Former Alumna and Professor Emerita Irene McKinney Honored in Posthumous Publication

Monday, September 30th, 2013

In September, West Virginia Wesleyan Press released Have You Had Enough Darkness Yet?, the final volume of poems penned by the late Irene McKinney ’67, professor Emerita at Wesleyan and former Poet Laureate of West Virginia from 1994-2012.  McKinney was responsible for launching the College’s low-residency Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program before her death in 2012.  McKinney’s collection is the inaugural publication for Wesleyan’s  press.

“This book features Irene McKinney’s last poems, full of the intensity and truth that we expect from her work,” stated Boyd Creasman, vice president of academic affairs at the College.  “Written as she neared the end of her life, this book finds her at the height of her creative powers.”

The volume has received positive feedback.  American poet Gerald Stern commented, “What this book is, is consciousness on fire, the dream come true—‘plangent, like a bell.’”  Dorianne Laux, another award-winning poet, remarked, “These striking poems build their energy and gather resilience from silence, breath, and daily noticing.  Whether describing the domestic, foreign, or supernatural, Have You Had Enough Darkness Yet? asks us to pause in Keatsian awe as McKinney names a bright world of her own fashioning.”

Jessie van Eerden, current director of the MFA program at the College, first met McKinney when van Eerden was a visiting professor in nonfiction during the launch of the College’s low-residency MFA in July 2011.

“I knew right away she was a force, she was someone completely lacking in pretense, and she was a delight,” reflected van Eerden.  “In my all-too-serious correspondence with her in preparation for my visiting-professor role, Irene slipped me a poem she had been working on ‘just for funsies,’ and I found out later from people who knew her well that this spark, this spirit of generosity, was Irene’s way of being the world.”

Van Eerden remembers McKinney’s work on the MFA program, even in the middle of her failing health.

“Irene worked hard, in the midst of her illness, to lay the foundation for a thriving apprenticeship-model graduate writing program that made an MFA possible for non-traditional students in this region.  I sensed that summer of 2011 that this was a writing program like no other, helping to strengthen the voices in a new chorus of not only Appalachian writers, but also of solid writers for the national literary scene.”

Have You Had Enough Darkness Yet?, which features an afterword by McKinney’s long-time friend, poet Maggie Anderson, is the seventh book of poems written by the late McKinney and the first to be published by West Virginia Wesleyan Press.  All proceeds from sales of the book will go into the McKinney Memorial Scholarship Fund for Writers at Wesleyan, helping to realize McKinney’s dreams for an MFA program that provides access to and sustains a vibrant hotbed of literature in the region.

Copies of McKinney’s Have You Had Enough Darkness Yet? are available for purchase in the Academic Affairs Office at West Virginia Wesleyan College for $16.00.

For more information on the MFA program, please contact Director Jessie van Eerden at vaneerden@wvwc.edu or 304-473-8329.