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James Baker Hall was born in Lexington, Kentucky in 1935. He was raised in a southern family of means and social standing, only to have a family scandal turn tragic when he was eight years old. This trauma, and its enduring consequence, would shape Hall’s life work as an artist, which began when he took up photography at age eleven.

Hall graduated from the University of Kentucky with a B.A. in English, having studied writing under Robert Hazel among his life-long literary colleagues: Wendell Berry, Ed McClanahan, Gurney Norman, and Bobbie Ann Mason. In 1960, he received a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University and shared the historic workshops in which Leaving Cheyenne (Larry McMurtry) and One Flew Over the Cookoo’s Nest (Ken Kesey) were being written.[1] After his first novel, Yates Paul, His Grand Flights, His Tootings (also written in these same workshops) was published to critical acclaim, Hall returned to his roots in photography. During this time, he became the close colleague of such photographers as Minor White, Richard Benson, and Ralph Eugene Meatyard, was a contributing editor for Aperture, and lectured widely on photography in such places as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rhode Island School of Design, the Visual Studies Workshop, and the Minneapolis Museum of Art.[2]

In 1973, Hall came back to Lexington to teach at the University of Kentucky and, for the next thirty years, would act as director of the creative writing program. In 2003, he retired as professor emeritus, having vastly influenced the next generation of Kentucky writers. Notable students include: Maurice Manning, T. Crunk, and Patrick O’Keeffe.

Hall was prolific as both a writer and a visual artist, publishing widely in both arenas. In 2001, Hall was named the Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.[3] He was married to novelist Mary Ann Taylor-Hall, author of Come and Go, Molly Snow and At the Breakers. He died on June 25, 2009 in his home outside Sadieville, Kentucky.[4]

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PublisherBlue Oak Press
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