Kentucky Literary Newsletter:
September 2017

September, 2017

Click here for a complete calendar of events

By the People, For the People

This month is filled with long-standing traditions, such as the Kentucky Women Writers Conference, as well as new additions to the calendar, such as Books & Brews: Literary Trivia. We are also proud to include the readers of 502 Lit News. For those who don’t know, 502 Lit News was created by Louisville Literary Arts as a mailing of Louisville’s upcoming literary events. In July, 502 Lit News released it’s final email. However, all recipients of 502 Lit News will receive this month’s Kentucky Literary Newsletter, which includes several events in the 502. If you would like to be removed from this mailing, that’s no problem: simply unsubscribe at the bottom of this email. Either way, we want to thank you for your contributions to Kentucky’s literary communities!

When the Carnegie Center took over the management of the KY Literary Newsletter, we have always intended it as a tool for the writers and readers. After talking with the folks at Louisville Literary Arts, we promised that the goal of the KY Lit Network is to be a public service for Kentucky writers and readers. The KY Lit Calendar allows anyone to submit a literary event, such as a book reading, writer networking party, or a critique group. However, we rely on individuals in the community to submit us their events. So, if you know of any events (whether or not you’re the organizer), please submit the event to the Kentucky Literary Calendar. If you don’t see the event on the calendar, than we probably don’t know about it, so please keep us informed!

More importantly, we value your feedback. If you have comments or suggestions for the Kentucky Literary Network, please reply to this email! Remember: this is designed as a resource for you. If it’s not working the way you want it to work, let us know. For those who don’t know me personally, I’ve always been a supporter of Lexington’s writing communities (particularly the local poetry scene), so don’t be afraid to reach out and strike up a conversation.

Thank you so much for your loyal readership, and cheers to an amazing kickoff to the fall!

Bronson O’Quinn
Data Coordinator
Carnegie Center for Literacy & Learning

Upcoming Deadlines

Note: All descriptions are listed as they are submitted by the event organizer.

Still: The Journal Literary Contests

Tuesday, September 9, 2017

$12 Entry Fee

Still: The JournalStill: The Journal announces the return of our annual writing contests in fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Prizes are $200 for first-place winners in each genre and publication in our Fall issue. Our judges are R. Dean Johnson for fiction, Marc Harshman for poetry, and Sarah Einstein for creative nonfiction. We invite you to submit your work to our contests. All contest entries are considered for future publication in Still: The Journal.

The contest entry fee is $12, and the deadline for entries is September 9, 2017.


Note: All descriptions are listed as they are submitted by the event organizer.

World Voices

Friday, September 1 @ 5:30 – 7:00pm

Flea Off Market
107 E Jefferson St
Louisville, KY 40202


The 90-minute World Voices program will bring the creativity and culture of Louisville’s world citizens to the popular Flea Off Market, with readings and performances by first-generation Americans, immigrants and refugees. This event coincides with the 15th annual World Fest— one of the region’s largest international festivals, featuring food, music, dance, culture and education (September 1-4).

Reader and performers, so far, include playwright Haydee Canovas Hernandez (Cuba), vocalist and voice coach Margareth Miguel (Brazil), and writer Irene Sulyevich (Ukraine).

Carnegie’s 25th Birthday Party in the Park

Saturday, September 9 @ 4:00 – 7:00pm

Gratz Park
Lexington, KY 40507


The Carnegie Center for Literacy & Learning opened its doors to the public on September 11, 1992. This year, we are proud to celebrate 25 years of empowering people to explore and express their voices!

Come celebrate this milestone with us on Saturday, September 9, 4:00-7:00 pm in Gratz Park (Carnegie’s backyard). We’ll have carnival snacks and games, face painting, live music from the Debraun Thomas Trio, and much more fun for the whole family!

Free & no registration is required.

Books & Brews: Literary Trivia

Thursday, September 14, 2017 @ 6:00 – 8:00pm

Goodwood Brewing Company
636 E Main St
Louisville, KY 40202

$5 suggested donation

Bring your friends or join a team. Test your book knowledge while supporting LLA and Community Foundation of Louisville #GiveforGoodLou campaign. The Celtic Pig food truck will be on hand.

Kentucky Women Writers Conference

Friday, September 15, 2017 – Saturday, September 16, 2017

Carnegie Center for Literacy & Learning
251 W 2nd St
Lexington, KY 40507

$200 general admission with workshop
$125 general admission no workshop
$30 student admission

39th annual Kentucky Women Writers Conference. Workshops, craft talks, panel discussions, and readings with Natalie Diaz, Camille Dungy, Olivia Gatwood, Jessica Handler, Martyna Majok, Elena Passarello, Melynda J. Price, Maggie Shipstead, Claire Vaye Watkins, Kayla Rae Whitaker, and more.

Free Events:

Kentucky Great Writers Series

Tuesday, October 3, 2017 @ 6:00 – 7:30pm

Carnegie Center for Literacy & Learning
251 W 2nd St
Lexington, KY 40507


Join us for readings from Christopher Rowe’s Telling the Map, Richard Underwood’s CrimeSong: True Crime Stories From Southern Murder Ballads, and Amelia Marten’s The Spoons Are There to Dig a Moat. An open-mic will take place at 6:00 pm, and the readings by featured authors will follow at 6:30. Locally-owned Brier Books will be selling books at this signing event, and light refreshments will be provided by Nate’s Coffee.

