Richard Taylor

Kenan Visiting Writer

Richard Taylor believes strongly that “the health of a free society depends upon an educated populace, one that is open to free inquiry and creative exploration.” He also believes that Transylvania’s small classes and “genuine culture of learning” promote these ideals. And that’s why he finds himself happily engaged with Transylvania students.

As a well-respected author—and a former Kentucky poet laureate—you would think that Taylor has a lot to teach his creative writing students. But Taylor feels that he gets just as much from them. “They constantly teach me new ways of creative expression as I read and discuss their work.

A liberal education is preparation for a fuller life, not just a vocational expedient. It is the doorway to leading the life of the mind for a lifetime.

“I’m always reinvigorated by the creativity I see in students. It’s not a self-conscious creativity. It’s just something that’s there and it comes out. And it makes me say, ‘I’m really glad I’m doing this; it’s an honor to teach these students.’”

Taylor feels that frequently “creative students go straight into a rigorous academic program with very few opportunities to flex their creative muscles.” That’s not the case at Transylvania. He sees signs of creativity across the campus and among a large number of students. Some students participate in organized activities, perhaps with the theater, music, or art departments. Others find their own vehicles for creative expression, completely outside campus institutions.

For example, Taylor mentions several students who have independently participated in online novel-writing programs, where the participants are required to write thousands of words a month toward their work-in-progress. These students demonstrate an irrepressible creativity that the rigors of their academic schedules can’t stifle. Other students stop by his office on their own, outside of any classroom requirement, seeking advice about some verse or piece of fiction they’re working on. 

“Who would turn down that type of initiative among our students? Meeting students like that is incredibly encouraging, and it speaks very well of Transylvania. If it were just one or two students, it would be an anomaly. But it’s a pattern among many of our students.”

Taylor finds this very promising. “For years and years education in general has neglected the creative wellspring that is a part of the human mind. So I’m glad to see we’re putting more emphasis on that. And certainly professors Martha Gehringer and Maurice Manning and others on our campus are eliciting that from our students and giving them creative opportunities. It’s something we can claim some institutional distinction for doing.

“I work a lot with incoming students. I always ask ‘How do you like Transylvania?’ They all say the same thing: ‘I just love Transylvania, Dr. Taylor, I just love it.’ I think Transylvania students feel empowered and feel comfortable. They see themselves as part of a genuine learning community. I’ve been on a number of campuses, and it ain’t always so.”

Academic History

Ph.D., University of Kentucky, 1974
J.D., Brandeis School of Law, University of Louisville, 1967
M.A., University of Louisville, 1964
B.A., University of Kentucky, 1963

Courses Taught at Transy

Perspectives on Literature
Creative Writing, Poetry
Creative Writing, Fiction
First-Year Seminar

Areas of Research

Kentucky writing
Kentucky frontier history


Kentucky Poet Laureate, 1999–2000
Distinguished Professor Award from Kentucky State University, 1992
Two creative writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts
Fulbright scholar in Denmark
Reappointed for a four-year term as a member of the Kentucky Oral History Commission

Recent Publications

Rare Bird: Sonnets on the Life of John James Audubon, Larkspur Press, Monterey, Ky., 2011

Fading into Bolivia, Accents Publishing, Lexington, Ky., 2011

Professional Memberships

Kentucky Historical Society

Additional Information

Working on a collection of poetry based on the life of Transylvania graduate Cassius Marcellus Clay

Developing a classical Kentucky literature class with Neil Chethik at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning

Formerly an instructor and dean for Kentucky’s Governor’s Scholars Program and an instructor for the Governor’s School for the Arts

Has completed eight collections of poems, two novels, and three nonfiction works on Kentucky history