Late June lit events in Louisville and Lexington!

Tonight 6/24 Sarabande hosts poet and Ball State prof Mark Neely, as well as Iowa MFA grad Lucas Mann. 7pm at hotel 21c on w. Main Street Louisville, KY. Music by Kirby Gann and Patrick Donley to start

Wednesday 6/26th Holler poets welcomes Tasha Cotter and Sean Patrick Hill to Al’s Bar in Lexington, KY at 8pm. Open mic to start with sign ups at 7pm. Music by Cabrew

Sunday 7/30 Stone Soup will be for the first and only time an all open mic event. 12 spots 5pm (signs up at 4 or 4:30) at The Bards Town 1801 Bardstown Rd louisville, KY 40205


WKU Prof. Tom Hunley on Workshop Shaming and Telling His Life Through ‘The Simpsons’

Dr. Tom C. Hunley will read for Subterranean Phrases at Decca (812 E. Market) June 12th with musical accompaniment by Russell Shartzer (tuba) & Ryan Marsh (piano).  The event starts at 8pm and begins and closes with a brief open-mic. I contacted Dr. Hunley to discuss his long career as both educator and poet:

Brandon Stettenbenz: You’re an Associate Professor of English at Western Kentucky University, a poet, and an editor. Let me first ask you about teaching. I’ve not heard much about literature at WKU or in that region in general, so I’d like to ask two questions. Tell us about the English program at WKU and your role there. Is there a strong literary community in the Western part of our commonwealth?

Dr. Tom C. Hunley:  WKU is a great place to study creative writing.  You can major in it or minor in it.  Several times our students have swept Sarabande’s state-wide student awards, taking first, second, and third.  Recent alums have published in Louisville Review, West Branch, and The Hollins Critic, and we’ve sent students on to graduate programs at Rutgers, Ole Miss, Georgia State, Spalding, Southern Illinois, Naropa, and elsewhere.  My colleague, David Jack Bell, has yet another novel forthcoming from Penguin/NAL, and we have several other fine faculty members, including Mary Ellen Miller, who is a legendary teacher and poet in this region.

BS: You’ve written a book of essays on creative writing pedagogy, and have a long career as an educator. Could you share with us some highlights from those essays or discuss them a bit?

TH:  My main preoccupation in the essays is to explore alternatives to the traditional creative writing workshop, which wastes a lot of time, in my opinion, while putting students on the defensive, often embarrassing them and shaming them.  Generally I teach “flipped” classes, in which most of the class time is spent on generative exercises and most critique takes place outside of class.

BS: Of your book “Poetry Gymnasium”, a textbook on creative writing, you’ve been quoted here as saying “the book’s title is intended as wordplay and a nod at the progymnasmata and the gymnasmata, two classical sequences of exercises for orators. My model of instruction centers around writing exercises derived from the five canons of classical rhetoric:  invention, arrangement, style, memory and delivery”. In the reviewer’s later description of the same book, they indicate that your model leads students to decide their own “prompts, forms, and rules” by studying the approach of successful authors like Yeats, etc. Could you talk a bit about this approach you teach to students of poetry and perhaps about your own, more experienced approach to writing poetry?

TH:  Another key feature of The Poetry Gymnasium is that each of the book’s 94 exercises is supplemented by an example written by a WKU student.  If my students couldn’t generate great work via an exercise, that exercise didn’t make it into the book. 

BS: One of your chapbooks is written in the voices of characters from the TV cartoon The Simpsons. I’d venture that you’re likely the first poet to do this, though many Simpsons fans may have written fan-fiction tales before. The book is both like the show in that your poems describe the characters’ known exploits and reach for an unexpected catharsis, and unlike the show in that the poems brevity and weight most often exceed the emotional capacity usually portrayed. Tell us about the making of “Annoyed Grunt” (Imaginary Friend Press, 2012).

