Charleston Library Society
164 King Street
(just before Queen)
7:00 p.m.

General Information

Readings, free and open to the public, are on the second Friday of the month in downtown Charleston. Book signing and reception follow the program.

Parking is available at metered spaces on King Street. The city garage ($3) is right around the corner on Queen, just past the Mills House Hotel, on the left.

Seminars are also held at The Charleston Library Society, unless otherwise stated, and run from 10:00 a.m. to noon. Members $10, College of Charleston students free, all others $15.
Click here to join.

Click here to visit us on Facebook. Be sure to check out our state-wide poetry calendar to find events in your area!

Programs 2018-2019

7:00 p.m., Charleston Library Society, 164 King Street, Charleston.
Free and open to the public. Reception and book signing follow the reading.

September 14
Justin Phillip Reed
CANCELED DUE TO HURRICANE FLORENCE—stay safe, everyone!

Justin Phillip Reed is a South Carolina native and the author of Indecency (Coffee House Press, 2018). His work has appeared in Best American Essays, Boston Review, Callaloo, The Kenyon Review, Obsidian, and elsewhere. Justin lives in St. Louis.


Carol Peters is a poet and translator. Apobiz Press published her poetry collection, Sixty Some. Her chap book, Muddy Prints, Water Shine is #57 in the New Women’s Voices Series from Finishing Line Press. She lives in Charleston.


September 15
Poetry Seminar
Justin Phillip Reed, "In My Defense, Monsters"

Too often, the question of what poetry can do elicits some defense of its humanizing qualities, as though in appeal to those who maintain the existence of a moral common ground. This expectation introduces an unbalanced labor when we think about who traditionally gets to be seen as human, to legislate the conferring of humanity, and to therefore define its limitations. The rise of the most "humanizing" forms of English-language literature (the sonnet, for instance) coincide with the most dehumanizing epochs in Western civilization (the Atlantic Slave Trade, for instance). What liberating potential can we find in a lyric "I" who is monstrous, Frankensteined by both disgust and delight, and rejects these constraints of human civility? This seminar will engage multiple artworks across the media of literature, music, and film as a survey of monstrosity—that is, needs and desires seeming to fall beyond the human form—to help us better imagine how poetry might account for what is neither super- nor sub-human, but the mere and magnificent fluidity of personhood.

October 12
Chen Chen with John Byrne

Chen Chen is the author of When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, winner of the A. Poulin, Jr., Poetry Prize, the GLCA New Writers Award, and the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry. The collection was also longlisted for the National Book Award for Poetry and named a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. Chen’s work appears in many publications, including Tin House, Poem-a-Day, The Best American Poetry, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. He holds an MFA from Syracuse University and is pursuing a PhD through Texas Tech University as an off-site student. He is the 2018-2020 Jacob Ziskind Poet-in-Residence at Brandeis University.


John Byrne is a misplaced Midwesterner hailing from Omaha, Nebraska, second year MFA candidate at the College of Charleston, avid pop culture consumer, and ghost enthusiast. His work tends to explore queerness as both an inherited and a chosen identity, using nature, eros, and fragmented senses of self as footholds in the climb to find human understanding.


October 13
Poetry Seminar
Chen Chen, "The Art of Telling"

Though, typically, writers are advised "show, don’t tell"this seminar will explore different moods and modes of telling. We will consider how a fresh combination of the abstract and the concrete can create a new, startling connection in the reader’s mind.


SPECIAL EVENT: Free Verse Poetry Festival reading with Libby Bernadin and McKayla Conahan Sponsored by The Poetry Society of South Carolina
Monday, October 22, 2018
6:00 p.m.
Main Library Auditorium
68 Calhoun St
Charleston, SC 29401
free admission

Libby Bernardin’s first full collection is Stones Ripe for Sowing (Press 53, 2018). She has two chapbooks, The Book of Myth (SC Poetry Initiative, 2009) and Layers of Song (Finishing Line Press, 2011). Her oems have appeared in numerous journals. In 2015, she won the SC Poetry Society Forum Prize. Her poem, "Transmigration," winner of the NC Poetry of Witness Award and published in Pinesong, was nominated for a 2017 Pushcart Prize.

