Spotlight: Voices Carry in Atlanta

Interview by Jenny Sadre-Orafai

With less than two weeks away from this year’s Voices Carry reading, Atlanta novelist, poet, playwright, journalist, and curator of the Poetry Atlanta reading series and the annual Voices Carry reading Collin Kelley discusses the past, present, and future of the series.

The 8th Annual Voices Carry poetry reading will feature Jericho BrownSandra MeekAlice LovelaceCollin Kelley and Cecilia Woloch. The reading will take place Saturday, October 27th at 3 PM at the Decatur Library Auditorium (215 Sycamore Street, Decatur, GA 30030). The reading is free and open to the public.

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JS: This is the 8th annual Voices Carry. How did the reading begin?

CK: Voices Carry began as an event for the Atlanta Literary Festival, the forerunner of the Decatur Book Festival. Cecilia Woloch and I were asked by the ALF organizer Chante Whitley-Head to create a poetry event. The first one was held at The Carter Center. When the next festival was cancelled, we decided to keep the reading going and partnered with Poetry Atlanta. Over the last eight years, we’ve moved to different venues culminating in the 2012 event being held at the Decatur Library in conjunction with Georgia Center for the Book and Poets & Writers.

JS: How do you go about choosing readers each year?

CK: Cecilia and I usually put our heads together at the first of the year and start talking about who we want to invite. Cecilia lives in LA, so she flies in every year to read and I always host and read a few poems. The decision is made, basically, on whose poetry we love. This year, my choice was Jericho Brown because I’ve loved his work since I read his collection Please and Cecilia picked Sandra Meek, because she’s been a fan of her work for years. Alice Lovelace is the godmother of spoken word in Atlanta, so we try to get her back when she’s available. Her work always stirs and excites the audience.

JS: What are some of the more memorable moments in the past seven years?

CK: Personally, I loved that we had Dr. John Stone reading from his beautiful collection Music from Apartment 8 before he passed away. He was a brilliant poet. Two years ago, we had a standing room only crowd when Natasha Trethewey previewed work that is now in her collection Thrall.

JS: Can you tell us what you have planned for this year’s reading?

CK: Cecilia and I are leading the first ever Voices Carry Poetry Workshops to local teens on Oct. 27 before the reading. She’s leading a class and so am I. After the workshops, we’ll have a mini-slam and the winning teen will read his poem during the Voices Carry event that afternoon.