TH:  Those are just the first fourteen poems in a full-length manuscript called The State That Springfield Is In.  So far I have thirty-two of these poems, and the manuscript is fifty-four pages long.  These poems are not about The Simpsons.  They’re about me, about my inner life.  Just as my Maggie Simpson sees herself in the old, craven face of Mr. Burns, I see a part of myself in each of these characters.  When I write about the Van Houtens’ divorce and its effect on young Milhouse, I’m writing about my own scarred, departed youth.  When I have Homer wax uxorious about Marge before confessing, in his next breath, to being tempted by the Lurleens and Mindys of the world, you can bet that I have in mind my own marriage to the lovely Ralaina.  Like Troy McClure, I yearn to be remembered and fear that I won’t.  Like Moe Szyslak, I have different, conflicting sides to my personality and I don’t always know how to reconcile them.  Like Frank Grimes, I have frequently felt like an outsider trying desperately to fit in.  When Lisa Simpson discusses foreign policy and Kent Brockman and Mayor Quimby’s campaign staff weigh-in on local politics, they address my own concerns.  Edna Krabappel voices my thoughts and feelings about teaching.  Reverend Timothy Lovejoy and Ned Flanders articulate my struggles with faith and doubt better than I ever could without wearing their masks, just as Disco Stu and “Bleeding Gums” Murphy help me explain what music means to me.  This poetry manuscript is the most autobiographical thing I’ve ever written.

BS: Finally, I’d like to address some of the poems from your Greatest Hits chapbook (Pudding House Publications, 2010), part of a series of similar collected works by other poets. I sense that this book likely contains poems from the three other chapbooks and also three other full collections of poetry you’d published before its publication in 2010. This book is an eclectic mix of free-verse, narrative, and prose poetry dealing with various concrete experiences. Despite their differences I see in these poems a serious seeking for personal truths, and a tenacious humor for both love and life, through elated heights and sickening lows. Talk to us about balancing joy and darkness as a seeker/poet.

TH:  A lot of young poets only write when they’re angsty or depressed.  I write when I’m anxious and depressed too, but poetry can express other moods as well.  Read the great Romantic odes or the playful poems of someone like Thomas Lux, David Kirby, or Denise Duhamel.

Tom’s Bio:

Tom C. Hunley is an associate professor of English at Western Kentucky University and the director of Steel Toe Books.  He is the author of three full-length poetry collections, two textbooks, and six chapbooks.  He is the co-editor, with Alexandria Peary, of Creative Writing Studies: A Guide to Its Pedagogies, which is forthcoming from Southern Illinois University Press.  He has also written for a variety of literary publications such as TriQuarterly, New York Quarterly, Five Points, The Writer, North American Review, New Orleans Review, Rattle, Exquisite Corpse, Verse DailyThe Writer’s Chronicle, Atlanta Review and Poetry Daily.  His poems have been featured several times on Garrison Keillor’s NPR program, The Writer’s Almanac.  In addition to writing his own poetry and prose, he is the book review editor for Poemeleon and the director/founder of Steel Toe Books.  He and his wife, Ralaina, have been married since 1996, and they have three sons.  In his spare time he enjoys playing bass guitar and drums.  He divides his time between Kansas and Oz.

Keep Louisville Literary live on

My guest for Thursday’s radio show at 1pm will be Meg Bowden of Sarabande books. We will discuss the Sarabande reading series which happens monthly at hotel 21c on main, and the ins and outs of small press publishing. Tune in!

P.s. I’ve also got clips from local poet/writer Jimmy Besseck, and some spoken word audio from Sylvia Plath and others as well. As always, eclectic rock and EDM will play briefly between segments.

Now that @KeepLouLit has international listeners

Seriously, Germans and other international people are tuning into ARTxFM! We have so many talented writers here in Louisville, and we all know language and literature are universal. So how can this blog better expose authors to the world at large? I’m researching interconnectivity in the blogosphere and more…but multiple brains are better than one. And this blog is a community, so SPEAK UP ya’ll! Comment below with thoughts, ideas, encouragement or anything else you’d care to share.

P .s. Thanks for being an active, important part of the amazing literary community sprawled throughout KY and elsewhere!

Exciting week of literary events starts tonight! 5/18

Tonight 5/17: First installment of the Homegrown Art, Music, and Spoken Word series hosted by Bobbi Buchanan
At Cedar Grove Coffee House 142 buffalo run road shepardsville, KY 40165.!/events/306641226132694

Spalding university’s Festival of Contemporary Writing feat. Faculty and guests including Greg Pape, Kirby Gann, Maureen Morehead and many more starts tomorrow! 5/18

The KY Women’s Bookfest runs tomorrow 5/18 from 9:30am until 3pm at UofL’s Ekstrom Library. Affrilachian poet Bianca Spriggs, WFPL’s Erin Keane, Sheri Wright, Judith C. Owens-LaLude, and Sarah Garland will speak

Monday 5/20 Sarabande hosts Mary Jo Bang and Kazim Ali at hotel 21c 7:30pm

Friday 5/24 Maurice Manning and Makalani Bandele read at Java Bardstown (1707 Bardstown rd) for Speak Social at 7:30pm
Look midweek for my interview with former Guggenheim fellow Maurice Manning (with audio!)

Poet/Professor/Organizer Lynnell Edwards Discusses Coveting, Community, and Literary Louisville

Lynnell Edwards will read with fellow poets Jennifer Militello, Rebecca Morgan Frank April 29th for Sarabande Books. We get three poets, probably because it’s NATIONAL POETRY MONTH, and I’m not complaining. Lynnell will read from her latest collection, Covet (Red Hen Press, 2011) and new work. You can find all three of her collections for sale at Red Hen Press here. Apart from her role as Associate Professor at Spalding University, Lynnell also fosters writing and literature in our community as president of Louisville Literary Arts (LLA) progenitors of the annual Writer’s Block festival and the InKY reading series which happens on the second Friday of each month at The Bard’s Town.

Brandon Stettenbenz: The poems in Covet embody the speaker in nature and in family, and in return those things are also embodied in them. Alternatively, the speaker is often likened closely to objects of sentimental value, and thus the speaker becomes knotted, woven, gilded, loved, worn, and ultimately coveted: “I am wrested in these vessels, / weaving, woven—/ small, nested baskets…” Did you set out to write poems that worked this way with the title as theme or did a body of poems from a certain period of writing later fit together under the mantle of “Covet”?

Lynnell Edwards:  For a long time with this manuscript, I really thought I just had a bunch of poems in a pile with no real reason for them to be together in a book.  And the original “pile” was much bigger.   The two sequences which you specifically reference here – “From the Catalog, Locust Grove Antique Show” (fall and spring) at one point constituted a chapbook, along with some persona poems related to Locust Grove.  There are also a handful of poems in dialogue with literary history, and the remnants of an “alphabet” series. At some point I realized that I really liked the one word title Covet and that, in fact, it was a kind of through-line for many of the poem. That made it easy to begin pulling poems from the pile and organizing them into the loose calendar order in which they now appear.

BS: These poems are written in a measured, relaxed way akin to calm wind or waves lapping the shore. The rhythm of these poems borders on meditation, or at least to me it seems as if the speaker is meditating upon the significance of objects, places, and people in her life. I get the impression from this book that close observation and reflection are important to you. As a poet what would you say about the importance of meditating (dedicating time to contemplation) to our understanding of ourselves, others, and the world around us?

LE:  Meditation. Wow. I wish I had both time and temperament for it.  I’ve been practicing yoga for, like, almost three years and while I’ve pretty much nailed handstand and crow pose I’m nowhere close to stilling my mind!  Those particular poems and the impetus for them — the small, descriptive tags that appear on items at an antique show and which convey some specific, historical information – struck me as little narrative bombs.  The jangling music and the energy of some of the line breaks (I hope) create enormous tension in them.  The poems that seemed to me the most qualitatively different to me in both their argument and in my own process of writing them are the three poems grouped as “Triptych for Early Spring.”  I was most conscious on those pieces of presenting images, maybe not entirely unlike the work of the historically defined “Imagist” movement in the early part of the 20th century, though they align themselves along the axis of desire that, I think, makes Covet cohere.

BS: Some of the pieces in Covet contain analogies or implied transformations of animal/weather to human and vice versa, and even furniture takes on human qualities as the speaker describes someone’s care and love in making, maintaining and cherishing the object. There is perhaps much said and more implied in these pieces about our interconnectedness with the greater world and our personal spheres. Could you talk a bit about what differences you see in the way we covet objects and heirlooms versus the ways in which we covet those close to us?

LE:  That’s interesting.  I think that yes, there’s coveting of both objects and relationships in this collection.  Broadly speaking, I think the admonitions historically against coveting (“Thou shalt not covet”) come from that dangerous tendency to covet a person with the same intentions as we might covet a thing, particularly when they are gone from us or prohibited.  The title comes from the last line in the opening poem and reads, “the now dead thing that I did covet.”  Which suggests that to covet something is to perhaps destroy it.

