Music club to toast University of Kentucky writing program in ‘100 Proof’

Author Erik Reece at his home in Nonesuch in July.
Author Erik Reece at his home in Nonesuch in July.

A group of new and longtime University of Kentucky writers will hold a reading from their works at the Burl music club in Lexington’s Distillery District.

“I don’t think it’s ever been done before, maybe back in the ’60s,” said Erik Reece, author of the recently published “Utopia Drive,” a chronicle of his road trip through utopian communities that has been featured in the New Yorker and the Atlantic, and on NPR.

One of Reece’s former students owns the Burl, and together they came up with the idea of a group event for new books and projects being published about the same time.

Those include longtime UK professor and writer Gurney Norman, who will read from his new novel, “Crazy Quilt,” and newer faculty including assistant English professors Hannah Pittard and Manuel Gonzales, whose new fiction is attracting national acclaim.

The New York Times called Pittard “a master of ordinary suspense” in her new novel, “Listen To Me.” Four months earlier, it described Gonzales’ new book, “The Regional Office is Under Attack!,” “an entertaining and satisfying novel.”

The “UK Writers — 100 Proof” event also will celebrate the English department’s relatively new master of fine arts degree in creative writing, which started in 2014, attracting Pittard and Gonzales as faculty.

“There’s a legacy here,” said Julia Johnson, who directs the MFA program and has a new poetry collection, “Subsidence,” out that explores the devastation left behind in her native New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina.

“So, the tradition is here or has been here for a long time. I think what’s different now is we have an MFA program, so there is more structure. … The University of Kentucky has always had very well-known Kentucky writers. … I think what’s happening now is that we have writers who are not only nationally known but internationally known.”

Johnson is one of three poets who will read at the event. The other is Frank X Walker, a co-founder of the Affrilachian Poets writers group. Walker’s most recent poetry collections have explored the horrors of addiction in “About Flight,” and the assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evers in “Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers.” His newest book is titled “Affrilachian Sonnets.”

In addition, Janet Eldred, the author of “Sentimental Attachments,” a book of essays, has turned to poetry in “More Sonnets from the Portuguese.”

Linda Blackford: 859-231-1359, @lbblackford

If you go

UK Writers — 100 Proof

When: 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 9

Where: The Burl, 375 Thompson Rd.

Cost: Free

Participating writers: Janet Eldred, Manuel Gonzales, Julia Johnson, Gurney Norman, Hannah Pittard. Erik Reece and Frank X Walker.