Savannah Sipple, Leatha Kendrick and Marianne Worthington met several years ago at the Appalachian Writers Conference and haven’t been able to avoid each other ever since. The trio will be reunited on Friday, June 27, when they perform at CSA Live: An Evening of Story and Song, a collaborative concert celebrating LAL's first year of its Community Supported Art program. They were selected to perform by CSA musicians from local bands Small Batch and Ancient Warfare, who didn't know the women had long standing connections to one another as well as to the rural landscapes of Appalachia.
The three women were all featured in the publication, See How We Are, an edited collection of selected works from the 2013 Lexington Poetry Month and was featured in the Lexington Art League's inaugural CSA harvest last summer.
“It’s nice to have a community of writers working on their craft with no egotism in relation to working with new writers,” Kendrick says of initiatives like Lexington Poetry Month.
Kendrick had always been interested in writing, but it wasn’t until moving to Floyd County that she began to take it seriously.
She claims that it was Appalachia that truly made her a writer.
“It was in Appalachia where I became aware of landscape in a totally different way...aware of the shadows in relation to the land and sky. It’s all intensified in Eastern Kentucky,” she says.
Kendrick’s work embodies a variety of subjects, including womanhood, cancer, love, loss, and pride in place.
“I have several poems prepared,” Leatha says about her performance at CSA Live. “I’ll decide what to read after observing what’s going on around me. I want the show to be as spontaneous and interactive as possible.”
Kendrick and Marianne Worthington have an ongoing mentor-mentee relationship that has bloomed over years of attending writing workshops and tutoring sessions.
“Leatha and I have a strong personal connection. She was the first person to take me seriously as a writer and a poet,” Worthington says.
Worthington’s poems are about family or music. As she is originally from Knoxville, Tennessee, her work is partly driven by its rich musical legacy.
“My work is based deeply in place,” says Worthington.
Many of her pieces focus on portraying specific viewpoints of major musical artists who had their start in the area, such as Dolly Parton. These pieces are part of a manuscript she is currently working on.
“I’m just so excited to work with women writers I really admire,” Worthington says.
“Being able to read their work is very inspiring...it’s like watching seasons change and come back around,”Leatha said of watching Sipple and Worthington’s work evolve.
Sipple is most focused on writing a collection of persona poems, which are poems written from the perspective of a certain character. Her series is dedicated to creating personas that convey the Appalachian experience. She currently has a
complete manuscript and plans to enter it into various book contests.
“Place is a huge theme in my collection,” Sipple says. “Normally Appalachia is portrayed in a negative way, and I hope to offer a well rounded perspective and show how complicated it is even though it’s not that different than anywhere else.”
When asked about what she will read during CSA Live, Sipple says she had not picked specific poems, but they will most likely be from her collection of persona poems.
“My work also focuses on loss. The idea of loving where you’re from and deciding to leave it,” Sipple says.
The three poets express their excitement to perform, but more so to gain more artistic experiences. Kendrick says she’s most excited for the conversations after the show that may provide inspiration for future work.
“Even if we are not outwardly collaborating, the spirit or feeling of positivity is there that’s not always there when you’re by yourself,” Kendrick says. “Writing is so deeply a community activity.”
“It’s a real honor to have been chosen by the musicians,” Worthington says. “I’m extremely excited to meet them.”
“The more people you have connected across mediums, the more likely you are to evoke change,” Sipple says, “This is a great opportunity for Lexington and surrounding areas.”
“Every opportunity that we can create for writers and artists to cross paths enriches the community,” Kendrick says. “Nothing happens without creativity at heart.”
Kendrick, Sipple, and Worthington will appear live alongside CSA musicians, including members of Small Batch, Ancient Warfare, and Emily Hagihara with Severn Edmondson, Joe Drury and Derek Rhineheinmer, on Friday, June 27 at 8 p.m. at the Lyric Theatre. Tickets are $15 and available online and at the door. Don't miss this one of a kind experience!
Small Batch is no stranger to collaboration in the arts. There are five permanent members of the local Americana/bluegrass group, four of whom will perform next Friday at CSA LIVE. Between them, though, they are part of 15 different musical groups.
