I haven’t yet figured out how to be at two places at the same time, and often, with all the creative happenings of Louisville, we have to choose. Last night was the inaugural Spalding MFA reading series at the Local Speed. I’m sure it was wonderful and filled with masterfully refined collections words. I’m sure it was quiet as a church with perfectly lined rows of chairs. I’m sure that inspiring poetic morsels of truth fell on receptive and eager ears. There is no doubt that the recipients of MFA degree’s from Spalding University are Keeping Louisville Literary. For all of those reasons, I wish I could be in two places at once.
Instead, I attended the ‘Homegrown Art, Music, and Spoken word’ hosted and curated by Bobbi Buchanan (also holds a MFA from Spalding) and Austin Whitely. They are keeping Louisville Literary in a different way. I arrived at 6pm with full intentions of signing up for the open mic and was met with a packed coffee house. Friday night–coffee house–packed.
Chairs were brought in from outside, I waited in line for coffee that was 15 people deep, the baristas made smoothies in between sets, people played music in the parking lot due to a full open mic list.
Every age bracket was represented, every generation alive. I ordered my coffee and sat on the floor close to the stage area. The event is broken into 3 rounds: A song or poem by one of the hosts, 2-3 open mic participants, and then a featured performer. Entire families were there. A girl showed her visual art and explained why it was important to her. The next performer was her father who played Ukelele and sang. A college student expressed his frustrations with media and encouraged people to turn off the television. A woman, there with three children, shared an uplifting parable coupled with a poem. Ron Whitehead performed a piece about all the influential talent that grows its roots right here in Louisville, KY.
In between rounds, Austin Whitley played original music with crunchy vocal chorus’, if I closed my eyes, I would swear I was sitting 5ft from Kurt Cobain, and smooth leading solos that showed the agility of a seasoned musician. A Girl named Earl played dulcimer, washboard, and did spoken word (not at the same time.)
The featured artists were Kevin DeVore and Jinn Bugg. Kevin played banjo and kazoo in a delightful bluegrass mixture of texture. Jinn Bugg had her art for sale and spoke about the cross germination of poetry and photography. The importance of perspective. [Keep Louisville Literary hopes to have Jinn on the radio hour with her 9 page essay on the subject in June.]
Sometimes you have to choose. I may have missed the Spalding MFA reading series and it’s collective refinement, but what I witnessed was generations of budding artists witnessing the power of self expression. Teens, and children, grandmas, and families sharing truth about themselves and gaining lessons on how to refine ways to express themselves. Perspective.
They’re on to something special in Bullit country. Keep it real, Austin and Bobbi.