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"A Measured Place, Possibly with Stanzas"

Updated: Mar 3, 2023

A Letter from the President


Dear Valentines, When my daughter, Jillian, was about five years old, she was asked to describe her parents in a little book that she created and embellished with art. She wrote that my favorite recipe was macaroni and cheese and that I weighed 19 pounds. She drew a picture of me with big, curly hair and red lipstick (a fair representation), and when prompted about my hobbies and interests, she wrote, "My mommy likes to go places." A while back, I asked you, "Where to next?" and some of you gave me great suggestions. My inbox is still open. Meanwhile, I have been wintering and wandering, and I'm thinking it's time to visit Saint Valentine and the half-written poem. (Be careful, tender ears; there are obscenities within). February is a great month for poetry lovers and groundhogs. It is also Black History Month, and I want to celebrate all of these, but first let's look in the rear view mirror at a place called January, which may appear closer than it is. January is named for the god of beginnings, who had two faces and whose name also meant "door." What is a poem but a beginning, a door into somewhere we've never been? Borrowing from James Galvin in Issue 36 of American Poet, "a poem is a measured place, possibly with stanzas." We traveled to that place with the annual open mic on January 13th, and it was a terrific way to start the year.

We had 13 readers. I read twice, one of my own ("Hallelujah") and one from the 1922 yearbook. We enjoyed the work of Susan Finch Stevens, former president. Richard Allen Taylor read "Majoring in the Geography of the Heart." Charles Watts introduced us to a bird on the shore. John Byrne reflected on being with the one you're with. Tina Baumis spoke of winter, and Lisa Spears of rebuilding a life in "Out on a Limb." Sandra Bregman read a "Time" and "A Woman's Voice." Jennie Sherry presented a poem called "Presence," about visiting with her parents. Tina Rogonia, who gave herself a Society membership for her birthday, read "Looking Ahead," a poem about her best friend since age 13. Layle Chambers brought a moving poem called "Last Seen," about her pilot military son. Jim Lundy's poem opened the door to a death that doesn't haunt (serve macaroni and cheese at his funeral, he suggests). Robin sought a different voice, one that had been silenced in history but to whom a door has now been opened. You can watch the readings at the Society's YouTube channel. From my poem, a love letter of sorts: "Hallelujah for the open mic, which says I am yours,/ and the moment is yours, with the whole year/ahead proudly bowing." Oh, and the limerick contest was a close race, ending up with Tanner Crunelle just edging past Jim Lundy (and a nervous judge tallying audience responses). In the January newsletter, I asked if we are brave enough to fulfill our mission and our vision in the Society. I have a goal of 100 new members this year, and we are on our way with several joining already. Welcome to our newest members! With greater support, we can accomplish more across the state. If you haven't submitted your poems for the contests yet, please do. You have until February 15! The winners for the fall contests will be announced on February 10 at Gary Jackson's reading.

As for me, here's a sketch of what I've been doing:


Going places: I accompanied Randy Spencer to the fantastic launch of this year's Kakalak! First I spent some time in Ridgeway (Fairfield County), and then met Randy to travel to the arts center in Lancaster (Lancaster County) for the celebration and reading that included some of our members. I enjoyed seeing Angelo Geter, Debbie Daniel, Kim Hyclack, and Anne Kaylor, along with several other talented folks. The arts center, which is in an old church, was spectacular. Here's Angelo in that sacred setting:

Ohhhhh, and did I mention the cake?

I also attended the Poetry Trails event at Azalea Park in Summerville, a truly meaningful event involving Charles Watts, Richard Taylor, Tina Baumis, Sandra Bregman, and myself.


The winner of the January Poetry Trails contest is Shayna Shanes, and I was happy to deliver her Fender Kingsman Elvis Presley model prize guitar to her personally. Thanks again to Danny Sciortino for donating the guitar and to Al Black for serving as the judge! Shayna and I met at Saffron Bakery in Charleston, and as a result of our conversation, we now have a new leader for the long-stalled PSSC Writers Group. More details to follow. Please check the website.

Here's her winning poem:




 








After meeting with Shayna, I visited the Unitarian Church, where I met Sandra Salvitelli, who has been so generous in hosting our February and March events. Sandra told me the story of the memorial that honors enslaved workers who helped build the church. She invited us to have a poetry reading there in the future, and a visit to the memorial would be one meaningful activity for Black History Month if you can go.


I also spent some time at Magnolia Cemetery, where many of our past members are buried, and I discovered the grave of Josephine Pinckney, an important figure in the early years of the Society. You can read more about her in Jim Lundy's History of the Poetry Society of South Carolina.

