Something to which any writer at any level can attest: writing isn’t easy.
Finishing that story or poem will likely never get any easier, but an annual literary event in Hazard scheduled for April could help improve the process altogether.
Hazard Community and Technical College will host An Evening with Poets, followed by its annual Spring Writers Conference, during the last week of April. For Professor Scott Lucero, who organizes the reading and conference to coincide with the release of the college’s literary journal, Kudzu, these upcoming dates will be an opportunity for writers not only to hone their craft, but also interact with published writers who share the same passions.
“The reading is special because we often have poets who have never been published and certainly have never read before sharing their work with up to 200 people,” Lucero said. “It’s a challenge for them, but it’s rewarding because they’re up there rubbing elbows with people like Bianca Spriggs and Frank X Walker and Wendell Berry and Nikky Finney, and this year with former poet laureate and Hazard native Gurney Norman. It’s exciting and special.”
Norman, who worked for a time as a reporter for The Hazard Herald, will be reading from his newest book, Ancient Creek, his first work of fiction since his highly regarded Kinfolks was released in 1977. Additionally, last year’s winner of the Kudzu Poetry Prize, Leigh Anne Hornfeldt, will also be featured during An Evening with Poets.
A native of Kentucky, Hornfeldt’s poetry has been published in a number of journals, and her debut chapbook was recently released through Flutter Press. She learned of her passion for writing at an early age, composing her first poem at the age of six. Since then, while she does work in other genres, it is poetry that she says will always remain in the forefront.
“I enjoy the challenge of working in other genres, the way they force me to think outside of my pattern, but poetry is a kind of magic,” she said. “I think it was Ted Hughes that likened poems to spells or incantations. I’ll always write poetry, to focus that energy, that magic, to live in the mist while also cutting through it.”
Along with Norman, Hornfeldt will also be leading a workshop session during the writers conference on April 26. She said workshops for her have represented opportunities to cultivate her development as a disciplined writer because they forced her to take the all-important first step: showing up.
“I liken it to working out; the hardest part is often just getting to the gym or the trail for a run,” she said. “Once you’re there, everything that needs to happen is able to happen, right? Workshops motivate me to sit down in the chair and do the work.”
Hornfeldt said she also hopes to challenge writers and expose them to new poets and possibilities, or as she put it, “to take risk and accept the reward.”
“Last year I was fortunate enough to take Gurney Norman’s workshop. One of the things he said was, ‘Let’s demystify writing.’ That hit hard. The magic, the mystery is in the poem but there isn’t anything particularly mysterious about the act of writing,” she said. “You sit and put words on paper. You have permission to write terribly, you have permission to make awful mistakes, but you cannot give yourself permission to be inactive whether that means reading, chewing over ideas in your mind, writing, editing, or submitting.”
An Evening with Poets will kick off at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 25 at the Stephens Library on the Hazard campus of HCTC. Along with Norman and Hornfeldt, other writers published in the journal Kudzu will read their work.
The annual Spring Writers Conference will include two concurrent sessions, from 10 a.m. to noon, and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, April 26. Both the poetry reading and the writers conference are open to the public and free of charge. And for the writers participating, Lucero said they can come away with the understanding that their stories have merit.
“This really helps us all recognize that it’s possible, that we can write, that we can get out stories told,” Lucero said. “Once we see that, that we can tell our stories and that people will listen, it reinforces that drive to write. It validates us and helps us find new ways to tell our stories. And if we don’t tell them, who will?”