BS: Through the techniques mentioned previously, these poems carry in them not just one or another poignant emotion, but rather the complex and conflicting emotions common to the human experience. Thus the emotion of “want” is conveyed through hunting dogs, love becomes worry, calm solitude is also loneliness, and the (to quote an adage) “ravages of time” reflect internal struggle. Some poets have cited the marriage of the universal to the specific as a determiner for what makes poetry, and I see in your work (like that of William Carlos Williams, for example) closely observed environments, objects and individuals rendered to minute detail and specificity which convey universal themes. Assuming you agree with the specific + universal formula, do you also consider the admission of and struggle with internal conflict, and the complex nature of human emotion to be a major component of poetry?

LE:  Yes. I’d say that last sentence pretty much gets at a central project for poetry, along with perhaps a documentary project (particularly for poems of witness or history) or other, classical modes that memorialize in various ways.  I think that I’ve always been drawn to the narrative potential in poetry; my undergraduate and graduate school creative writing was always fiction (which I’ve returned to lately) and drama.  And so, for me, the specific tends to be the specific story, whether it’s found in an object or a person.

BS: You are currently the president of Louisville Literary Arts, the non-profit organization behind InKY and the annual Writer’s Block festival. Could you fill in our readers on your role as president, and what LLA does for literature in our city?

LE:  What LLA hopes to do for the city is to bring readers and writers together, to enrich and celebrate the literary landscape here. My role as president of an all-volunteer non-profit organization has been various.  I hosted InKY for its first two years at the Bard’s Town and I’ve been involved significantly in organizing the Writer’s Block Festival.  Like all our Board members I do a lot of big picture planning and development, as well as little stuff – like picking up postcards from Kinko’s or putting up posters for the Writer’s Block or stepping in as a guest host at InKY.  I’m a little hesitant to speculate about the specific impact LLA has had on the city in terms of the literary landscape, though I have noticed in the last three years particularly that perhaps we’ve reached some kind of critical mass that suddenly makes it seems like we’re a literary center. For instance, there are at least three two more independent reading series; there is your blog – which I don’t think would have been possible or as necessary three years ago; there is an additional significant publishing interest (Typecast); there are at least two more independent literary journals (that come to mind). Louisville, as a literary community “feels” a little different to me than Lexington, where I’ve spent a fair amount of time giving readings, workshops, and participating on the board of the Kentucky Women Writers Conference. But I think the fact that we even have a “vibe” as a literary community is saying something we couldn’t say three years ago!

BS: Louisville Literary Arts is a non-profit providing literary culture and entertainment free of charge to the public, and in the future they hope to branch out with programs for younger writers, etc. They need our help to continue their amazing efforts. Lynnell, how can we help LLA continue its mission enrich our literary community?

LE: The organization is in an exciting, but critical period. We need significant resources (yup, I mean money) that would allow us to actually hire someone to take on a staff leadership role.  And we need some specialized volunteer expertise, too, that I won’t go into here. But more broadly supporting the literary arts in Louisville means not just attending a literary event, but inviting a friend who’s never been to a literary event such as a reading or to the Writer’s Block to come along. When I’ve brought friends to readings who enjoy other arts events but have never been to a literary event, they’re always so surprised at how much they enjoy it!  I think supporting the literary arts generally in Louisville does help individual organizations specifically.  Someone once mistakenly, though with good intentions, I’m sure, asked me whether or not I thought InKY was somehow in competition with another reading series! Ha! Of course not.   I think all boats rise with the tide, and for now, the more literary activity there is of all types, the more it adds to and nurtures the community.

Author’s bio from her website:   Lynnell Major Edwards is the author of three collections of poetry, most recently Covet (October, 2011), and also The Farmer’s Daughter (2003) and The Highwayman’s Wife (2007), all from Red Hen Press.  Her short fiction and book reviews have appeared most recently in Connecticut Review, American Book Review, Pleiades, New Madrid, and others. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky where she is on the Board of Directors for Louisville Literary Arts, a non-profit literary arts organization that sponsors the monthly InKY reading series and The Writer’s Block Festival. She is also Associate Professor of English at Spalding University.

Frank Bill on Frank Miller, Grit-Lit, Crime, Noir, and His Debut Novel Donnybrook

Frank Bill will read with poet James Arthur (whose debut collection Charms Against Lightening is available from Copper Canyon Press) @ hotel 21c (700 W. Main St. Louisville, KY) on Monday, March 25th at 7:30pm. Being a Hoosier (transplanted to Louisville for several years now), I couldn’t resist (digitally) tracking down Frank Bill, an actual hunter, to discuss his debut novel Donnybrook, which if you haven’t heard is gaining more traction than a 4×4.