21st Annual Jim Wayne Miller Celebration of Writing

Sunday, October 15, 2017 @ 2:00 – 4:00pm

21st Annual Jim wayne Miller Celebration of Writing
4660 Nashville Rd
Bowling Green, KY 42101


Prof. Frederick Smock, Ky. Poet Laureate. Reading and discussion in Western’s Ky. Room of the Ky. Museum and Library at 2 p.m. Central.

Free and open to the public.

Kentucky Great Writer: Lisa Williams

Every now and then you meet a poet with as much generosity as grace both on the page and in person. Lisa Williams is just such a poet and something of a magician when it comes to the execution of a poem. I have always admired and envied how effortless the craft appears in her capable hands as she infuses poems with lush imagery and constant wonder at the natural world.  Lisa’s lines are always so poised, but don’t let the attention to diction and syntax fool you. Overall there is an untamed quality to her poems and the endings can leave you breathless.

Lisa agreed to talk some with me about her new book and the art of crafting poetry. You can read an excerpt, “Sea Heart,” from her new collection, Gazelle in the House, here. On Tuesday, October 14, Lisa along with Courtney Stevens (Faking Normal) and Don Lichtenfelt (G0odbye Lake Huron), will read as part of the Kentucky Great Writers Series for the 2014-2015 season.

When was the moment you knew this was a collection?

I don’t know that I did—but once I got the title poem, Gazelle in the House, into shape, I realized that would be the title for the book. That title allowed me to see the book as a sort of bestiary of the imagination.

Did any particular research go into the collection or aspects of the poems? What was your favorite research-related discovery while writing?

Yes, I do research for the poems about natural creatures, for example. For example, my poem “Fiddler Crab” emerged from watching one on a beach in Massachusetts. doing research online about fiddler crabs and how they move and why. My octopus poems emerged from observing octopuses at two aquariums as well as from reading material on octopuses and watching a documentary or two. Other poems emerge out of reading, observation, research, and imagining. Like many others, I am impressed with the giant octopus’s ability to collapse its entire body such that it can move through a hole the size of a quarter. There’s a video of one doing that on YouTube.

Which poem is the black sheep of the collection and why?

That’s an interesting question: I’m not sure. Perhaps the one about my grandmother, “Adjusting to Darkness.” I always feel strange publishing poems about my family and personal life—I don’t tend to write directly about those things. But I come from a family of women, (I was raised by my mother and grandmother, both unusually independent women for their time) and have been interested in how we form identities as women, especially coming out of untraditional family situations. I felt the poem belonged in the middle series of the book, “Experience,” which includes poems about adolescence, girlhood, motherhood, and sexual awakening—some of these poems are about painful experiences, so I thought “Adjusting to Darkness” was a good one to include, too, because it’s about adjusting your perspective and your imaginings to something that makes you feel better and more composed in the world. That’s not always a good thing—but for my grandmother, I think it was.

Which poem is the oldest?

I think that the poems “Experience” and “The Visit,” both about adolescence (see above) are the oldest.

Which poem was the most difficult to pin down?

There are a few that I worked very hard on; the first was “Thelonious,” probably my favorite thing I’ve written, but also about a musician and writer whose music dazzles me. I wanted to capture, in words, something of the slant, affecting music he made. I remember in particular working over and over on the closure of that poem until I felt that I’d gotten it right—but it had to be slant right, if you know what I mean? Not too uplifty or slick. I wanted it to have that peculiar mixture of elation, strangeness, melody, and deep searching that I associate with Monk.

The title poem, “Gazelle in the House,” started out in three line stanzas, and it was way too long (which for me is a page and a half). I submitted it to some magazine and one of the editors, who I very much respect, wrote back saying that they at the magazine liked the poem but thought it went on to long. I don’t usually take that kind of advice from a momentary reader, but this struck a chord. I put the poem away for a while but kept wanting to make something of it. Then I took it back out and decided I would put it all together into prose and see what happened. This allowed me to “pin down” some of the rhythms and to tighten out the excess. But prose poems aren’t really my thing: I have to have some swerving, some fast breaks–the last three lines of the poem broke back into poetry. This felt right; it seemed like my difficulty taming and containing the poem into a poetic frame or structure dovetailed with the subject itself—and the title—and then, finally, the whole book. (I have to also thank Morgan Frank of Memorious for publishing the poem, which gave me further encouragement. Memorious also nominated it for a Puschart Prize.)

Where can we buy your book?

You can purchase signed copies at the Centre College bookstore, order the book from New Issues press, or (of course) go to an electronic site like amazon.

What does your writing process look like? Any rituals that ensure literary gold?

Heavens, no. I don’t know what that would look like.

I do love to have a stretch of the day in front of me—time for coffee, leisurely reading, quietness in the house. Being in a certain mood and taking a long walk where there are things to hear and see (but not so much noise I can’t think) helps too.

