When I was an English major at Bellarmine University, it seemed as if I constantly wrote. Short stories. Poems. They all poured out of me. But once I left the halls of academia to enter “the real world,” it all just stopped.
That’s a shame. Luckily, there are still places to go to get your creative juices flowing.
One such place is InKY, a monthly reading series held at The Bard’s Town from September to May. InKY stands for “In Kentucky” and it showcases writers in the Kentucky area. It has been operated consistently for the past 12 years by Louisville Literary Arts, an organization that exists to enrich the literary arts in Louisville. They have also organized the Writer’s Block Festival since 2011, as well as writing workshops and other open mic events.
I was a little nervous to re-enter the writing world when my friend Ashlee Clark Thompson invited me to The Bard’s Town for the first InKY reading series of the season. She was the emcee and suggested I sign up for the open mic portion of the event. Excited and terrified, I combed through my archives for something to read. “My God,” I thought. “All of these pieces sound so juvenile!” I shook my head, chose two short poems and headed to the venue.
I pulled in almost 30 minutes early and thought that I would surely get a slot. No such luck. They were booked solid! It was probably a good thing. My writing was rusty.
Immediately after the event started, it felt like a homecoming. Ashlee called the first name for the open mic portion, a woman named Charlotte Whitty. She enthralled me with her reading about cooking while listening to Dr. John sing about the Third Ward in New Orleans. It transported me to my own kitchen, where I too like to cook gumbo and listen to the famed “Night Tripper” of Nawlins.
Casey Shepherd followed Charlotte with her first ever open mic performance, reading about how her daughter joined the ranks of “the emo kids” with her piece titled “Let Us Pray for the Acolyte. She Has Abandoned Her Duties. Let Us Pray for Us All.” Her hands shook while she read, but the audience silently hung on her every word.
Four performances later, Ashlee introduced the main event, readings from both Sarah Ann Strickley, a prose writer, and Jeff Worley, a poet. Both of them are recipients of the National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship.
Sarah chose a segment from a novel she said has taken her 10 years to write, which she will title either “Eclipse,” “Ohio” or “Watermark.” She hasn’t decided, yet, but the audience, almost all in unison, shouted to her that the former resonated most with them. Her story about a teen girl in the Cincinnati area during the Great Flood of 1937 led to people in the audience engaging her in conversations on the topic.
Jeff Worley delivered charm and poetry while reading from his published book “A Little Luck.” The poems all shared an air of nostalgia, the topics ranging from his dad catching him throwing up in their basement from alcohol consumption to being an English teaching assistant. His back-and-forth banter with the crowd only strengthened the bond in the room between performer and audience.
It was like everyone in the room was there to support everyone else, from the dialogue that was had, often bouncing from floor to stage and back again, to the generous applause enveloping the room, everyone happy to be surrounded by architects and admirers of the written word. It felt great, and even though I did not get a chance to share my own work, I thought to myself that I could have and the reception would have been more than enough to calm my performance jitters.
InKY occurs the second Friday of every month. I’ll definitely be back next time – prose in hand, ready to engage with the crowd. VT
For more information, visit louisvilleliteraryarts.org/inky-reading-series.
By Steven Carr, Contributing Writer