Brandon Stettenbenz: To start, let me address recent interviews, so I’m not making you repeat yourself. Rob Brunner of called Donnybrook “a blood-sodden, bone-crunch of a debut novel”…”unrepentantly, gleefully violent”. That’s a mouthful of action-packed vocabulary. Give us an excerpt that proves him right.

Frank Bill: Jarhead veered the barrel two feet away from Dote. Blew a hole in the wall. The shell hit the counter. Another fell into place. Dote’s ears rang as he reached for the gun barrel. Jarhead pushed into the counter. Butted the hot barrel through Dote’s hands. Stabbed it into Dote’s coral nose like a spear. Cartilage popped. Dote hollered, “Shit!” Tears fell from his blinking eyes. Jarhead said, “I ain’t asking.”

BS: What other fluids besides blood are pumping under the hood of Donnybrook?

FB: Working class survival. Crystal meth. Guns. Booze. Bare knuckles boxing. The human condition. And a lot of people that others like to pretend do not exist.

BS: In the same interview (, you spoke a bit about dialect and how you realized someone could “write where they are from”. I heard the same thing when Jen Woods spoke about reading Maurice Manning (a Kentucky-born poet) for the first time, and I think that maybe rural origins and culture are often considered inferior despite the intricate character of such cultures. What can you tell us about the difficulties you’ve encountered/overcome as a rural writer?

FB: I’ve not had any difficulties to overcome. I write about where I come from. What I see and hear and of course things I’ve done or stories I grew up around. The only thing I do not like are labels, like country noir, if anything, I like the term rural literature. Or grit-lit.

BS: Weren’t you actually doing readings out in Corydon, Indiana, with Kirby Gann (author of Ghosting) and others? I never heard of anything like that going on when I was growing up in Georgetown. Did you guys get a good turnout and or reaction to the readings out there?

FB: When a few of my short stories had gotten published way back in 2008 or 2009 two writers, Jed Ayres and Scott Phillips invited me to this reading series called Noir at the Bar in St. Louis, Missouri.

I made the four trek and read one of the Hill Clan stories. It was my first reading, and I read with Scott, Jed, and Anthony Neil Smith ( he was touring to promote his novel Hogdoggin’). The idea is people come to hear writers read, buy booze and if you’re a published author, this was long before my book deal, people will buy your book.

Basically, I did the same thing here in my hometown. I wanted to give back to those who are up and coming but also established, hence inviting Kirby Gann, who as you know can scribe the balls off of a bull. I also invited Jed Ayres (one of the best writers I know) to help promote his work and anthology Noir at the Bar 2 and David James Keaton (his first book of stories is out Fish Bites Cop).  The turnout was great for my area, around 40-50 people. 

BS: You mentioned that Fight Club [the film] set you on a literary track and you also mentioned reading comics growing up. While most people know what kinds of twisted carnage to expect from Palahniuk, I can also think of a few explicitly violent comic books (mostly Frank Miller to be honest). Do you think comic books have had any influence on your work?

FB: I read a lot of Frank Miller growing up. His contribution to Daredevil. The Ronin series. Sin City and The Dark Knight. I never read much fiction until I was around 29 or 30. But in high school I read a lot of nonfiction about serial murders. Ed Gein, The Zodiac, Henry Lee Lucas and Gary Heidnik.  

BS: Who are some fellow crime-fiction writers you either feel influenced by or just think we all should read?

FB: These authors have elements of crime, [some] even literary and noir, [but really] they’re just bad ass scribes: Jed Ayres, Scott Phillips, Roger Smith, Benjamin Whitmer,Anthony Neil Smith, Larry Brown, Ron Rash, Tom Franklin, Craig Clevenger, Eddie Little, Andrew Vachss, Alan Guthrie, Ray Banks, Todd Robinson, Jim Thompson, Megan Abbott, Craig Johnson, Daniel Woodrell, Bonnie Jo Campbell, James Carlos Blake, Chris Holbrook, Charles Bowden, Christa Faust, Richard Thomas and Will Christopher Baer.

Frank Bill is the author of a well-received collection of short crime fiction titled Crimes in Southern Indiana (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2011). His debut novel, Donnybrook (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2013) is currently garnering praise, press, and reviews nationally from, Revolver and others. Frank lives in Corydon, Indiana and works at a chemical plant as a forklift driver.

Literary events in Louisville this week! (Beginning TODAY 1/23/13)

Hello readers!

