Willie Edward Taylor Carver Jr. is an advocate, a Kentucky Teacher of the Year, and the author of a bestselling collection of narrative poetry about his childhood growing up queer in Appalachia, Gay Poems for Red States (University Press of Kentucky), which was named a Book Riot Best Book of 2023, a Top Ten Best Book of Appalachia by Read Appalachia, an IndieBound and American Bookseller’s Association’s must-have book, a 2023 Top Ten Over-The-Rainbow book by the American Library Association, and, most recently, was awarded a 2024 Stonewall Book Award – Barbara Gittings Literature Honor Book Award. Carver’s work exists at the intersection of queer identity, Appalachian identity, and the politics of innocence.
Willie is a candidate for the MFA in poetry at the University of Kentucky. He publishes and presents on the subjects of education, marginalization, and identity, and his story has been featured on ABC, CBS, PBS, NPR, and in The Washington Post, Le Monde, and Good Morning America. His story was chosen by Jonathan Van Ness as a story to share for education. His advocacy has led him to engage President Biden and to testify before the United States Congressional Committee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. His creative work has been published in 100 Days in Appalachia, 2RulesofWriting, Another Chicago Magazine, Largehearted Boy Blog, Smoky Blue Literary Magazine, Miracle Monocle, Good River Review, and Salvation South, where he is a feature poet of National Poetry Month.
Carver has spoken across the United States about the impact of the past on our present selves and the ways in which our most underserved students are being harmed by the systems around them. His university speaking engagements University of Kentucky, the University of Tennessee, Morehead State University, Centre College, Universidad Lead de Costa Rica, Berea College, Western Carolina University, Northern Kentucky University, and the Francis Parker School, among many others. He has been invited to speak at Manhattan’s LGBTQ center, Bookmarks of North Carolina, the National Gill Foundation, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Council of Teachers of Foreign Language, Pride at Work, South by Southwest, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the 2023 International Narrative 4 Conference.