Poet, Author, Editor
Quincy Troupe is the author of nine volumes of poetry, three children’s books; and the author, coauthor, or editor of six nonfiction works. He collaborated with Miles Davis on his autobiography and with Chris Gardner on The Pursuit of Happyness, which spent more than forty weeks on the New York Times best-seller list and was made into a major motion picture starring Will Smith. Troupe has also written a screenplay for Miles and Me, the memoir of his friendship with Miles Davis. Poetry collections include Transcircularities: New and Selected Poems, winner of the 2003 Milt Kessler Poetry Award and selected by Publishers Weekly as one of the ten best books of poetry in 2002; The Architecture of Language, winner of the 2007 Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement; and Errançities, published in 2017. www.quincytroupe.com
Patricia Smith is the author of eight books of poetry, including Incendiary Art, winner of the 2018 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, the 2017 Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the 2018 NAACP Image Award, and finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize; Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, winner of the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets; Blood Dazzler, a National Book Award Finalist; Gotta Go, Gotta Flow, a collaboration with award-winning Chicago photographer Michael Abramson. Her other books include the poetry volumes Teahouse of the Almighty, Close to Death, Big Town Big Talk, Life According to Motown; the children's book Janna and the Kings and the history Africans in America, a companion book to the award-winning PBS series. Her work has appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, The Baffler, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Tin House, and in Best American Poetry, Best American Essays and Best American Mystery Stories. She co-edited The Golden Shovel Anthology—New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks and edited the crime fiction anthology Staten Island Noir. She is a Guggenheim Fellow, a NEA grant recipient, a two-time winner of the Pushcart Prize, a former fellow at both Yaddo and the MacDowell colony, and a four-time champion of the National Poetry Slam, the most successful poet in the competition's history. Smith is a professor at the College of Staten Island and in the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College, as well as an instructor at the annual VONA residency and in the Vermont College of Fine Arts Post-Graduate Residency Program. www.wordwoman.ws
Ron Rash was born September 25, 1953, and is an American poet, short story writer and novelist, and the Parris Distinguished Professor in Appalachian Cultural Studies at Western Carolina University. He is the author of the 2009 PEN/Faulkner finalist and New York Times bestseller Serena, which was adapted into a major motion picture starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, and Above the Waterfall, in addition to four prizewinning novels, including The Cove, One Foot in Eden, Saints at the River, and The World Made Straight; four collections of poems, including his most recent Poems: New and Selected (Ecco, 2016); and six collections of stories, among them Burning Bright, which won the 2010 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, and Chemistry and Other Stories, which was a finalist for the 2007 PEN/Faulkner Award. Twice the recipient of the O. Henry Prize, and winner of the James Still Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, Rash has also received praise from the New York Times’ Janet Maslin, who calls him “one of the best American novelists of his day.”
R. B. Morris is a poet and songwriter, solo performer and band leader, an actor and playwright. His books of poetry include Early Fires (Iris Press), Keeping the Bees Employed, and The Mockingbird Poems, and several music albums, including Spies Lies and Burning Eyes, Rich Mountain Bound, and his most recent album, Going Back to the Sky. He wrote and acted in The Man Who Lives Here is Looney, a one-man play taken from the life and work of James Agee, and was instrumental in founding a park dedicated to Agee in Knoxville. Morris served as the Jack E. Reese Writer-in-Residence at the University of Tennessee from 2004-2008 and was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame in 2006. He currently lives in Knoxville with his wife and daughter. www.rbmorris.com
Free Planet Radio
Free Planet Radio was formed in 2001, and has been bringing its exciting and innovative world-jazz-classical music blend to both concert stages and classrooms. Based in Asheville NC, this musical partnership began with a clear mission statement as “the shared vision of three multi-instrumentalists exploring the infinite and seamless relationships between musical cultures through the universal language of sound.” Free Planet Radio performances weave the improvisatory element of jazz, and the subtleties and harmonic vocabulary of Western classical music, with Middle Eastern, Indian and North African melodic and rhythmic structures. Free Planet Radio has recorded five albums, including New Bedouin Dance (2004), The Unraveling (2008), Global Symphony Project (2015), Stillness (2018), and Pursuit (2019). They have performed with jazz singer Lizz Wright, poet Robert Bly, Turkish instrumentalist Omar Faruk Tekbilek, bluegrass violinist Casey Driessen, flute virtuoso Rhonda Larson, Armenian singer Mariam Matossian, and Persian violinist Farzad Farhangi. In 2014, Free Planet Radio was awarded a grant from Chamber Music America commissioning performances of a new set of works with the Opal String Quartet. In 2016, the trio travelled to the People's Republic of China for a 20 city tour of concert halls. Free Planet Radio consists of two-time Grammy winner Eliot Wadopian leaping effortlessly between rhythm and melody on electric and string basses; River Guerguerian on an extensive array of global percussion instruments including Middle Eastern frame drums and doumbek, the Indian kanjira, African djembe, and Western drum set; and Chris Rosser exploring melody on the 17-stringed Indian dotar, Turkish cumbus oud, guitar, piano and melodica. www.freeplanetradio.com
