: Contemporary Writing in West Virginia (Editor, Vandalia Press, 2002)

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b "W.Va. poet laureate Irene McKinney dies at 72". Charleston, West Virginia: Charleston Gazette-Mail. February 4, 2012. Archived from the original on December 17, 2012. Retrieved February 5, 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Irene McKinney, West Virginia's poet laureate, dies of cancer at age 72". Columbus, Indiana: The Republic. February 5, 2012. Retrieved February 5, 2012.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ "Guide to Resources for the Study of West Virginia Authors and Appalachian Literary Traditions: Irene McKinney". Annie Merner Pfeiffer Library, West Virginia Wesleyan College. Archived from the original on 2016-08-02. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Brown, Brooke A.; Alkire, Jennifer Francis, eds. (2005). An Appalachian Education Initiative. Morgantown, WV: Appalachian Education Initiative. pp. 16–17. ISBN 0-9767021-0-X. My teacher, Mrs. Teeter, recognized that I was a precocious reader, and she encouraged me and gave me a "double promotion," which made me realize that I had ability.
  5. ^ "Irene McKinney". Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation. 2018-03-02. Retrieved 2018-03-03.