When I walked inside Sarah Gorham and Jeffrey Skinner’s house for Sarabande Books’ Annual Pie Party, the euphoria of the Flo Gault Student Poetry Prize winners was as palpable as the outdoor frost that throbbed amidst the air. Sarabande Books is a joint husband-and-wife enterprise that we are proud to call a Louisville original.
Left, Brian, with Professors Brian Leung and Kiki Petrosino of the English Department at the University of Louisville. Kiki Petrosino is an in-house poet of Sarabande Books. This is her third Pie Party, and it is her personal favorite.
Jeffrey Skinner is a co-owner of Sarabande Books along with his wife Sarah Gorham. In addition, he is also a professor at the University of Louisville. Here he is about to dig in to a plate of the decadent buffet served from some choice Louisville eateries.
The highlights that you need to know about:
First prize winner Lauren Hannigan represented University of Louisville with such radiance as she dazzled with “Bugaloo.”
My favorite lines: “In your hive you were the king of the bees/And I was once their queen.” “Dearest Bugaloo,/….You are (unfortunately) unique.” “Dearest Bugaloo,/You’re innately wanderlust.” Lauren was a package of elegance and zing humming. She riveted all.
Left, Kate Lebo. Middle, Co-Owner of Sarabande Books and fabulous party hostess: Sarah Gorham. Right, Lauren Hannigan, first prize winner.
First prize winner of Sarabande Books' Flo Gault Student Poetry Competition with the University of Louisville professor who encouraged her to submit "Bugaloo" over any other poem. Teacher and student have become best friends, which is nice to see.
Fun facts about the budding poet behind the winning poem: Lauren has a penchant for idiosyncratic names. The brainchild of “Bugaloo” sprang from its title. T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” inspired this particular intrepid endeavor. Lauren is the literary “black sheep” of her family, the daughter of completely right-brained parents working in the medical field. I was impressed that she happens to be best friends with her professor who told her about this competition. This University of Louisville professor beams with pride about Lauren, as does Sarah Gorham, co-owner of Sarabande Books. Lauren aspires to go back to her alma mater Assumption High School to teach poetry.
Left, third prize winner James Pfeiffer with one of his friends, ready to revel in the merriment of Sarabande Books' Pie Party.
Third prize winner James Pfeiffer of Centre College read, “Evelyn Mulwray Cleans His Wound.” His closing line,“I wanted/ a piece of you that would take time to wash away" speared with emotional bayonet-like intensity. The visceral imagery remains embedded in my mind. It takes flair to be able to generate a concluding expression of that caliber.
Third prize winner Caitlyn Neely, displaying her poem,“The Door in the Woods Opens and Closes." She has been published before, but this is the first time one of her poems has ever appeared online. She would be thrilled to compose a book of poetry one day.
Caitlyn enjoying the festivities (and delicious food) with her mother. Moms are the best built-in avid supporters.
Fellow third prize winner Caitlyn Neely of Northern Kentucky University struck upon the splendor of the natural world's soul in, “The Door in the Woods Opens and Closes." Lines like “Day purls” and “Blackberry stunned,/stunned full, stunned lush" are gorgeously written. Caitlyn has grown up with a love of nature, and it reflects in the richness of her language.
Co-owner of Sarabande Books, Jeffrey Skinner, read some of the poems in honor of the poets who were unable to attend the party.
I cannot get over how much I loved Diamond Davies of Western Kentucky University's "Where I'm From," which secured an honorable mention. Flashback to faithful nineties nostalgia: “I’m from those good donuts with jelly in the/middle/And “gimmie a break gimmie a break, break me/off a piece of that Kit-Kat bar” “From Proto Zoa’s ‘Zoom Zoom Zoom make my/heart go boom boom.’/I’m from Nick’s ‘All That,’ ‘Kenan and Kel’/…everything I please.” Which of us of the Lisa Frank notebooks and boy bands generation cannot relate to these sentiments? I may or may not have searched for Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century on YouTube to jam out to "Supernova Girl" when I went home. My brother and I even used to play off of the Kit-Kat jangle as children. This relatable gem was a favorite.
Trying to cut a slice of the above chocolate-garnished pie felt as if juxtaposed in the middle of The Sword and the Stone. But all that exertion was worth it in the end when the pie was Excalibur’s equivalent.
Poet first, baker of amazing fruit pies second, Kate Lebo inviting a closer look to her most recent zine, The Pie Lady's Manifesto. It is an immensely worthwhile read. Click here to buy the $5.00 manuscript.
Reading from A Commonplace Book of Pie. She read my favorite one of her poems: Pumpkin!
Kate Lebo wowed again, both with her famous double-crust fruit pie as well as with another highly-received reading of A Commonplace Book of Pie. I was fortunate enough to obtain a copy of Ms. Lebo's astutely named The Pie Lady’s Manifesto. She is “afraid of being ‘just’ a pie lady, a woman whose value is set by what she brings to the party,” but that could not be further from the truth (26). What she brings to the party is far more appealing and eloquent than her unbeatable pie crust and spiced-tinged fruits dancing underneath. Let's just say I am now a converted fan of pie wisdom and will be keeping an eye out for her forthcoming book Pie School: Lessons in Fruit, Flour, and Butter. This book will no doubt be insightful and witty, and shall be released in the fall by Sasquatch Books. Clearly, it is necessary for any pie school graduate of life.
The most interesting part of all was seeing the promise of these young poets juxtaposed with the more experienced writer Kate Lebo. It was as if viewing a magic mirror moment, showcasing to these students the vitality of a future forged with the power of poetry. That is why a party like this is more than just a celebration; it is a prod to reach for the literary world extended before them.
All Photos: Courtesy of Julie Lamb