is the grass any bluer...

is the grass any bluer...
on the other side?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Foller Holler!

by Kim Thomas

...and The Beat goes on...

“The only thing that can save the world is the reclaiming of the awareness of the world. That's what poetry does.” Allen Ginsberg
(Note: read this coverstory in full, pick up Ace Weekly, on stands now! KT)
If the ice and snow kept you barricaded in your home and you had to miss Holler Poets Series 9, this news will warm the cockles of your heart. This week, Holler returns with Series 10, on February 18, beginning at 8:00 p.m., at Al's Bar & Grill, where the beers are cheap, but the poetry is rich. Holler 10, featuring Chuck Clenney and Crystal Wilkinson and hosted by Eric Sutherland, will follow with music by Devine Carama (whose album, Divine Intervention was just released this past Saturday). Admission is FREE.

Since the Holler Poets Series is followed by such a diverse and thoughtful group of poets, writers, thinkers and people who just automatically give you a good vibe that creativity is alive and living at Al's, it's not surprising that Holler has become known as THE literary event in Lexington.

How Holler Happened
The Holler Poets Series is the burgeoning brainchild of Eric Sutherland, a socially conscious advocate and encourager for local musical and vocal artists. Sutherland admits he had organized a similar series years ago, but "had descended into creative hibernation. Over beers at Al's one night, I was having a chat with a friend, and poet, Chuck Clenney about the need for a poetic response to the 5 year anniversary of the Iraq invasion. Poets for Peace was born that night and took place at Al's in March, the 5-year marker."
Poet Laureate Jane Gentry Vance headlined the group of eight poets that night, and according to Sutherland, "we had a huge turnout. At that point, [Al’s owner] Les Miller asked me if I wanted to do something at Al's on the regular. I decided a monthly poetry and music gig would be just what the community needed and set about organizing Holler." The first event happened in May, with Jude McPherson and Maurice Manning headlining. The excitement and energy was so great, Sutherland then organized about 4 or 5 months' worth of events at one time. On February 4, Holler 9, the ninth show in the series had Al’s packed to the gills, standing room only within a half hour.
Sutherland has an enthusiasm that seems to have touched people of all ages, and in all walks of life. The wise and wonderful Jim Embry told me he considers Sutherland to be, "one of the most incredible artists not only in the Bluegrass, but just about anywhere." You just can’t get a better nod than that. At the Holler shows, Sutherland never misses a beat, knows everyone who walks in, and most importantly, shows his respectful support by being an rapt listener.

Featured Holler Poets
One of the spotlighted artists at Holler 9, Mike Kimble met Sutherland through going to Holler. Kimble says, “He’s an incredible poet and infectious with creative energy. I think Holler’s success has a lot to do with that energy.” Kimble has been writing for several years and names two main inspirational influences, Saul Williams and Black Ice. “I have had the pleasure of seeing both live and both bring incredible, yet different styles and topics to the forefront. They are extremely driven by their craft and it is plainly evident that their work ethic to continually progress and get better never diminishes. They unknowingly push me to strive to reach my potential and hopefully carve out a name for myself one day on a larger scale. Maybe one day I can have people pay to come see me speak. That would be unbelievable.” Kimble didn’t know until he was in college that wanted to write, “I had dreams of being a NBA basketball star but when that fell through, poetry found its way into my heart and never left.” The crowd at Al’s was moved, and rewarded Kimble with shouts and applause for his courage, when he proudly voiced his devotion to and admiration for his family, especially his younger brother, who has autism.

Open Mic Opens Up Avenue for Expression
One of Sutherland’s regular open-mic readers who always draws a keen interest is Sunny Montgomery, who had everyone in stitches at Holler 9, bringing down the house with her hilarious story about office etiquette. Montgomery is grateful to the Holler scene, and believes that “it’s not so much that I feel like Holler has brought the writer out in me (I've considered myself a writer since I was ten), but something it’s done for sure is give me a reason to keep turning out new pieces. I tell myself that I have to have something new to read at open mic every month, so I'll write a lot of stories before I get one that I'm comfortable reading to a crowd. Coupling a passion for writing with a fear of rejection is definitely making me become a stronger writer!” Montgomery thinks another element of Holler’s success is because everyone is always so supportive to the open mic readers. “I’ve made some good friends and met a lot of really talented writers who’ve seriously inspired my writing (Donna Ison, Maurice Manning, Kristen Roach Thompson for example). Holler has been a great literary network for me. I mean Al’s Bar was already a really cool place to be (shout out to the black bean burger) -- you combine that with the amazing energy and creative spirit that Holler brings and I believe this is easily the greatest literary event to happen in Lexington.”

Holler Poets Series 9
At Holler 9, host Eric Sutherland began the evening with the open mic session, an assortment of readings that covered every subject from Sunny Montgomery's hilarious story about office etiquette to Donna Ison's irreverent snippet from her book, The Miracle of Myrtle: Saint Gone Wild (which is now available at Open mic concluded with readings by Sutherland and Devine Carama, adding just enough solemn verse to sober the audience and set the mood for featured poets, Kristen Roach Thompson and Mike Kimble. Although much of the evening was spent in laughter, Thompson and Kimble both reflected their contemplative nature through their spoken word. Thompson’s musings revealed how her wry sense of humor had helped her survive several bouts with melanoma, at times simply saying, "here's another cancer poem," as an introduction. Kimble completed the verbal portion of the show with prose on a multitude of topics. At one point, he stepped to the side and finished his performance off-mic, speaking with an open heart about his love and respect for his younger brother, who is autistic.
Sutherland, the master of gentle persuasion, often shushed the spirited crowd during readings, but the air of respect for him was palpable and likewise, they obeyed. With the below-zero wind chill, how comforting to find this pocket of poetic warmth by going a little bit out of my way last week. Even those who think they don't like poetry should make an effort on February 18th to witness Holler's showcase of local talent. After all, these are the stars of tomorrow! Sutherland promises an even bigger Holler extravaganza in March! Watch here in Ace Weekly for that latest about and this thought- provoking collection of poets, which in the past have included the following: Maurice Manning, Jude McPherson, Bianca Spriggs, Jane Gentry Vance, Willie Davis, Ed McClanahan, Gurney Norman, Rebecca Howell, Katerina Stoykova-Klemer, Crystal McGee, Makalani Bandele, Matthew Haughton, George Ella Lyon, NAM, Chuck Clenney, Theo Edmonds.

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