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Lehigh Carbon Community College

Honoring Poet George Scarbrough

George Scarbrough Appalachian and Southern American Poet

Appalachian poetry lost a major voice when Tennessee poet George Scarbrough passed away in 2008. Interest in Scarbrough’s work is experiencing a revival, and Reinhardt University is pleased to be at the forefront as the home of the George Scarbrough Center for Southern and Appalachian Literature. The Scarbrough Center is an archive for the papers, books, and memorabilia from Scarbrough’s estate, and aspires to provide scholars with access to materials relating to the Tennessee-born poet, and encourage interest in his work.

Scarbrough was born in 1915 in Patty, a small community in Polk County, Tennessee, the third of seven children in a family of sharecroppers. Despite the family’s poverty, Scarbrough was able to pursue a college education, first at the University of Tennessee, next at the University of the South at Sewanee, and finally at Lincoln Memorial University. He completed a Master of Arts in Literature at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Scarbrough received many accolades for his writing throughout his lifetime. He has been honored with a PEN American Branch Grant, two Carnegie Fund grants, a Borestone Mountain Award, a Fellowship of Southern Writers’ James Still Award for Writing of the Appalachian South and an induction in the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame, among many others.

At Sewanee, he received a scholarship to help edit “The Sewanee Review” and published some of his first poems in that journal. Scarbrough went on to publish five major books of poetry: “Tellico Blue,” “The Course Is Upward,” “Invitation to Kim,” “New and Selected Poems,” and “Under the Lemon Tree.” He also published the novel “A Summer Ago,” based on his early life in Polk County. His early books were published by Dutton, while the later books were published by Iris Press. His poems appeared in over 65 journals, including over 20 poems in “Poetry,” accessible online at

Scarbrough’s poetry will enhance Reinhardt’s MFA in Creative Writing program, which spends a great deal of time focusing on writers who were inspired by the South. “Having such a prestigious poet’s life’s work is a remarkable gift to the University,” said Bill Walsh, director of the MFA in Creative Writing program. “To be the stewards of his poetry, it is a responsibility everyone takes seriously,” said Walsh. “We hope to bring a renewed awareness to such a distinguished writer. I think it is safe to say that all of us involved are focused on promoting this wonderful poet, to bring his life’s work back into the public eye.”