by Mindy Miller, KRCC Multimedia Writer
A unique event that brings together staff and clients from Kentucky River Community Care with writers and artists from throughout the region, the Voices Celebratory Reading is designed to shine a light on our mental health and recovery communities. This year, the event was held at the historic Hindman Settlement School in Knott County, which has been giving a voice to mountain people for decades. In this very fitting setting, voices were raised, listened to, and empowered as hard truths were spoken about living with mental illness, addiction, trauma, and the many hurting parts of life.
As KRCC Executive Director & CEO Mary Meade-McKenzie so rightly termed it, our Voices Literary Journal is an absolute "labor of love." Created over many months of pouring through manuscripts, selecting artwork, and worrying over every word and image in order to craft a cohesive whole, this journal is our agency's way of holding out a strong hand to those who are all too often shunned, neglected, misunderstood, or forgotten.
And, as we find each time, they always reach back.
Described as an event full of "tenderness" by Robert Gipe, the evening's keynote speaker, who is the author of the illustrated novels Trampoline and Weedeater, which are both lauded for addressing addiction and the region's drug crisis, the special reading filled the mountain night with words and songs, reminding us that we're all in this together.
Sam Gleaves, our musical entertainment for the night, performed his song, "Stockyard Hill," which says, in part, "Now I've seen trouble and times are hard/still I'm traveling along/Why, I could have church in my own back yard/get my sermon from a song." Those lyrics perfectly summed up this extraordinary night, which felt very much like a scene from an old-time revival, where the power of words move the spirit and seek to make a change in the lives of those listening. And even though the event was not religious in nature, it acted like a balm for the soul, especially as it took place at the end of a week that had seen our nation raise significant questions about rape and the effects of trauma on the mind and in our lives.
In the Editor's Note to the 2018 Issue of Voices, it states: "If this little book achieves nothing else, what we dream for it is to be a spark in the darkness, a flame that illuminates everything around it so that it is seen and heard. ... Each word here, each image is a cry - a cry that is bold and determined, demanding to have its day, and in its sorrow or anger or frustration, it is powerful and full of the kind of beauty it takes an artist to describe. It is the cry of the survivor, the one who has lived to tell the tale."
At this event, you truly saw that flame become a raging fire.
That evening, Donna Doyle, a Tennessee writer who works extensively in the mental health community, read the two poems she'd contributed to the issue and described the event as one of the greatest experiences she'd had in a long time.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you," she said. "Since I tend to be a hermit, a loner, a recluse, or whatever you want to call it, ... (being social) can often be too much for me. The Kentucky beauty began when my copies of Voices arrived in the mail. It took a while for me to open it, because I had a hard time looking away from the beautiful cover art by Jenn Noble. Flash forward to going home to Tennessee with 'My Old Kentucky Home' (playing) in my head. Flash forward to here and now and me thinking that looking for and expecting to have only one home in my life might be a big old myth that keeps me from finding all kinds of homes all over the place."
Order Your Copy of Voices Today!
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The 2018 edition of KRCC's Voices Literary Journal is hot off the presses, and we're excited to share the issue with all of you! Featuring a blend of writings from well-known, published writers with the literary creations of KRCC staff and clients, Voices provides a platform for the mental health community to be seen and heard. Issues are $10 each and can be ordered below or by calling 606-435-8234.