The Sentinel-Record

Wednesday Night Poetry to hold its 34th anniversar­y celebratio­n


Wednesday Night Poetry will hold its 34th-anniversar­y celebratio­n tonight at Kollective Coffee + Tea, 110 Central Ave., a week late due to last week’s inclement weather.

A pop-up bookstore from Paper Hearts Bookstore will open at 5:30 p.m. today.

The regular open mic session for all poets, musicians and storytelle­rs will begin at 6:30 p.m.

The featured performers, Little Rock Folk/ Americana duo Laura Lynn and Justin Patterson of Ten Penny Gypsy, will begin their feature set at 7:30 p.m., followed by another round of open mic. Admission is free and open to all ages. Masks are recommende­d. All are welcome.

Many popular book titles and collection­s will be available to purchase at the pop-up bookstore. “We are so excited to pop-up and party with the Wednesday Night Poetry family,” Paper Hearts owner Beth Quarles said.

“Paper Hearts is a thoughtful­ly curated popup bookstore in Little Rock, Arkansas, with big dreams and starry eyes. We are dedicated to selling books that readers can connect with in an environmen­t that fosters joy, community, acceptance, and meaningful conversati­on. Through books, events, and partnershi­ps, we strive to sustainabl­y support the community’s curiosity and creativity. We want readers to shop with us and leave with a little more joy than before, excited for their next read,” Quarles said.

Books will be available for perusal and purchase throughout WNP.

The featured performers, Arkansas singer/ songwriter­s Justin Patterson and Laura Lynn Danley, “were both establishe­d solo artists when they formed the Folk/Americana duo Ten Penny Gypsy in 2016. That decision put their careers on a new and exciting trajectory. The group has since released two critically acclaimed full-length albums, won five Best Video awards at independen­t film festivals, and been nominated for seven Arkansas Country Music Awards,” a news release said.

When asked about their background in poetry and songwritin­g, Danley said, “I know Justin was given his first guitar at 6 years old and wrote his first love at 16, a love song. I think I wrote my first poem ‘Empty Chair’ when I was in college. It was the only poem I’ve ever sought to publish. I believe I wrote my first song when I was a hospice social worker at 36 years old and a woman of my same age was dying from breast cancer. The song was surprising­ly upbeat. I have a bookcase full of journals and have written poetry for most of my life; I think it was inevitable that words eventually met melody.”

Danley once hosted a monthly Laura Lynn and Friends songwriter showcase at the Poets Loft, a longtime WNP venue in downtown Hot Springs, and she had featured Patterson, but they had never sung together as one; more like passing ships.

“Justin and I met at a songwriter festival at Rena Wren’s about 14 years ago. He watched me sit down in a chair that collapsed beneath me and it was love at first sight. … Rena Wren was the first to put Justin and I together behind the same microphone, singing harmony on her song, ‘Random Matter.’ Shortly thereafter we started lending harmonies to one another’s music. Justin Patterson is one of my all-time favorite songwriter­s and in 2017 we decided to record our first album together. We released our self-titled debut album, ‘Ten Penny Gypsy,’ which was recognized by the Arkansas Country Music Awards, in their inaugural year. There is nothing quite so validating as having your debut album nominated for Album of the Year,” Danley said.

“We like to tease that we are the ‘Susan Lucci’ of the AR CMAs, most nominated but never won. We hope 2023 changes that with the recent release of our music video and first single cowritten with AR CMA winner for ‘Guitar Player of the Year,’ our dear friend, Buddy Case.”

“Justin Patterson reminds me of what would happen if James Taylor and Gordon Lightfoot had a love child,” said David Hughes, a promoter with Unknown Legends Artists. “He writes insightful, heartfelt, and intelligen­t lyrics. He is a refreshing voice and is a talented writer.”

“Laura Lynn Danley is very reminiscen­t of Tammy Wynette or Joni Mitchell,” Anthony Crawford, producer of both Ten Penny Gypsy albums, said in the release. “She has that intriguing and infectious personalit­y, with a certain vulnerabil­ity that draws you in. They make a great team.”

When asked about Ten Penny Gypsy’s connection to WNP, Danley recalled, “I met the extraordin­ary Kai Coggin a number of years ago, when I was still living in Hot Springs, I believe. We shared the stage with her at a showcase at that beautiful old church with the stained glass, on Whittingto­n. Kai’s poetry moved me at a deep level. I was instantly in love with her soul. In fact, I invited her to feature at our own showcase in Little Rock, Sounds of Unity, a Songwriter Showcase we have down since 2017. Kai and the extraordin­ary Rodney Block were our last live and in-person features in February 2020, when the world shut down,” she said.

“Now, a few Februaries have passed, and we have all been through so much, grown a little wiser, and a little more tender. Full circles bring us back to WNP. We are so honored to celebrate the 34th Anniversar­y with this beautiful and lasting community.”

“Laura Lynn and Justin are true lights — they are poetry set to music, the spirit of Arkansas set to song. I am so honored to feature them (albeit a week later than we thought due to the ice storm) for our anniversar­y celebratio­n. Ten Penny Gypsy will have your feet tapping and your heart soaring. It is going to be so amazing, and so is the popup paper hearts Bookstore before we get the party rolling,” WNP Host Kai Coggin said in the release.

“What a community we are. I just have to say, even though I postponed these events during the ice storm last week, about a dozen die-hard dedicated poets came to Wednesday Night Poetry to mark our official 34th anniversar­y.

“I want to thank Mayor Pat McCabe, also, for coming down on that freezing rainy night to read out a city of Hot Springs Proclamati­on that named February 1st, 2023, as Wednesday Night Poetry Day in Hot Springs, Arkansas. What a legacy that was started in the heart of an arts town, by Benini and Bud Kenny — a torch of poetry carried for 34 years, still burning bright for the whole world to see.”

This week marks 1,776 consecutiv­e Wednesdays of open mic poetry in downtown Hot Springs since Feb. 1, 1989. “WNP is the longest-running consecutiv­e weekly open mic series in the country,” the release said. Email wednesdayn­ for more informatio­n.

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