Do you have a system for arranging poems?

Not really. I go through them again and again, reading one then another, shuffling so that one relates to another or contrasts to it, etcetera. But, really, I find that people read books of poetry poem by poem, and that poets are more concerned with “order” of them than readers are. I think it helps us as poets to think there’s some order to how we arrange a book, because (perhaps) poetry being the guilty pleasure it is, we feel bad for not having a throughline or a clear narrative or something. It’s like asking someone to just eat scraps of things for dinner rather than a whole and complete meal. It is true, however, that more attention is given (in the press, with prizes, etc.) to books of poems that have a narrative arc—which is a shame. There are good books like that, of course, but it’s still too bad that general attention often goes to books of poetry that don’t work on a poem by poem basis. But this is another can of worms.

How do you choose titles?

Instinct, I guess. I try not to replicate a line in the poem in the title, so that the title ruins the surprise of the line. I think it’s best to be less ambitious with your title and more ambitious with your poem—though I understand that the title is the first thing an editor of a magazine will see. I can say that titles are important to me when I myself am deciding to read a poem or a book. Therefore, for my own titles, I want them to reflect something of the strangeness and the music I value in poetry, but not too much, or not too pretentiously.

What is your favorite part of the publishing process? Least favorite?

Well, someone telling me they love the manuscript and want to publish it. I love having found a reader.

I both love and have trouble with giving readings. It’s nerve-wracking for me, because I want to give an audience something they will like—and that can mean I end up reading poems I think they will like based on my judgments about who they are and so forth, sometimes from just seeing them briefly. This is a mistake, sometimes—and sometimes not. Also, I tend to go up and down in how I feel about the quality of my work, and thus don’t always feel like sharing. However, when I get up there, I tend to really enjoy it, and am so grateful for a listener or two, so that nervousness disappears.

How do you get feedback on poems?

I sometimes ask my husband, Philip White, who is also a poet, to look over a poem if I am not sure about it or am having a problem with a section and would like a fresh pair of eyes. He tends to err on the side of severity and understatement, and I tend to err on the side of elaboration and riffing a little too much, so we’re a good balance for one another’s work in terms of offering some counterweight. Other than Philip, my feedback consists of editors and readers who encounter the work “out in the world.”

Favorite writing utensil?

I love a pen and an old-fashioned clipboard, or a notebook with a hard back, to write on.

How hard is it these days to start and maintain a career as a poet?

I don’t think of it as a career. More and more, it seems to me that both a poem, and a reader or listener of a poem, are gifts, and that these should be shared with very few strings attached. If someone is thinking that they want “a career as a poet,” then they don’t really want to write poetry. Writing poems is about writing poems—and about reading them. Mostly reading them, I think. But also—and this is key—it must give you pleasure, of some kind, intense pleasure, to write—even when you are alone, have no readers, and no expectation of readers. That’s very hard, I know, but it’s not as hard as most of the things people have to do in the world. It’s a privilege, a gift, to have the education, the ability, and the time, to write poems. And for me to have a job teaching it! Well, I feel really fortunate. But being a poet is not a career.

What are you currently working on?

I am working on two lyric essays (or hybrids of some kind) as well as a fourth collection of poems. I’m also trying to raise a little girl!

What was the worst job you ever had?

When I was fourteen I worked at a health food store that sold fresh foods in bulk; I was supposed to weigh and package the cheeses and dried fruits, but I kept eating them instead. I think I learned from this experience (which did not last long) how little self-control I had. Also, that you should never eat so very many dried cherries.

What book do you wish you had written?

Do I have to choose? Recently, I love Camille Dungy’s Smith Blue. Also Christina Davis’s An Ethic. Also Elizabeth Arnold’s Life. All three of these women have created a poetry that astonishes me—they are themselves, and they also powerfully and poetically speak; I suppose I don’t so much wish I had written the books, as wish I had the ability to write that they do, in my own voice and kind of language. This summer I read a great novel called The Bees (Laline Paull) which made me envious for its combination of the real and the imagined on a subject that has always interested me, in language that seemed very good. I wish I could do something like that.

Any guilty pleasures? Music, food, board games…

If these are truly guilty pleasures, and not gourmet guilty pleasures, then here goes: O Magazine. My husband’s homemade biscuits, with butter. Hot tamales (the candy). Good self-help books. I’m serious—those things saved my life when I was a kid and my culture wasn’t talking about stuff I needed help with, so I still have a soft spot for Brene Brown and that sort of thing. I also stay up too late almost every night—reading, which always seems a guilty pleasure, to spend so much time doing that instead of, I don’t know, doing something, anything, less self-centered.

What’s your middle name?


Lisa Williams is the author of three books of poems, The Hammered Dulcimer (1998), Woman Reading to the Sea (Norton, 2008) and Gazelle in the House (New Issues, 2014). She is the recipient of the May Swenson Poetry Award, the Barnard Women Poets Prize, the Rome Prize, and an Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship. She teaches and Directs Creative Writing at Centre College. Her reviews of books of poetry can be read in The Cincinnati Review and on The Rumpus. She has been nominated ten times for a Pushcart Prize, and does not ever expect to win one.