Entertainment, On A High Note

Poetry and book arts take over Nashville’s creative scene

For this month’s edition of Uniquely Nashville Arts, we head to the Germantown/MetroCenter area to highlight upcoming events offered by The Porch Writers Collective (“Watermelon Wine: The Poetry of Americana Music” on Sept. 17) and Watkins College (Handmade & Bound Nashville, Sept. 30-Oct. 1).

The Porch holds many events at the Skillery in Germantown. Susannah Felts is co-founder and co-director of The Porch. We chatted with her about “Watermelon Wine” and other events hosted by The Porch:

Tell us about Watermelon Wine at the Skillery the week of the Americana Festival.

Susannah Felts of The Porch Writers Collective (standing) hosts a recent event. PHOTO COURTESY THE PORCH

Susannah Felts of The Porch Writers Collective (standing) hosts a recent event. PHOTO COURTESY THE PORCH

“Watermelon Wine: The Poetry of Americana Music” will be an evening of story and song bringing together local songwriters and Alabama-based author Frye Gaillard, whose book “Watermelon Wine” lends its title to the event. Gaillard will read passages from his work, and the three songwriters—Anne E. DeChant, Fayssoux McLlean, and Peter Cooper—will perform acoustic renditions of their songs, in a sort of riff on call and response. We love the fact that this event shines a light on the artistry of well-crafted song lyrics. While we don’t offer songwriting workshops at the Porch—we feel that terrain is pretty well covered in Nashville, so we’re sticking to poetry, fiction, nonfiction and screenwriting for now, mainly— we agree with Gaillard’s argument that a kinship can be found between good songwriting and poetry.

The Porch’s annual fundraiser pairs a singer-songwriter with an author, doesn’t it?

Indeed it does. Our inaugural fundraiser, in Jan. 2015, paired the National Book Award-winning author Tim O’Brien with the Grammy-winning bluegrass musician (and hometown guy) Tim O’Brien. The two had received each other’s fan mail for years, but hadn’t met until we brought them together for this event—an ideal fit for the city we call home. Last year we featured friends and collaborators Rodney Crowell and Mary Karr.

What about other events?

In addition to classes at the Skillery, we also offer community events at least monthly. Some of my favorites have involved food. For example, we partnered with Sunflower Cafe on “Eat Your Words,” a brunch paired with poetry readings – the poems referenced the vegetables and dishes the guests enjoyed.

The Porch also has had a presence throughout Nashville—and at Bonnaroo— with its Poetry on Demand series. Tell us more about that project.

Poetry on Demand started at last year’s Neighborhoods Resource Center weekend festival. We invited several local poets to join us at our booth so festival-goers could stop by and tell one of them a story about a neighbor or neighborhood they’ve known. The poet then drafted a poem based on that story on the spot, within half an hour. We gave those folks copies of their poems – a free, unique work of art, in essence. We offered “poetry on demand” a few weeks later at the Southern Festival of Books and again this summer at Bonnaroo. You may be seeing us and our participating poets at a community festival over the next six months.


Handmade & Bound Nashville opens at Watkins College Sept. 30, with a reception for the interactive arts exhibition “Stiches + Stories.” On Oct. 1 is the book arts festival with marketplace and activities for all ages. Admission and parking are free.

Claudia Lee of Liberty Paper is one of the participants in Handmade & Bound:

When people visit the Liberty Paper space at Handmade & Bound, what can they expect to see?

Cartoon-inspired work and zines are featured at Handmade & Bound as well. PHOTO COURTESY WATKINS COLLEGE COMMUNITY ED

Cartoon-inspired work and zines are featured at Handmade & Bound. PHOTO COURTESY WATKINS COLLEGE COMMUNITY ED

Because Handmade & Bound attracts so many people with a special interest in book arts, as well as a love and appreciation of handmade paper, it is the perfect venue for Liberty Paper.  I will be bringing stacks of papers in a range of colors and textures for book making, printmaking, scrapbooking and collaging. I will also be bringing some of my handmade paper lamps, necklaces, black walnut ink, Japanese paper knives for cutting paper and more. My studio assistant, Matthew English, will also have a table displaying his handmade papers, books and hand-carved tools.

How did you become involved with the festival? Why do you think it’s an important event for the community?

Most of the people that come to the festival know what handmade paper is and appreciate what is involved in making it. That was a surprising, new experience.

In recent years, Nashville has become a center for book arts, printmaking and paper making and continues to grow. Handmade & Bound is the annual showcase for so many of the artists who are making this happen. Did I mention how much fun this free event is?

Other events on the north side include the Germantown Art Crawl (third Saturday of the month), the Jefferson Street Art Crawl (fourth Saturday of the month) and the 34th annual African Street Festival, Sept. 16-18 in Hadley Park .