We have several great events coming up soon:

TONIGHT 1/23, 6-9p (readings 7pm) LEO literary awards with readings from winners, a Jazz trio, cash bar, and the winning photographs will also be on display. Spalding University Egan Center 901 S. 4th st.

Tomorrow: 1/24 at 7:30pm Daniel Khalastchi and Craig Morgan Teicher will read for Sarabande’s 21c Reading Series

Friday: Speak Social @ Java Bardstown (1707 Bardstown Rd) Martha Greenwald and Dave Harrity will read from recent collections 7:30pm. Note: Java serves coffee, tea, crepes, pastries, beer and wine.

Sunday: Stone Soup lives with Jimmy Besseck now at the helm! 5:30pm at The Bards Town (1801 Bardstown Rd) Readings from Thomas Olges (short SF/horror, and poetry; I’ve been pressuring this guy to send his work out for years now!), Mary Alice Endicott and William Freeman. Note: The Bards Town serves up a delicious, diverse dinner menu, beer, wine and full-bar.

Local Literary Picks for “Cyber Monday”! (no short-term deals, only great, local books available all year!)

While these may not exactly be rock-bottom prices on consumer goods, I wanted to show everyone who may be in the midst of the early holiday-shopping frenzy where they might find some local books & journals for themselves and other bibliophiles in their lives!

Sheri Wright, poet and fine-art photographer, self-released her sixth collection The Feast of Erasure this year. You can purchase poetry books and photo prints directly.

Local poet and journalist, not to mention the progenitor of InKY (say thanks next time you see her!), Erin Keane has  two books Death-Defying Acts, a collection of gritty prose poems about complex carnival folk, and The Gravity Soundtrack, filled with poems inspired by (mostly American Rock) music.

Affrilachian poet Makalani Bandele‘s book Hell-Fightin’ is rife with jazz and history.

Sean Patrick Hill is the author of two poetry collections and a few hiking books. He has a new collection forthcoming in 2013, and you can find links to buy his book on his blog.

Lynelle Major Edwards is the president of Louisville Literary Arts (the local, non-profit organization behind InKY and The Writer’s Block festival) as well as the author of three full-length collections of poetry which you can read about and purchase here. Her blog also has a section outlining the wonderful organizations responsible for Keeping Louisville Literary!

Brian Leung is the author of the novels Take Me Home and World Famous Love Acts. Look for his work at Carmichael’s Books and other local bookstores.

Adam Day is the author of the poetry chapbook Badger Apocrypha,  which can be found at Carmichael’s as well. He is searching for a publisher for a newer, full-length collection of poems and writing a novel.

Kirby Gann is the author of three novels: The Barbarian Parade, Our Napoleon in Rags, and mostly recently Ghosting (click to read reviews including kudos from Publisher’s Weekly).

Typecast publishing is an up-and-coming small press that likes to make unique books by hand. Originating out of The Lumberyard magazine project with Fire Cracker Press (#10 available soon!), this Louisville, KY based publisher has had a huge impact on the local lit. scene and continues to volunteer time, etc. to The Writer’s Block festival, and other projects. They’ve so far published fiction and poetry which you can find for purchase on their website (I recommend M. Bartley Seigel’s collection of poems about the rust-belt, This is What They Say; he also heads a rag called PANK which isn’t local but I do HIGHLY recommend reading it).

Larkspur Press is a publisher of hand-made books whose letterpress shop is in Monterey, KY. They have published Fred Smock who currently teaches at Bellarmine, Richard Taylor formerely at Kentucky University, and UofL graduate and current KY poet-laureate Maureen Morehead among others. These hand-cut and bound books feature wood-block and linoleum block prints by artists such as Steve Armstrong and many others.

Sarabande Books is a non-profit literary press founded in 1994 in Louisville, KY. They focus on poetry, short fiction, and essay. You can search their catalog here.

Catch-up is headed up locally by Adam Day and Jeff Hipsher. They have recently released their third issue guest edited by Catherine Wagner, Sean Bishop, Hannah Gamble, and DA Powell.

You can read interviews with most of these authors and publishers here. Take a look; inform your holiday and other purchases. Remember, these folks work for a living. They don’t mark up their goods, and thus you won’t find any high-pressure sales, only fine literary art! This means two things: you’re putting money in the hands of the makers, and you can shop local books all year long! Also, whether you dig any of the books listed above or not, please BUY LOCAL and KEEP LOUISVILLE LITERARY!