McKayla Conahan is a queer nonbinary poet pursuing their MFA at Virginia Commonwealth University. They have been published in Fall Lines, Rabbit, Sink Hollow, and elsewhere, and are the recipient of the South Carolina Student Poetry Prize (2016). They spent the past summer in Wyoming working as a tour guide to the night sky, and slowly being converted to a cat person by an orange kitty named Gus.

November 9
Hugh Martin with Brandon Rushton

Hugh Martin is a veteran of the Iraq War and the author of The Stick Soldiers (BOA Editions 2013) and the forthcoming In Country (BOA Editions 2018). He is the recipient of a Wallace Stegner Fellowship, a Yaddo residency, and a Pushcart Prize.


Brandon Rushton’s poems have appeared in Denver Quarterly, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Passages North, and Verse Daily. In 2016, he was the winner of both the Gulf Coast Prize and the Ninth Letter Award for poetry. He co-founded the poetry outfit Oxidant | Engine and teaches writing at the College of Charleston.


November 10
Poetry Seminar
Hugh Martin, "Fumbling Toward Elegy: Poetic Approaches to Post-9/11 and War"

In his essay, "Can Poetry Console a Grieving Public," Mark Doty writes that "To come too quickly to words is, ultimately, a form of arrogance. The easy poem suggests that loss is graspable, that the poet has ready command of speech in the face of anything…I believe that elegy needs to fumble its way toward what sense it can make, and that meaning wrested out of struggle—with the stubborn refusal of death to mean—is the only kind worth making." This class will explore how some poets have responded to the last seventeen-plus years, from 9/11-on, while the country has been engaged in ongoing conflicts and wars. We will discover how some poets have grappled with and written toward elegy as they’ve—gracefully and purposefully—"fumbled" throughout the process. The discussion will explore how poets write from places of "safety" and how they navigate this, aesthetically and ethically, while considering Susan Sontag’s statement: "How much easier, from one’s chair, far from danger, to claim the position of superiority." We’ll study how poets (and one filmmaker) utilize suggestion, silence, and a literal or metaphorical "ellipsis", to speak to the "unspeakable" without sensationalism, euphemism, or self-aggrandizement. The class will involve a lecture, discussion, and a writing prompt.


December 7
Holiday Party, for members only.
Details will appear in the newsletter.
Click here to join.

January 11
Annual Open Mic, Jim Lundy, Emcee

Our emcee for this event, Jim Lundy, was president of The PSSC from 2008 through 2011 and has served on its board continuously since 2006. He was the curator and emcee of Monday Night Poetry & Music, which was Charleston’s longest running open mic reading series when it concluded in November 2017. He has two chapbooks of poetry, All I Can Be Is Myself (2006) and Funny in the Way of Trenchant Men (2009), and a CD of original songs, Don’t Believe Every Story You’re Told (2012).


February 8
Meg Day with Libby Bernardin

Meg Day is the 2015-2016 recipient of the Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship, a 2013 recipient of an NEA Fellowship in Poetry, and the author of Last Psalm at Sea Level (Barrow Street 2014). Day teaches at Franklin & Marshall College and lives in Lancaster, PA.


Libby Bernardin’s book Stones Ripe for Sowing was published by Press 53 in 2018. She has two chapbooks, The Book of Myth (2009) and Layers of Song (2011). She is a member of the Poetry Society of South Carolina and the North Carolina Poetry Society, and serves on the Board of Governors of the South Carolina Academy of Authors.

February 9
Poetry Seminar
Meg Day, "Going Home, Staying Gone"
Movement is a poet’s dialect: we pace the room of each stanza, we shuttle our readers across and down the page, and we reach inside them and rearrange the furniture. Even our metaphors have a vehicle to transport the tenor to and from. Isn’t revision, too, a kind of effort to get somewhere? Using the poetry of place—pastoral, urban, corporeal, and emotional—this seminar and workshop will explore themes of exodus, exile, and pilgrimage. We will consider more closely what it means for a poet to be "at home" in their work vs "at home" in the world and whether the two can be rectified on the page. Can a poem be in situ? Will our poems endure gentrification like our neighborhoods? Do all roads lead home? Is home a place you can touch—the body, the earth—or a feeling like hiraeth, which indicates "home" may never have existed at all? We’ll engage archiving, mythmaking, tributes, and radical genealogy. Through a series of exercises and experiments, we will write poems that respond to the sharp edges and soft yields of space-making as craft.


