HAZARD – The first in a planned series of local poetry readings is scheduled for next week, and the event’s hosts are hoping that it will blossom into a monthly happening right here in Perry County.
Just this past summer, Jennifer Noble, with the help of several family members, opened what has become a popular eatery in the Treehouse Café & Bakery, located on the lower end of Hazard’s Main Street. And along with its variety of sandwiches and confections, she hopes her business will serve up a helping of artistic creativity to the local community. To that end, she and Leslie County poet Travis Stidham will be hosting the Treehouse Poets Series beginning Oct. 6.
Other than the annual Evening with Poets each spring at Hazard Community and Technical College, there is no regular poetry reading here in Perry County, noted Stidham, but that didn’t stop him from toying with the idea of beginning a regular series locally. And when he heard about Treehouse and walked in one day, where original pieces of art play a large role in the decor, he knew then there was a real possibility that a regular poetry reading could work.
“The idea to start a poetry reading has always been on my mind ever since I moved back to Hyden from Richmond,” Stidham said. “I lived in Richmond for three years while I was a student at EKU and during that time I could go to three or four poetry readings a month. In Hazard there is only one a year. Besides the Evening with the Poets at HCTC, anyone interested in the written arts will have to drive at least an hour and a half to find an event like this.”
As an artist herself, Noble said she was happy to provide the venue when Stidham recently approached her about hosting a poetry reading. A graduate of Perry Central who had been creating art since she was a child, the main focus of her business remains the culinary aspect, but the creative one is a close second. She hopes the restaurant can become a place where other artists can feel at home, and hosting the poetry series is a step in that direction.
“Creative people, it seems like they’re the minority,” she said. “There’s nowhere where they can go and be surrounded by other creative people and have people to relate to, or a place to relate to. You just don’t see that much around here.”
In fact, customers at Treehouse can already view local artists’ work. As she opened the restaurant, some of her own artwork was simply sitting in a building with nowhere to showcase it. She realized that other local artists were likely facing similar situations. That’s when she decided to make space available on her restaurant’s walls for other artists’ work ranging from paintings to photography. Providing space for writers to showcase their art, then, was a natural progression.
“When I got this place, I thought there has to be other artists with artwork that’s just sitting there, and there’s nowhere to put it,” Noble said. “That’s why I opened it for other artists.”
Both Noble and Stidham say they hope the poets series can become a monthly event where writers can share their work with others, but ultimately serves as a catalyst for an artistic movement where anyone interested in the arts can find what Stidham called a “supporting community.”
“Writing, whether fiction or poetry, is hard, lonely work,” Stidham said. “Being able to come out once a month with people that share your interest in writing, and being able to share your work are like therapy. There are too many writers around here wound up in knots because there are not enough places to share and be acknowledged.”
So far, word about the reading has been mainly focused on social media like Facebook, and Stidham has been passing out fliers in the community. He noted that 10 readers have posted on Facebook that they would be attending, but he’s hoping that up to 20 or more will show.
“Whenever I’ve been out to drop off fliers, I keep hearing that the community needs something like this,” he said. “A lot of people are excited for this event and for a lot of people, it’s going to be their first poetry reading, and possibly their first time reading.”
The first poetry reading at Treehouse Café & Bakery will be held Saturday, Oct. 6 from 6 to 8 p.m. Readers are encouraged to bring their poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction.