By Pauletta Hansel. Pauletta is a Core Member of the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition and Cincinnati’s Poet Laureate. Her newest collection of poetry, Palindrome, will be launched in a UACC sponsored event, “Old Buddies, New Books” on October 7.
What do singer/songwriter Margie Drees of Ma Crow and the Lady Slippers and national bestseller JD Vance have in common? One answer: their work has been featured as part of the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition’s Literary Salon Series (Vance’s in absentia and Drees backed by the full bluegrass band!)
The goal of the Salon Series is to bring urban Appalachian literary artists to the attention of our community, and use their work as a springboard for engagement around Appalachian culture and identity. We gather the first Thursday of fall and spring months at Lydia’s on Ludlow, a welcoming coffeehouse/restaurant in Clifton owned by Lydia Stec, an urban Appalachian businesswoman. The Salon Series began in Spring 2016 and was originally part of their “Literary Lydia’s” series, but was popular enough on its own to outlive the series. (More recently, there’s an “All Ages Open Mic” featuring music and poetry on the Thursdays we are not there.)
Lydia’s is an intimate space with intentionally mismatched tables and chairs and a midcentury modern couch I’d love to have room for! Part of its charm is the large picture window behind the “stage” through which the lively Ludlow scene can be viewed along with the speaker/performer.
But much of the action is among the audience itself. Regular attendee Jeff Dey says, “The salon series offers an opportunity for writers and readers/listeners to talk as peers about how the writer interprets the world. This ‘feedback loop’ enhances the writer’s ability to create while enhancing the reader’s/listener’s ability to appreciate and understand. Accompanied by the occasional whirring and hissing of espressos being made, we are all energized and enriched by the experience!”
Past salons have focused almost exclusively on writers local to greater Cincinnati. (The focus of the aforementioned Vance salon was an exploration of how Appalachian writers, including our own Michael Henson, write about our urban and rural communities.) We’ve had readings from new books, literary journals and books in progress, a performance of music and words about gentrification of Over the Rhine, a talk by the composer of a contemporary Appalachian opera, and a 13-year-old singer/songwriter along with her intergenerational family band.
This year, with an infusion of funding from ArtsWave, and in preparation for the upcoming Appalachian Studies Conference in Cincinnati in April, “Re-stitching the Seams: Appalachia Beyond Its Borders,” we are focusing on “Exploring the Boundaries of Appalachian Experiences,” featuring writers from Cincinnati and beyond. Fall salons include Urban Appalachian Writers Across Generations with Omope Carter Daboiku, Scott Goebel and their respective children (Thursday, October 5); AppalAsian Poet Lisa Kwong, originally from Virginia but now a professor at Indiana University (Thursday, November 2); and Affrilachian Writer Crystal Wilkinson of Lexington, Kentucky, winner of the 2016 Ernest J. Gaines Award in Literary Excellence (December 7). All programs are 7-9 pm at Lydia’s on Ludlow, 329 Ludlow Ave. in Clifton. Come early for a good seat, and to order locally-sourced, organic food, coffee, tea and craft cocktails at Lydia’s on Ludlow. More information about the Salon Series and other Urban Appalachian Community Coalition Cultural Programs, click here.