Reva Williams, singer/songwriter and member of Small Batch and Ancient Warfare, and Emily Hagihara, solo artist and drummer in Ancient Warfare, both sat down with LAL to provide a glimpse into the collaborative, creative process that lays the groundwork for art making in Lexington. Reva will be performing with both Ancient Warfare and Small Batch at CSA LIVE. Emily will be performing her solo work and with Ancient Warfare, but will also be appearing in place of Small Batch's bass player.
“Collaboration definitely depends on the people you’re with,” Williams said. “When you’re working with people who realize the creative process takes time it gives you the chance to come up with something truly organic.”
"I love collaboration. It's comforting to form those relationships and grow by performing," Hagihara said. "I try to say yes to as much as I can."
“To me, the only thing I’m interested in is good work that speaks something to the human person,” Williams said. She and the other musicians were given the opportunity to choose the poets who will be featured in CSA LIVE. After reading See How We Are, a book featuring Lexington Poetry Month writers, the musicians decided that work by Kentucky poets Savannah Sipple, Leatha Kendrick, and Marianne Worthington would fit best in the show.
Williams said that she, along with the rest of Small Batch and Ancient Warfare, believe Lexington can provide great things.
“We work hard to support the local economy. Not out of sentimentality, but because our local things are excellent,” Williams said. “Lexington is ripe with art…a lot is going on here.”
While artistic fellowship is a main focus for these musicians, organizing practice times between their busy schedules of work and rehearsals can become a task all its own.
“Sometimes it’s a struggle to puzzle piece things together because we all have jobs and our own lives,” Williams said. “It can be crazy, but it’s always a rewarding and fun experience,” she said.
Small Batch’s first experience with CSA was being part of the April crop with their seven-inch vinyl contribution. Williams said being contacted by LAL was perfect timing, because they needed an impetus to get in the studio to start recording.
“Having cash up front to record music is expensive,” she said. “It was great having the funding to continue doing what we wanted.” Small Batch is now in the studio adding to their CSA contribution in hopes of releasing a full album soon.
"The financial aspect of creating our art is no easy feat, especially pressing vinyl," Hagihara said. "CSA allows that to happen and gets material into the hands of people who wouldn't normally buy it or see us perform."
The music scene in Lexington is an interwoven web of creative resources. It’s not uncommon for artists to roam from band to band exploring new depths of musical talent with a myriad of people, feeding artistic energy of all kinds. CSA LIVE is designed to be a testament to the ongoing cross-pollination of the arts.
“Most of Lexington’s music scene happens when people are asleep,” Williams said. “CSA is a chance to introduce that music and art to people who haven’t had a chance to experience it yet. People don’t know the richness of music here and that it can add a lot to their lives.”
See Reva Williams, Emily Hagihara, and the rest of Small Batch and Ancient Warfare at the Lyric Theatre next Friday, June 27 at 8pm. Tickets are $15.
CSA LIVE CELEBRATES ONE YEAR OF HOMEGROWN CREATIVITY
This time one year ago, LAL launched Kentucky’s first Community Supported Art program. At the time, it was the only CSA program in Kentucky. Since then, our friends in Covington visited LAL to see how it worked and adapted a model for Northern Kentucky. Not long after LAL’s CSA debuted, the New York Times published an in-depth feature about how CSA’s are emerging as a national grassroots trend in art buying and collecting.
We’re proud that LAL literally put Kentucky on the CSA map. In its first year, LAL’s CSA directly supported the careers of over 30 local artists, providing income, visibility, and connections to new audiences. The purpose of CSA Live: An Evening of Story and Song is to celebrate and highlight the talent growing in our own backyard.
But we’re a visual art organization, so why are we putting on a concert starring musicians and writers, you might ask.
LAL’s Community Supported Art program is interdisciplinary by nature. Each crop of local art includes at least one original musical work and one literary selection. LAL understands that many local artists work across multiple genres; and further, that cross-pollination among the different arts can only strengthen a creative community.
“The boundaries of creative practice among artists here is fluid,” LAL Curator Becky Alley explains.
“Performing artists, musicians, writers, and visual artists are friends, they share ideas, and they collaborate on projects,” she says. “By design, the CSA program supports the creation of new work, and LAL feels that extending an invitation to writers and musicians only strengthens the program and its community-minded spirit.”
CSA Live: An Evening of Story and Song celebrates the diversity of Central Kentucky’s lush artistic landscape. What’s more, it is designed to give participating musicians and writers a chance to curate their own creative experience--from the freedom to collaborate across boundaries and genres, the encouragement to create original works in response to other works, and to originate ideas beyond the scope of their “usual” gigs.
