The February 11 InKY event featuring poets Kiki Petrosino and Matt Hart was another standing room only crowd for a high energy evening of live literature and music. An awesome set of open mic readers — shout out to Chris Mattingly for extraordinary work! — followed by the incredible Sean Hopkins of Dallas Alice primed the rapt and diverse audience for the 40 minutes of new work by KiKi and Matt. And while, InKY can certainly pat itself on the back for continuing to bring readers and writers together through the transforming power of literature, the success of the evening is also due to the building energy in “literary Louisville” for seeking out and spreading the word about great writing here and afield.
Matt and Kiki’s reading is a terrific example of the expansiveness that characterizes the literary scene here. New to Louisville this year and filling a position in poetry at UL, Kiki has already given generously to and transformed the community here through her work with students and her involvement with InKY and other literary arts organizations. It’s exciting to have another writer in town with a national reputation, and one whose work so beautifully contributes to the already rich textures and ambitions of the writers who call Louisville home. Matt, coming from Cincinnati, enlarges InKY’s mission to bring writers to town who Louisville audiences wouldn’t otherwise have access to, and he expands what can sometimes be a very tired definition of “regional writer” in Kentucky. Which is to say, he doesn’t write about coal mining and kinfolk and blackbirds on a barbed-wire fence.
In some ways, I would characterize both writers as metropolitan rather than pastoral, which is how many people would define a “Kentucky” writer. Their sense of difference and their methods for defining self and accommodating otherness in community aligns them with an urban, rather than pastoral landscape. (as an aside: my own literary taxonomy would broadly categorize writers in one of these two ways) But that’s enough litcrit for now. My delight in being part of their enthusiastic reception last week, and in fulfilling InKY’s goal in bringing them to Louisville audiences is to continue to expand how we define “literary Louisville.”
At the reading, I counted among the audience of nearly 75 representatives from three literary publishing organizations, three different creative writing programs in town, and more writers of fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction than you could shake a stick at. It was a “scene.” But better, there were a whole buncha people I had never seen before! This is what makes putting time and energy into this tiny non-profit literary arts organization worth it: redefining for new audiences what an evening enjoying the arts is.
In the coming months InKY will be planning a small literary festival of independent publishers, readings by regional writers, open mic opportunities, and workshops for writers at all levels of experience and interest. To make it a success, we’re going to have to rely on the contributions of our literary partners in the community and the willingness of our literary citizens to get the word out and to participate in something new. Yes, a literary festival for Louisville is new, believe it or not. We also want it in the broadest ways possible to represent and reach out to “literary Louisville” and in ways that the InKY reading series cannot accomplish. So….let me hear your ideas, your wishes, your concerns….what would a Literary Louisville Festival look like?