The Aug. 31 paper included a detailed calendar heralding the major local arts events between now and 2015. There was only one problem. While the calendar included film, theater, dance, music, and visual arts events, it ignored the artistic arena in which Lexington is arguably most accomplished: the literary arts.
The Herald-Leader has long celebrated the arts scene in Lexington, and the visual and performing artists appreciate the newspaper's diligence in giving them exposure. But why neglect the novelists, poets, and other literary artists who are no less creative — no less artistic — than all the rest?
I am a multidisciplinary artist and writer who made her bones in Kentucky, primarily Lexington. I have yet to see the literary arts in this city being talked about in the same circles as the other fine or performing arts disciplines.
Is it because writing is seen as more of a craft or trade than an art form? Is it because literally anyone can pick up a pen or sit down at a computer keyboard and do it? Is it that writing is now so carelessly practiced — in endless spam and status updates — that we have exiled it from being considered a traditional artistic discipline?
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Yet, how can we forget that imaginative storytelling is the oldest, most primordial art form of them all? And that Kentucky can claim some of the most accomplished?
Wendell Berry, Bobbie Ann Mason, Nikky Finney, Robert Kirkland, Frank X Walker, Silas House and Barbara Kingsolver — among many others — are still going strong. James Still, Robert Penn Warren, and William Wells Brown are among the denizens of Kentucky writers who paved the way for the rest of us.
Some might ask: But literary art is a solo undertaking, so why should it be included in an events calendar? Because literary artists in Lexington are creating events: poetry slams, monthly open mics, featured readings, book releases, and collaborations with artists in other media. Like painting, music composition and other arts that start with one artist alone, literary art is eventually made public, experienced and appreciated.
To express something artistically is to begin a conversation between not just intellects or consumers, but between souls. Ask anyone who has ever witnessed a reading by the Affrilachian Poets if they left feeling unstirred, unmoved, the same as they'd been before they walked in the door. To some extent, literary arts fuelsthe other artistic disciplines, but the literary arts as a discipline must continue to be celebrated as a stand-alone art form worthy of recognition by organizations and news sources.
I admit I am biased. As the new literary arts liaison for the Carnegie Center, which means I do everything I can to make sure the writing community and literary-arts enthusiasts across the state know what events celebrate our discipline. I was disappointed to see no mention in the calendar of any events, including the Carnegie Classics event, which drew 400 arts enthusiasts last year and featured The Great Gatsby.
This year's Carnegie Classics on Friday, Nov. 7, will revolve around Catcher in the Rye. We have invited more than a dozen filmmakers, musicians, dancers and culinary artists to respond to J.D. Salinger's seminal novel. It will be an unforgettable night and just one sample of what an event inspired by the literary arts has to offer. We welcome you to join us.