March 8
Tiana Clark with Derek Berry

Tiana Clark is the author of the chapbook, Equilibrium (Bull City Press, 2016). Her first full-length collection, I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018) won the 2017 Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The New Yorker, Kenyon Review, American Poetry Review, and elsewhere.


Derek Berry, author of the novel Heathens & Liars of Lickskillet County (2016) and poetry chapbook Skinny Dipping with Strangers (2013), lives in South Carolina. They are the co-founder of literary non-profit The Unspoken Word. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in BOAAT, Pidgeonholes, KAKALAK, Rabid Oak, & elsewhere.


March 9
Poetry Seminar
Tiana Clark, "With an Abundance of Pleasure and Pain: Centering and Declaring the Body in Poetic Landscapes"

Poems are bodies that remind us we have bodies. But what if you feel erased in your own body or blurred on the margins? Do you have a fraught relationship with some part of your body? What even is a body, and how do we, as Mary Oliver writes keep, "announcing [our] place in the family of things" through these somatic intersections between the page and the poet? Lately, I’ve been thinking about the body as a big ship on a voyage through these various landscapes, both physical and psychological. In this seminar, we will explore these various sites of grief and gratitude by examining techniques and strategies for situating the body to the forefront of the page, instead of the periphery, by exploring our own origins and myths, rethinking our relationship to history via received forms, avoiding terminal closure, making and breaking forms, and the interrogative mood. We will examine an essay from Robin Coste Lewis as well as poems from Jennifer Chang, Evie Shockley, Lucille Clifton, Vanessa Angélica Villarreal, Monica Youn, Kendra DeColo, Ross Gay, Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Danez Smith, and more. I will also give several writing prompts throughout the session. All aboard!

April 12
Sue Landers with Sarah Mullins

Sue Landers is the author of three books of poems: Franklinstein, Covers, and 248 mgs., a panic picnic. Her poems have appeared in Poem-A-Day, The Brooklyn Rail, The Offing, and elsewhere. She has been a resident at PLAYA and Saltonstall. She lives in Brooklyn, where she serves as the executive director of Lambda Literary.


Sarah Mullins is currently an MFA candidate at College of Charleston. She enjoys writing about her southern upbringing and the spoken and unspoken struggles we all face. She is married to Brandon and has two children, Link and Olivia.

April 13, 10 a.m. - noon
Poetry Seminar at the Library Society


May 10
Annual Forum with Rick Mulkey

Rick Mulkey is the author of five books and chapbooks including Ravenous: New And Selected Poems, Toward Any Darkness, and Bluefield Breakdown. Previous work has appeared in Poet Lore, The Literary Review, Connecticut Review, Poetry East, The Georgia Review, Poetry Daily, and The Southern Poetry Anthology: Volumes I and III. Rick currently directs and teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Converse College.

May 11
Poetry Seminar
Rick Mulkey, "Principles of Pattern"

As poets we always struggle with two forces—chaos and control. Our responsibility is to balance those forces, to bring pleasure to a reader through the recognition of patterns and structures, and to heighten that pleasure by introducing unexpected alterations to those patterns. By investigating Bop poems, blues poems, sonnets and techniques such as anaphora and lineation in the works of various poets, we will consider patterns and structures as both a means and meaning in poetry. We will complete writing exercises meant to help us think of form as a way to expand our vision rather than limit that vision.

The Forum Seminar concludes PSSC’s program year. To hear more great poetry in Charleston in the coming weeks, visit the Piccolo Spoleto Sundown Poetry Series and Poetry at McLeod. Have a great summer, and don’t forget to write!

thanks to our sponsors

This series is funded in part by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the South Carolina Arts Commission.




Funding comes to PSSC through generous grants from the John and Susan Bennett Foundation of the Coastal Community Foundation, and the Dubose and Dorothy Heyward Memorial Fund.