Visiting Writers Series


The Visiting Writers Series began in the Spring of 2014 with a reading by poet Roger Reeves. After the start of the MFA in Creative Writing in the Fall of that year, the VWS took off. Over the past 8 years, the MFA in Creative Writing has hosted nationally renowned poets and writers, adding to the vibrant literary culture of Lexington. All events are free and open to the public.

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Spring 2022

Joy Priest

Donald Hall Poetry Prize Winner

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

7 p.m.

James F. Hardymon Theater, Davis Marksbury Building, 329 Rose Street


Joy Priest is the author of HORSEPOWER (Pitt Poetry Series, 2020), winner of the Donald Hall Prize for Poetry. She is the recipient of a 2021 NEA fellowship and a 2019-2020 Fine Arts Work Center fellowship, and has won the 2020 Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize from APR, and the Gearhart Poetry Prize from The Southeast Review. Her poems have appeared in the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, The Atlantic, and Virginia Quarterly Review, among others. Her essays have appeared in The Bitter Southerner, Poets & Writers, ESPN, and The Undefeated, and her work has been anthologized in Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop, The Louisville Anthology, A Measure of Belonging: Writers of Color on the New American South, and Best New Poets 2014, 2016 and 2019. Joy received her M.F.A. in poetry, with a certificate in Women & Gender Studies from the University of South Carolina. She is currently a doctoral student in Literature & Creative Writing at the University of Houston. 


Austyn Gaffney

Creative Non-fiction Writer

Friday, February 11, 2022

2 p.m. Becoming a Freelance Writer, Holmes Hall Rm.162B (limited seating available)

3:30 p.m. Creative Nonfiction Craft Talk, Gatton Student Center 330AB 

Zoom Recording:

Austyn Gaffney is a freelance writer based in Kentucky. Her creative work is featured in Brevity, Ecotone, Kenyon Review, and Prairie Schooner, among others; her journalism appears in the Guardian, National Geographic, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Vice, the Washington Post, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from the University of Kentucky.


An Evening with Megan Pillow and Erika Simpson

Fiction and nonfiction writers 

Thursday, March 31, 7 p.m. (virtual)

Megan and Erika will read from their work and then engage in a conversation about all things writing including working for Roxane Gay, the editor/writer relationship, and what it’s like to work in an HBO Writers Room.

Megan Pillow is a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in fiction and holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Kentucky. She is co-editor of The Audacity, a new newsletter by Roxane Gay, and founder of Submerged: An Archive of Caregivers Underwater. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in, among other places, Electric Literature, The Believer, TriQuarterly, Guernica, and Gay Magazine and has been featured in Longreads. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her two children. 

Erika Simpson holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Kentucky and is the recipient of the 2021 MFA Award in Nonfiction. Having completed her first writers’ room at HBO, she is working on a memoir. Her essay “If You Ever Find Yourself,” appears in The Audacity’s Emerging Writers Series edited by Roxane Gay. Erika is a southern girl currently living in Denver, Colorado with her partner and cat. 



Bernard Clay

Author of English Lit

Wednesday, April 6, 7 pm

Gatton Student Center 330AB 

Bernard Clay is a Louisville, Kentucky, native who received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Kentucky and is a member of the Affrilachian Poets collective. His work has been published in various journals and anthologies. He currently resides on a farm in eastern Kentucky. English Lit is his first book.



Nicole Chung, Kevin Willmott, Carter Sickles, Madeline Ffitch, Li-Young Lee, Cinelle Barnes, Minda Honey, Joy Priest, Evie Shockley, Paul Muldoon, Shayla Lawson, Keith S. Wilson, Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, Randall Horton, Chanelle Benz, Tayari Jones, Kayleb Rae Candrilli, Morgan Parker, Brittany Perhham, Maurice Carlos Ruffin, Dr. DaMaris B. Hill, Maurice Manning, Silas House, Garth Greenwell, Gregory Pardlo, Mary Gaitskill, Mitchell S. Jackson, Viet Thanh Nquyen, Yona Harvey, Kelly Luce, Marie-Helene Bertino, Ramona Ausubel, Carrie Fountain, Margaret Lazarus Dean, Mary Karr, Tyehimba Jess, Ada Limón, Claire Vaye Watkins, Derek Palacio, Dinaw Mengestu, Eileen Myles, John Jeremiah Sullivan, Peter Fallon, Helen Oyeyemi, Rob Spillman, Wayne Kostenbaum, Adrian Matejka, Roxane Gay, Francisco Goldman, Ann Beattie, Dara Wier, Emily Pettit, Nic Brown, Jim Gavin, Jill McCorkle, Roger Reeves.


For more information about the Visiting Writers Series contact Crystal Wilkinson at or Alfonso Zapata at