Polly Gott, a 1958 graduate of Cornell University, and a 1959 graduate of the Brooklyn Museum Art School, has been painting for decades with her refreshing on-site watercolors. In 1961 she moved to Madison County for the music and subsistence farming, raised gardens, animals and two children, made bark and white oak baskets and pottery, and built a log house and several out-buildings with her husband Peter. The decade and a half following her arrival in Madison County were devoted to shaping the land, plowing, planting, building, learning all the skills of the mountain people in an era when “homesteading” and “back-to-the-landers” were terms that had not yet been coined. Trading her pens, paintbrushes, and sculpting tools for hoes and churn dashers and drawknives, she made her surroundings her palette, her life her sculpture. The home was a hewn log house for which she and her young husband Peter cut all the logs with a cross-cut saw, dragging them across the valley and up the mountainside with mules, covering the roof with hand-split shingles. In 1975 she began watercolor painting seriously, after participating in 25 workshops with various ground-breaking artists. She eventually opened a studio in a log cabin built by her son on the side of the Sugarloaf Mountain, where hundreds of paintings are now exhibited for sale. She is known for her free-style brush strokes, her mountain landscapes and her impressionistic renditions of traditional buildings. For photos of artwork CLICK HERE
William Pitt Root
Poet and editor William Pitt Root grew up on his father’s farm in Florida. He earned a BA at the University of Washington, where he studied with David Wagoner, and an MFA at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Root’s numerous poetry collections include White Boots: New and Selected Poems of the West (2006), PEN West Poetry Award finalist Trace Elements from a Recurring Kingdom: The First Five Books (1994), and The Storm and Other Poems (1969). Root’s poetry has been featured in several anthologies, including And What Rough Beast: Poems at the End of the Century (1999) and The Last Best Place: A Montana Anthology (1988). His honors include the Southern Review’s Guy Owen Prize and three Pushcart Prizes as well as a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University and other fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. The poetry editor for the literary journal Cutthroat, Root has taught at Hunter College, Michigan State, and the University of Montana. He lives with his wife, poet Pamela Uschuk, near Durango, Colorado. www.cutthroatmag.com
Poet, Storyteller, Teacher
Minton Sparks is a poet, performance artist, novelist, teacher, and essayist born in a Tennessee college town and raised among her Southern family in and around Arkansas. She earned degrees from the University of the South and Vanderbilt University. Her appearances range from the prestigious Jonesborough National Storytelling Festival all the way to the American Songbook Series at Lincoln Center in New York City. Minton’s books, Desperate Ransom and White Lightning, have received acclaim from NPR’s Weekend All Things Considered and BBC’s Bob Harris Show. She is the subject of the film documentary, Open Casket, and produced four CD’s, which feature blues sensation Keb Mo’, the legendary Waylon Jennings, and the internationally acclaimed Irish songstress Maura O’Connell. Her latest album, entitled Keys to the Kingdom, will be released in January, 2020. She has performed with many artists, such as Ben Folds, John Prine, Jacob Dylan, Rosanne Cash, The Punch Brothers, and most recently The Indigo Girls. The Fellowship of Southern Writers presented Sparks with their first-ever Spoken-Word Award. In addition to writing and performing, Sparks founded the Nashville Writing and Performance Institute. She also teaches a writing/performance workshop, “Creating Your Story,” at universities and professional organizations across the country. Sparks lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband, two children, and their dog, Max.
Ten Cent Poetry is the brainchild and artistic expression of Asheville-based songwriter Chelsea Lynn La Bate, who has released several albums, including Live In Brooklyn, Crowns, Picking Through the Pawn Shop, Ten Cent Orchestra, Appalachian Eyes, and the audio book, Songcrafter, which contains prose, stories, songwriting prompts, and back to class lessons for songwriters and poets. La Bate is a poet, composer, songwriter, author, and illustrator, whose books include A World Gone Hard and The Song Remains. She spent years on the stages of New York City honing her skills and building her reputation on the anti-folk scene which also produced Regina Spektor and the Moldy Peaches. Known for her lush voice and vivid song stories, La Bate has forged her own brand of melodic folk pop out of her many influences, “whose creativity is fearless and without apology,” says songwriter Melissa Hyman, “she makes the world a safer place for women to be artists.” www.chelsealynnlabate.com
Builder, Historian, Banjo Player
Peter Gott made Madison County his adopted home in the early 1960’s, when he performed regularly at the Jubilee Theater in Hot Springs, filling the hall each Saturday night, Peter capturing the audience’s heart with his banjo and red suspenders, infectious smile and nimble dancing feet. Peter’s passion for the music of the area led him to seek out the true gems of the back hollers, learning tunes and ballads from Lee, Doug, Cas & Berzilla Wallin, Lloyd & Dillard Chandler, George Landers, Dellie Norton, Byard Ray, and others of their generation. In 1963 he introduced John Cohen to these friends and neighbors, and the result was two classic recordings: Love Songs & Ballads of Big Laurel (Folkways), and High Atmosphere (Rounder), which lured the next wave of folk musicians who flocked to Madison County. Peter and his wife Polly were a stopping point for artists from the north and from the west who wanted to soak up southern culture: The New Lost City Ramblers, Alice Gerrard & Hazel Dickens, Alan Lomax, Mike Seeger, David Holt…In the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, joined by Polly and children Susi & Tim, Peter headed up the Cowbell Holler Stringband and toured the festival circuits before his focus shifted to teaching and building traditional hand-hewn log cabins.