There’s no question that Athens is, and will continue to be, a music town.
But that’s not to say that there isn’t room for other art forms too.
“I know the big hook in a lot of Athens is music, and I appreciate music and I love music, but there’s gotta be something else sometimes,” said Christopher Ingham, local musician, writer and kindergarten paraprofessional.
Ingham organized tonight’s glimpse into to the little-mentioned Athens literary scene, “Buy What I Say.”
“That’s kind of what I’m trying to do, get a little variety, a little spice for Athens,” Ingham said.
The show will feature poetry, short stories, Ingham’s own hip hop group Turnip and local funk group Booty, just to round out the night with a little dancing, Ingham said.
Ingham, who’s spent much of his eight years in Athens weaving his way about the music scene in bands such as Christopher With/Without His Liver, said the whole idea for this literary thing started with help from the best person to get help from: his mom.
With acts such as buying him vinyl records when CDs were cool and taking him to punk shows as a kid, Ingham said his mother played a pivotal role in his ability to take an idea and believe in it.
“She really helped me out to becoming my own person, or at least an independent person. Like, I don’t have to have an iPhone now, I don’t have a Twitter account, it’s OK, it’s not weird, even though it is a little alienating,” Ingham said.
So when he wrote a short story for his mother’s birthday a few years back, he was struck with an idea and made it a reality.
“It inspired the idea that I can just sit in my room for an hour instead of playing my guitar and I can just write, and publish that, and that be how I share my art or medium or what I’m into at the moment,” he said.
Next thing you know, Ingham and friends are putting on poetry readings at house parties, underground venues and eventually, late last year, right in the heart of downtown.
“We set it up like more of a rock show,” Ingham said of the last show, also at Flicker Theatre & Bar. “We didn’t put out the chairs or anything, so people were standing and then half way through the poetry reading, people started sitting on the floor and getting more quiet and listening hard.”
Considering even the most raucous musical acts downtown are usually drowned out by crowd murmur, how could this possibly be explained?
“I think the Flicker shows always go really well because it’s such a quirky event for a lot of people,” Ingham said. “They’re so used to coming down and watching punk music or some loud thing, and it’s like, ‘Well, we’re gonna hang out and listen to each other talk for a bit.’”
Kaleb Cribb, a poet and literary compatriot of Ingham’s, has participated in many of these readings, and said these events are indicative of a movement occurring beneath the music soaked streets of Athens.
“The underground side of it started progressing through Flicker and a few other places that would host open mics, but there’s also a really incredible poetry scene developing right now in Athens,” Cribb said.
Although growing, the poetry scene here still won’t support one financially, Cribb noted.
“But at the same time it’s frustrating on that side of things it’s also very uplifting, because when the scene is small and when the group of writers that you surround yourself with is so tiny, it always seem to focus the energy and concentrate the poetry so much better,” he said.
And though frustratingly overshadowed by music at times, Cribb and Ingham agreed poetry and music coexist naturally and can drive each other, from the angle of both artist and audience.
“I definitely think the music scene here adds to the poetry scene, because when a town like Athens can champion an art form like music, other art forms fall right in line and follow suit,” Cribb said.