Booksmart – Sound opportunities: Sarabande Reading Series taps a vein with poetry and music

Snapshots from the Sarabande Reading Series at The Pink Door.: Photo courtesy of The Pink Door

Snapshots from the Sarabande Reading Series at The Pink Door.: Photo courtesy of The Pink Door

Nickole Brown’s friends were grumbling. And she agreed with their complaints.
“There weren’t enough reading opportunities

Snapshots from the Sarabande Reading Series at The Pink Door.: Photo courtesy of The Pink Door

Snapshots from the Sarabande Reading Series at The Pink Door.: Photo courtesy of The Pink Door

for writers except for the InKY Reading Series,” she says. InKY plays host to readings on the second Friday of every month at The Rudyard Kipling.
Brown, a writer herself, began considering locations and the logistics of launching a similar event, but one that would promote both poetry and her employer, Sarabande Books, the Louisville nonprofit literary press that publishes poetry, essays and short fiction. Brown works there as director of marketing and development.

A vision began to coalesce in May after she reconnected with Adam Day, a fellow poet she met three years ago who moved back to Louisville from New York in January. The vision, Day says, was to create an event that pairs distinguished poets and local musicians whose work has a common quality, and to entice people not often exposed to poetry to come out and hear it read aloud.

On June 25, they launched the first Sarabande Reading Series at The Pink Door (2222 Dundee Road, 413-5204). The restaurant is just a block away from the Sarabande office. Brown publicized the event, which matched readings by poet Maurice Manning with a performance by Louisville singer-songwriter Joe Manning (no relation). Maurice Manning, a Kentucky native, teaches creative writing at Indiana University. His 2001 book, “Lawrence Booth’s Book of Visions,” received the 2000 Yale Series of Younger Poets Award.

Without an advertising budget, Brown announced the free event on two MySpace pages — her own and Sarabande’s. The results astounded both Brown and Day.
“The first one was packed,” she says. “It was unreal. It was unbelievable.”
Among the crowd, Brown saw recognizable faces from the local writing community as well as many she had never seen before. And it showed an encouraging age range.

The series, held on the last Monday of the month, has continued from there. In July it coupled readings by James Baker Hall, former Poet Laureate of Kentucky, with neo-old timey music from Pokey LaFarge. Last month featured a double bill with poet Joanie MacKowski and musician Scott Carney of Wax Fang.

This Monday at 7:30 p.m., the series presents poet Eugene Gloria and musician Nathan Salsburg. Gloria is the current Richard W. Peck Chair in Creative Writing at DePauw University. His most recent collection of poems, “Hoodlum Birds,” was published by Penguin, and he has received a Poetry Society of America award and a Pushcart Prize. Salsburg will add bluesy folk music to the show. Just back from New York City, he is the production coordinator of the Alan Lomax Collection album series on Rounder Records, as well as the current host of “Root Hog or Die,” which runs on Tuesdays from 10 a.m.-noon on the free Internet radio station East Village Radio (

At each event, Brown makes sure attendees can purchase books by the poets as well as others published by Sarabande, and she’ll even lead tours of the publishing house after the event for those who are curious to know more.

Brown believes the Sarabande series complements what the InKy series offers the community. Before she scheduled the June event, she called Erin Keane, the InKY director, to make sure the events would not detract from one another.

Now, Brown says, the community has two distinct opportunities to hear local and regional writers and musicians each month. Presumably, her friends are grumbling less.