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Poet, novelist and nonfiction writer Robert Morgan, author of “Gap Creek” and “Boone: A Biography,” will give a free public talk Oct. 2 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Morgan – a Carolina alumnus, prolific writer and Kappa Alpha Professor of English at Cornell University – will receive UNC’s 2008 Thomas Wolfe Prize and deliver the annual Thomas Wolfe Lecture at 7:30 p.m. in Carroll Hall auditorium.

Ten of Morgan’s first 11 volumes – including “Red Owl” (W. W. Norton & Co. Inc., 1972), “Groundwork” (Gnomon Press, 1979) and “At the Edge of Orchard Country” (Wesleyan University Press, 1987) – were poetry collections. His work appeared in magazines including the Atlantic Monthly and in Poetry, whose editor praised him as “one of the most original poets of his generation.”

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  Photo of Robert Morgan

But Morgan had started out as a fiction writer, at Carolina, where he received a bachelor’s degree in English in 1965. He went on to earn a master’s degree in fine arts (poetry) at UNC-Greensboro. In the 1980s, Morgan returned to prose, with three collections of short fiction and five novels. His best-seller “Gap Creek” (Algonquin, 1999) was a selection of the Oprah Book Club.

“Robert Morgan has long been one of this country’s finest poets,” the late American Indian novelist James Welch, once wrote. “Now he shows that his hand is just as steady in fiction.” A New York Times book reviewer wrote, “At their finest, his stripped-down and almost primitive sentences burn with the raw, lonesome pathos of Hank Williams’ best songs.”

Last year, Algonquin published Morgan’s “Boone: A Biography,” on the life of the frontiersman Daniel Boone. It won the 2007 Kentucky Literary Award for Nonfiction. He also received the latest of many prizes and honors, a 2007 Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. That citation read: “A storyteller with an eye for detail, an impeccable ear for language, a devotion to craft and a passion for truth …”

Despite his national success and the fact that he has taught at Cornell since 1971, Morgan keeps his work deeply rooted in the mountains of western North Carolina, where he was born and raised. He has continued to pay close attention to that stretch of Appalachia – its landscape, history, culture and hard-working people.

“I was never interested in portraying a pastoral or simpler world, but in dramatizing the complexities of the seemingly plain, the sharpness of the everyday,” Morgan once said.

The annual lecture and prize honor Thomas Wolfe, author of “Look Homeward Angel,” who graduated from Carolina in 1920. The event and prize are sponsored by Carolina’s English and comparative literature department and Morgan Writer-in-Residence Program (no relation to the speaker), both in the College of Arts and Sciences, and the international Thomas Wolfe Society. Ben Jones, a 1950 UNC graduate, endowed the medals and prize money for the award.

For more information, call (919) 962-4283 or visit

Robert Morgan Web site:

College of Arts and Sciences contact:
Kim Spurr, (919) 962-4093,
Center for the Study of the American South contact: Nancy Gray Schoonmaker, (919) 962-0503,
News Services contact: L.J. Toler, (919) 962-8589

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