Poets, Rock Stars, and Holy Men

“When I am gifted an image, a dream, a vision via the holy unholy realms of the creative imagination, I do all I can to help it reach fruition.”
— Ron Whitehead

Louisville Free Public Library’s unparalleled new exhibit

By Laura Ross

At first glance, it’s an eclectic group that includes Bono, President Jimmy Carter, the Dalai Lama and Wendell Berry. The common thread for all is poetry. A new exhibit opening Nov. 17, at the Louisville Main Library, “Poets, Rock Stars, and Holy Men: A Literary Renaissance,” features more than 25 original poetry broadsides – many signed by the artists – from the University of Louisville’s White Fields Press Collection. 

First published in the 1990s as part of White Fields Press’s Published in Heaven poster series, the exhibit includes work by some of the world’s most influential poets, writers, musicians, journalists, artists and cultural leaders along with correspondence between White Fields Press co-founder Ron Whitehead and the artists.   

The collection serves as an introduction to modern and contemporary poetry for younger readers. For those familiar with the poetry landscape, it serves as a refresher course covering some of the world’s most influential poets.

“Hundreds of children, teens and adults walk through the Bernheim Gallery daily, so even people who did not specifically come to see an art exhibit at the library can’t help but engage and interact with it in some way,” said Paul Burns, gallery director for the Louisville Free Public Library. “Providing access to knowledge and information at all stages of learning is what the library is all about. Accomplishing that goal in ways that engage youth in different and dynamic ways is why exhibits like this are vital.”   

For poet and writer Ron Whitehead, the return of some of the Published in Heaven series is both enlightening and exciting. “I hope folks are uplifted and inspired to create their own original work,” he said, emphasizing the underlying need in many to listen closely to the creative forces within. “By living and being my dream, each and every moment is filled with inspired synchronicity,” he added.  “I listen to my intuition. When I am gifted an image, a dream, a vision via the holy unholy realms of the creative imagination, I do all I can to help it reach fruition, whether it be a new book or album or adventure.”

White Fields Press was established in 1992 by Whitehead and Kent Fielding, who also founded the movement Rant for the Literary Renaissance. White Fields Press produced several books, chapbooks and audio recordings that included poets such as Allen Ginsberg, Diane di Prima, Seamus Heaney, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Amiri Baraka and Eithne Strong. Whitehead and Fielding gifted much of the work to the University of Louisville archives and special collections. The opening of the exhibit will also serve as the launch of Whitehead’s new book and CD, “Kentucky Bound.”

“Poets, Rock Stars and Holy Men,” said Burns, showcases some of the best poetic minds of the past 50 years. “While poetry may not be the first thing that people think of when they think of Louisville, the work that came out of the White Fields Press is proof that that our city cultivates great art, and all Louisvillians can be proud of this unique collection,” said Burns. “It captures a highly creative and specific time that should be inspiring for people who have creative vision.” VT

“Poets, Rock Stars, and Holy Men: A Literary Renaissance” will be on display at the Main Library (301 York St.) from Nov. 17, through Jan. 13. A free opening reception and poetry reading featuring Ron Whitehead will be held at the Main Library at 2 p.m. on Nov. 17. For more information, visit LFPL.org or call 502.574.1611.