By weaving poetry, music, and visual media such as video, CSA Live promises to be an unforgettable evening of pure creativity and fun for artists and audience alike. Check out the lineup below! And don't forget to buy your tickets today!
CSA Live: An Evening of Story and Song is on June 27, 8 p.m. at the Lyric Theatre. Tickets are $15.
MEET THE ARTISTS
Members of Small Batch, which is a five-piece collective whose members are a part of at least a dozen other Lexington bands. The band is of that clusterfolk variety that steals handily from country, bluegrass, folk and old-timey music until it's convenient to ignore those same forms in search of some other feeling or sound. They play mostly original songs written and sung by the three different songwriters in the band, and there is more than a little harmony that happens all the time. There are also expletives, booze songs (both about quitting and continuing), songs about cheating, family tales and stories of love and hate. With Tree Jackson on vocals and guitar, Warren Byrom on vocals and guitar, Reva Williams on vocals and banjo, Scott Wilmoth on upright bass (who, sadly, cannot join us for the CSA live event) and Robby Cosenza on vocals, harmonica and drums, Small Batch sounds like its name: a good and unique blend of some of the best music around.
Emily Hagihara is a classically trained multi-instrumentalist who has recorded with artists such as Ben Sollee, Cheyenne Mize, and Jim James (My Morning Jacket). She received a Bachelor's Degree in Music Performance for Percussion from the University of Kentucky. She has also written and performed music for the Contemporary Dance Collective and Blackbird Dance Theater. She served as musical director and performer in the Kentucky Conservatory Theater/Summerfest Series. Having recorded and toured extensively with Chico Fellini, Hagihara currently performs as a solo artist and plays drums/keyboard in Ancient Warfare. Emily will be accompanied by a collection of local musicians, including Severn Edmondson, Joe Drury and Derek Rhineheinmer
Born a raw two-piece in the deep South, Ancient Warfare is now a multi-membered, multi-layered organism led by singer and guitarist Echo Wilcox. Ancient Warfare has shared the stage with national acts such as Richard Buckner, Mr. Gnome, Lucius, Chelsea Wolfe, Scout Niblett, Prince Rama, and The Ghost Wolves. Debut album The Pale Horse to be released Autumn 2014 (Alias Records).
Savannah Sipple is a poet from Eastern Kentucky. She is working to publish a manuscript of persona poems set in a small Appalachian town. Her work has appeared in Her Limestone Bones, Deep South Magazine, Now & Then, Still: The Journal, Appalachian Heritage, The Louisville Review, New Southerner, Motif 3: All the Livelong Day, as well as on the Accents Publishing Blog as part of Lexington Poetry Month, and is forthcoming in the Southern Indiana Review. She is co-creator and a writer at Structure and Style, a blog about poetry.
Marianne Worthington, a native of Knoxville, Tenn., is a poet and educator living in Whitley County, Ky., since 1990. She is co-founder and poetry editor of Still: The Journal, an online literary journal as well as poetry editor for Now & Then: The Appalachian Magazine. Her poetry chapbook, Larger Bodies Than Mine (Finishing Line Press, 2006), won the 2007 Appalachian Book of the Year in Poetry Award. She edited the first three volumes in the MOTIF Anthology Series from MotesBooks. She is associate professor of communication and journalism at University of the Cumberlands. Worthington's essays, reviews, poetry and feature articles have been published widely and anthologized most recently in The Southern Poetry Anthology: Volume VI, Tennessee, Her Limestone Bones, American Society: What Poets See, and Cornbread Nation. She received the Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council and is a grant recipient from the Kentucky Foundation for Women.
Leatha Kendrick has widely published essays, poems and fiction in numerous journals and anthologies, including The Baltimore Review, The Southern Women's Review, The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume III; What Comes Down to Us - Twenty-Five Contemporary Kentucky Poets; and I to I: Life Writing by Kentucky Feminists. Recipient of two Al Smith Fellowships in poetry, she was honored by the Kentucky Foundation for Women with the Sallie Bingham Award in 2013. Larkspur Press published her fourth volume of poems, Almanac of the Invisible, in 2014. Her MFA in Poetry is from Vermont College of Fine Arts.