(Full Disclosure: I am privileged to know some of these fine artists personally)

Jessica Farquhar on Poetry, Purdue, and Her Personal Writing Process

Poet Jessica Farquhar will read Friday at 7pm with fellow poets Ada Limón and S. Whitney Holmes for Speak Social Presents Catch Up Release Party at Java Bardstown (1707 Bardstown Rd.).

[Comic artists from this issue will not be in attendance, sorry for the mix-up]

Keep Louisville Literary: While in the Creative Writing MFA program at Purdue you served as the Assistant Director of Creative Writing. Since some readers may not know Purdue for its English dept. (although the Sycamore Review and Online Writing Lab are well known among students and writers), could you relay both a bit about the program and specifically your experiences as both a student and as Assistant Director?

Jessica Farquhar: Actually, Purdue is known internationally for its English Department. Teaching essay writing to engineering students and hanging out in the Earth and Atmospheric Sciences library were bonuses to the MFA program (Marianne Boruch playing cassette tapes of bird songs in workshop is the obvious reason anyone would want to attend Purdue–or the opportunity to visit the cadaver lab where she composed these poems). My third year, I hung out with Mary Leader weekly, talking tarot cards and handless maidens. Like a midwife she guided that manuscript baby out of me. I also got to introduce (current U.S. Poet Laureate!) Natasha Trethewey when she read at Purdue. And interview Jean Valentine. The whole of the MFA experience was serendipitous and surreal. It was like a waking dream being there, among tens of thousands of sandhill cranes and amazing writers, my peers and the faculty. As assistant director, I was a representative of the program to the community, which means I got to experience it inside and out. It also means I could go on and on and on about what a great program Purdue’s MFA is. More of what I’ve said on the topic can be found here. Third-year fictioneer Natalie van Hoose describes the experience beautifully here.

KLL: What are you pursuing now that you are home, post MFA?

JF: Pursuing: my children, book publication, the next manuscript.

KLL: Your thesis collection completed at Purdue, Through a Tunnel You Are Leaving, was a finalist this year in Sarabande Books’s Linda Bruckheimer poetry contest. Since we may assume you will be reading from this collection Friday, could you tell us a little about your direction, intention, techniques or thematic for this collection?

JF: I used many different processes to write and revise the manuscript, and the third section (of four), which is the least likely to lend itself to an oral reading, includes the most process-oriented poem, “Institute Are To,” another example of a unique experience afforded me by Purdue. It’s a long mosaic poem made of pieces of language I borrowed from a book on Lithography and that also is inspired by the process of lithography, its duplicable and handmade qualities. Mary Leader challenged me to come up with a process that could produce ten different poems from the same source–an example of what she calls the proliferative mode. She also encouraged me to spend a lot of time and energy (and space!) ordering the poems in my manuscript. Through a Tunnel You Are Leaving starts in the darkest part of the tunnel, with the handless maiden in the middle of the woods in the dark, and the journey takes off from there.

KLL: Do you prefer to regiment your writing, sitting down and “clocking-in”, or do you prefer spontaneity? Could you briefly describe your process and the places where you write?

JF: I do like to have my dedicated space at home, but rarely a dedicated time. I have my iMac and a big work surface, also yoga mats and space to practice postures and meditation. A big benefit of the MFA for me was getting to really know my writing habits and tweaking my space. I write best in the morning, if I’m going to sit down and spend some time at the computer. But I really never know when inspiration is going to hit, and the discipline for me is putting pen to paper when it does.

KLL: In conclusion, a generic favorite: whose books are currently fueling your creative fire? If this question doesn’t apply, suggest to us some compelling work you are familiar with.

JF: Mary Ruefle’s essays collected in Madness, Rack, and Honey have been fueling my creative fire for a few months now. Anything by Rachel Zucker is a go-to for me, and I’m dying to get my hands on Mary Jo Bang’s translation of Dante’s Inferno. I’ve been haunted in the best way by Nick Flynn’s memoir The Ticking is the Bomb, which I listened to over many drives between Lafayette and Louisville. I have to go now. Mitch Daniels (current Purdue President!) is on Stephen Colbert.

Jessica Farquhar holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Purdue where she was the assistant director of Creative Writing. She is a Louisville native, and current resident. Her poems have appeared in Catch Up, Word Hotel, ABZ, Transom, New Madrid, Poetry East, and Lumberyard; reviews and interviews in Sycamore Review.