Poetry at McLeod

Poetry at McLeod is a collaborative project with McLeod Plantation Historic Site to present African American poetry at a site where many James Islanders’ ancestors were enslaved. The poets are invited based on the quality of their poetry, performance, and teaching, and their interest in illuminating the experience and legacy of enslavement. Listening with 21st-century American ears to enslaved voices evoked on plantation ground is an apt metaphor for the process of reclaiming this complex historical and emotional territory.

McLeod Plantation Historic Site attempts to correct the romanticized view of plantation life—since most of the people living on plantations were enslaved—making MPHS the perfect setting for a poetry that makes those enslaved in this era come to life.


In November and June 2016 we hosted Dr. Kendra Hamilton, a Charleston native who teaches at Presbyterian College, and writes terrific poems on the lives of the enslaved, such as Mary Todd's seamstress. She led an eye-opening writing workshop on the theme of "I remember," and the next day gave a wonderful reading at McLeod, and signed books afterward in the "big house," where we enjoyed tea and cold cuts provided by Island grocers.

We were able to admit all 65 in attendance with a generous grant from James Island Pride and folks with Gold Passes inviting others. You can help us make the next event free for three other attendees by buying a Gold Pass, allowing admission for four at all Charleston County Parks.

Calendar 2018-2019

Subject to change

POSTPONED UNTIL 2019 Friday, October 19 Charleston School of the Arts
Saturday, October 20, 2-4 p.m., Town Hall Workshop
Sunday, October 21, 2-4 p.m., Reading and Q&A at McLeod

Roger Reeves’s poems have appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, American Poetry Review, Boston Review, and Tin House, among others. Kim Addonizio selected "Kletic of Walt Whitman" for the Best New Poets 2009 anthology. He was awarded a 2013 NEA Fellowship, Ruth Lilly Fellowship by the Poetry Foundation in 2008, two Bread Loaf Scholarships, an Alberta H. Walker Scholarship from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and two Cave Canem Fellowships. He earned his PhD the University of Texas-Austin, where he is now an associate professor. His forthcoming On Paradise from W.W. Norton follows King Me (Copper Canyon Press, 2013).


Calendar 2017-2018

Kendra Hamilton
Saturday, June 17, 2-4 p.m., Town Hall Workshop
Sunday, June 18, 2-4 p.m., Reading and Q&A at McLeod

Kendra Hamilton, a Charleston native, is a professor of English and Director of Southern Studies at Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC. Her poetry appears in The Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry and The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South. A Cave Canem fellow, Dr. Hamilton’s recent art reflects her research into the lives of McLeod slaves.


Kwoya Fagin Maples
Friday, October 20 James Island Charter High School
Saturday, October 21, 2-4 p.m., Town Hall Workshop
Sunday, October 22, 2-4 p.m., Reading and Q&A at McLeod

Kwoya Fagin Maples, a graduate Cave Canem fellow, is a Charleston native now teaching in Louisiana, whose manuscript, Mend, treats the lives of enslaved women forced to be medical research subjects.


Gary Jackson
Saturday, March 17, 2-4 p.m., Town Hall Workshop
Sunday, March 18, 2-4 p.m., Reading and Q&A at McLeod
Monday, March 19 North Charleston High School

Born and raised in Topeka, Kansas, Gary Jackson is the author of the poetry collection Missing You, Metropolis, which received the 2009 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. He was featured on 2013’s "New American Poets" by the Poetry Society of America, and his poems have appeared in Callaloo, Tin House, 32 Poems, Crab Orchard Review, and Shattered: The Asian-American Comics Anthology, and is the recipient of both a Cave Canem and Bread Loaf fellowship. He joined the Department of English at the College of Charleston in 2013.


Len Lawson
Friday, April 6 James Island Elementary School
Saturday, April 7, 2-4 p.m., Town Hall Workshop
Sunday, April 8, 2-4 p.m., Reading and Q&A at McLeod

Len Lawson, of Sumter SC, hosts Cave Canem retreats in SC and is an advocate and organizer of discussions on race. He is studying toward the Ph.D. degree in Pennsylvania. His chap book, Before the Night Wakes You, was just published by Finishing Line Press.


Marilyn Nelson
Friday, June 1 Lowcountry Senior Center
Saturday, June 2, 2-4 p.m., Town Hall Workshop
Sunday, June 3, 2-4 p.m., Reading and Q&A at McLeod

Marilyn Nelson, daughter of a Tuskegee Airman, a founding member of Cave Canem, and finalist for several National Book Awards, has composed extensively on the lives of African Americans, including Emmett Till, George Washington Carver, and a slave named Fortune.





Poetry at McLeod is funded in part by grants from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the South Carolina Arts Commission.

Poetry at McLeod receives major support from the SC Humanities Council, a not-for-profit organization inspiring, engaging and enriching South Carolinians with programs on literature, history, culture and heritage.

PSSC receives generous support from the Dubose and Dorothy Heyward Memorial Fund, the John and Susan Bennett Foundation through the Coastal Community Foundation, and PSSC members.