“Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
From the photobomber’s perspective. Ha!!!!
From the photobomber’s perspective. Ha!!!!
Solidago hit the stores tonight and what an honor to be shelved beside Bobbie Ann Mason. Our forth issue made its debut at Brier Books who hosted a launch party to celebrate. Brier Books is also our first brick and mortar store! They’re very focused on Kentucky writers. They happened to be looking to add more journals to their fold the day we walked through the door. Perfect timing.
Though Solidago is not exclusive to Kentucky – we have writers and artists from all over the world – we have had several writers from Kentucky make the cut. Five of those writers were with us tonight to read from their submissions (above: Sean Corbin, Bobby Steve Baker, Pat Holland, Allison Thorpe, and Kimber Gray). Corbin and Thorpe have chapbooks being released in the next few months, and Baker’s latest is already in stock at Brier Books. It was thrilling to hear their beautiful words. Pat Holland’s short story really struck a chord. A former National Geographic employee, she wrote a great piece about Barrow, Alaska, which resonated with me as a one time resident of the polar city. Finally, Kimber Gray closed the evening with her exquisite poetry. I predict great things for this young writer whose works are laced with humor and raw honesty.
The evening would have never happened without Catherine Brereton and Susan Stewart. The journal was their idea, and they inspire me every day, especially when I see the stacks and stacks of writing they sift through after every submission window closes. I feel so fortunate that, out of all the talented people they know, they chose me with whom to partner. I am very, very honored by that, and right proud of what we’ve done so far. But we’re just getting started, and that needs to be true for no other reason than we need better selfies than this one. I love these gals from the bottom of my heart, and I love our little journal.
Kentucky’s former Poet Laureate, Frank X Walker, is, in my opinion, the best poet Kentucky has ever borne. As a budding writer in 1991 he coined the term Affrilachia. “Affrilachia embraces a multicultural influence, a spectrum of people who consider Appalachia home and/or identify strongly with the trials and triumphs of being of this region.” A group of young writers assembled at UK’s Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Center solidified themselves around the name and became known as The Affrilachian Poets. Frank, of course, was one of their founders.
In January of this year, to commemorate The Affrilachian Poets’ 25th anniversary, the University Press of Kentucky released an anthology of their writing entitled Black Bone. Edited by Affrilachian Poets Bianca Spriggs and Jeremy Paden (top photos below), they joined Walker and other Affrilachian Poets at Brier Books this afternoon for readings to celebrate Black Bone and Independent Booksellers Day. I was pleased to have a front row seat. One of their founding members who wasn’t at the reading, Nikky Finney, played a very important role in my early academic life. I took one of her poetry courses as an undergraduate. What I learned from Nikky was to be passionate about words; be respectful, deliberate, and still. Write, rewrite, then rewrite some more until you’ve squoze all the juice out there is to be got. Not surprising at all was that Nikky won the 2011 National Book Award for Poetry. She’s a South Carolina native who has since returned home, but Kentucky ought to be proud she was with us as long as she was because, without her, many of us would be poorer indeed, and the Affrilachian Poets would be missing an extraordinary link.
There is something so blazingly authentic about these writers. Their truths are beautiful, stark, haunting, angry, compassionate, heady, funny; not entirely southern or Appalachian but completely American. Utterly American. Unapologeticly honest. Individually, they are strong writers. Collectively, they’re unbelievably beautiful. Even more beautiful, if you can imagine such a thing, is their embrace of young Affrilachian writers like Asha French and Dorian Hairston (bottom photos above). These younger writers have the Affrilachian fire for sure. It’s a healthy lot that breathes new life into itself.
Founders Mitchell L. H. Douglas and Ricardo Nazario y Colón (above respectively) rounded out the perfect presentation, and I wish I’d had the nerve to ask them all to autograph my copy of Black Bone. Alas, I bolted like a star struck schoolgirl. That rarely happens. But I am in awe of their collective energy; these artisan wordsmiths. Their words touch me in a place few writers can reach, and for that, they have my complete respect. It was a beautiful day.