Art of the Word

National Poetry Month is over, and with it, Tryon’s ever-growing Lanier Library Poetry Festival, held in late April. But the word’s out all year long now.

Every second Friday, the cutting-edge gallery Upstairs Artspace hosts Literary Open Stage — an event unrelated to the festival — where established and emerging writers can read their works of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or memoir to a supportive crowd.

The event is hosted by writer/poet Lee Stockdale, a former lawyer and army colonel who’s currently working toward his MFA in Poetry. He’s been leading the event for about a year now, but he’s been attending it since he moved to Tryon in 2007.
If you’re a writer looking for encouragement, Literary Open Stage offers it up. “It’s always been inclusive and encouraging,” Stockdale says. “We have really good talent in the area. The magic is getting [the writers] to come out.”

Stockdale has noticed a growing interest in the literary-arts scene in Tryon since he’s been here. Last month’s two-day lit fest was headlined by big-name poet Richard Blanco, who read at President Obama’s second inauguration.

Also, “when Cathy Smith Bowers became poet laureate, that drew a lot of interest,” Stockdale says. “To have someone so talented and accessible here has encouraged many people in the community.” Bowers, a resident of Tryon, was named the sixth North Carolina Poet Laureate, serving from 2010-2012.

Signup for Literary Open Stage begins at 6:30pm, and there are ten available spots. Writers each have ten minutes to share their work. But Stockdale says the important thing is just to show up. “I remember when I first started reading,” Stockdale admits, “it was a little freaky.” But he faced his fears, and now he relishes the camaraderie of fellow writers and discussing the world of books.

Guests can sip wine or beer and munch on finger foods as they mingle with the writers following the reading.
Upstairs Artspace co-manager Lorna Festa reveals that the gallery’s May visual-art installation, appropriately enough, is titled “Storytellers” — a figurative show featuring four or five artists. “You cannot beat this as a venue,” Stockdale says. “Every time, there is extraordinary art.”

May 8, 7pm. Free (donations accepted to benefit the venue). Literary Open Stage happens every second Friday at Upstairs Artspace (49 South Trade St., Tryon). 828-859-2828.

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