Four of a Kind: Leslee Johnson discusses local literary scene

Leslee Johnson. Photo by Blunt Man Bob

Editor’s note: This is part of “Four of a Kind,” a recurring Arts & Culture feature. Each month, four new artists share their takes on the local art scene. In addition to individual online posts, you can find all four features as a single spread in this week’s print edition.

Leslee Johnson is an Asheville-based writer. She is also a lecturer of English at UNC Asheville.

Xpress: Is there an upcoming literary event happening in Asheville that you’re looking forward to seeing?

I’m curious to see what Punch Bucket Lit Fest brings to Asheville, Friday, Sept. 20-Saturday, Sept. 21. The lineup looks to be a carefully curated showcase of literary writers, many nationally known and all of them doing great, relevant work. Lauren Groff is the headliner. Awesome poets and writers — among them Diamond Forde, Eric Tran and Brit Washburn, plus Clint Bowman of Black Mountain’s Dark City Poets Society — are giving readings all over town. Asheville is historically rich in literary star power, and the PBL fest really highlights and participates in this legacy.

Outside of literature, what other upcoming local arts happening intrigues you?

I’m superexcited to go to my first Campfireball at Story Parlor on Thursday, June 13, which features oral storytelling coaxed from the voices present in the room. I deeply respect the kind of work Story Parlor and facilitator Cory Howard are doing here, inviting stories that are authentic and immediate — maybe outside of what’s considered “literary,” but unknown, unsuspecting poets who can articulate human experience in compelling, unforgettable ways. There’s real power there. June’s theme is “yearning,” and — appropriately — I can’t wait.

What current project are you working on that you’re especially excited about?

Speaking of the power of community, my heart’s with the writing collective of 12 Baskets Café in West Asheville, affectionately known as the Moonlight Cheese Alliance. We were just awarded a grant from Burners Without Borders to publish an anthology of our collected writing, so we’ll be curating, editing, designing and producing the first volume of The Intersection this summer and fall. We will be able to compensate writers and amplify the epic, poetic story of our community told in short poems, stories and collaborative pieces. The anthology will be available at local bookstores and, of course, we will have a book launch — an unconventional, lovely celebration of grassroots, street-corner, raw, powerful literary arts.


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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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