Hoot and holler for poetry

This article originally appeared in the Kentucky Kernel.

By Matt Wickstrom

For the last eight and a half years Lexington’s literary community has hooted and hollered at Al’s Bar as part of their monthly Holler Poets Series, curated by local poet and conservationist Eric Scott Sutherland.

The series, which first began as an outlet for Sutherland’s politically-charged poetry has blossomed into a jumping off point for many of the area’s most clever minds.

Sutherland first began curating events around town shortly after graduating from UK in 1996 with a degree in natural resource conservation, with his first shows at the Bluegrass Baking Company. 

During the day Sutherland works as an arborist and author, having published four books including one about the George W. Bush presidency that helped to set in motion what has evolved into the Holler Poets Series.

Soon thereafter Sutherland met with Chuck Clenney of WRFL and Lexington Community Radio where the two had a mutual interest in using art as a means to combat what’s going on politically and internationally in our world, and an event dubbed “Poets for Peace” was born. 

Sutherland was blown away from the turnout of the initial Holler, which featured a performance from former Kentucky poet laureate Jane Vance. Since the monthly celebration has only grown, allowing some of the area’s most eclectic minds an opportunity to wear their emotions on their sleeve and let their message permeate the crowd.

“I didn’t know what to expect early on, but the response and turnout has been great from the start,” Sutherland said. “Its taken on a life of it’s own and has become something very important to the literary community which really started flourishing around the same time Holler started getting it’s feet off the ground.”

The Holler Poets Series hits the century mark this Friday, Sept. 30 at Al’s Bar. The celebration will feature several special poetic guests, an extensive open mic, and music from Mason Colby, Devine Carama and Warren Byrom and The Fabled Canelands. Sutherland still plans to keep the series going in some capacity after this month, but is undecided on what format it will remain in.

“I’m not sure how it’s going to end up going,” Sutherland said. “I feel like I need to be thrown back into that creative unknown and see what that provokes in me as far as being an organizer goes. I’m looking forward to not having something to be committed to so that I can focus a bit more on what my future holds.”

One thing is for sure: Lexington’s literary scene has never been bursting with as much talent and diversity as it does now, and none of that would be possible without the contributions of Sutherland and the Holler Poets Series.

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