Thinking About: Dr. Ed Madden, Columbia's outgoing Poet Laureate, who has had a tremendous positive influence in our state. I had the privilege years ago of receiving Ed's instruction in a one-on-one workshop, and I have benefitted from his encouragement over the years as have many others.

Always productive, Ed recently gathered the 7th set in the "Poems on the Comet" series (see "Members in the News") and visited the new Columbia Poet Laureate, Jennifer Bartell Boykin to talk about the position and past projects. Offering his support, he also gave her a Columbia city flag lapel pin "so she can REPRESENT," and a desk sign that says "Poet Laureate." I've borrowed a photo from Ed's Facebook page. Let's celebrate these two remarkable people. By the way, Ed has shared a first book contest... check it out!


A first book contest for South Carolina (born or resident) poets!


Planning: I'll need to number these because wow, am I planning... 1) With the help of members Janet Kozachek and her husband Nat, I'm working on a poetry event in Orangeburg that should encompass Orangeburg and Calhoun counties. We hope to collaborate with South Carolina State University and Claflin University (and of course, my college, OCtech) to create something meaningful this spring. Also, see Janet's recent accomplishments below (MN). 2) I was invited by board member Yvette Murray to participate in a statewide Read-In in response to the rise of book bans and curriculum challenges in South Carolina and the rest of the country. Former state Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth had written to Yvette and others about organizing events throughout the state to be held on the same day at the same time. See MN for more on Yvette's upcoming reading. 3) Len Lawson, Marjory Wentworth, Marcus Amaker, Susan Craig, Ann Humphries, Al Black, Ed Madden, Jennifer Bartell Boykin, Angelo Geter, Cindi Boiter, Cassie Premo Steele, and others are speaking out about the current absence of a state Poet Laureate. You can read Len's letter to the editor of The State newspaper here: Reader disturbed that South Carolina has lingered without a poet laureate since 2020 https://www.aol.com/reader-disturbed-south-carolina-lingered-110000665.html I have added my voice on behalf of the Poetry Society and will participate in a rally at the state house if I am able. Bridget Frame, a senior journalism major at USC is writing an article about the situation, and I will be interviewed. With Jim Lundy's help, I will be prepared to share the Society's relationship to former poet laureates. 4) On February 17, I'm hosting (on behalf of the PSSC) a reading by member Love Lotus followed by an open mic for Early Birds in Allendale County! (MN) 5) Evelyn Berry and I are planning an event for sometime this spring at the Living Room, an event center at Jubilee Circle Center for Spirituality and the Arts. 6) Lucinda Clark, President of the Georgia Poetry Society, and I will host a poetry workshop for women veterans at local Veterans Administration hospitals (Charleston, Columbia, and Augusta, if all goes well) in April. 7) Hoping for a Poetry Festival at The Living Room at Jubilee Circle in October. I'm signing folks up now for a whole day of poetry events, so please let me know if you'd like to be on stage or giving a workshop. Thank you to those who have already agreed to be there. There's more, but I'll keep it close to the chest and share in March. Plans are still underway for the next Poetry Trails event, so I'll update you on that as soon as I know. We will not have a member feature for February, but we'll be back with one in March! Please keep the RSVP's coming for our upcoming program poets! I've just been advised that Tarfia Faizullah has had to cancel her reading and workshop scheduled for February 10 and 11. The planned opening reader, Gary Jackson, will now serve as the primary reader and workshop leader. We will still go to Buxton Books after the workshop, where Gary's books will be available. Please check the website for any updates. Also, scroll down to the 2022-2023 Program for general program details. Together, we can go places. Measured places, with stanzas. Tamara Miles President



 

2022-2023 Program

For those who are new: the Poetry Society's official calendar runs from September to May. The traditional program of readings for this year is provided below. Scroll down for more information on individual poets and visit the PSSC website for greater detail and to RSVP. The events are the second Friday of the month and the Saturday that follows it. Each poet presents a reading and seminar. With the exception of February and March, all events will take place on the second Friday of the month at the Charleston Library Society. February and March locations are to be determined. September 2022: Melissa Crowe October 2022: Han VanderHart November 2022: Jaki Shelton Green December 2022: Holiday Party January 2023: Member's Open Mic February 2023: Tarfia Faizullah March 2023: Jill McDonough April 2023: Raena Shirali May 2023: Glenis Redmond


We're pleased to have Gary Jackson as our guest for the February reading. Thanks as always to Buxton Books for inviting us to visit after the Saturday workshop and providing the poet's books for sale. Details and the Zoom link are provided below.


"Opened in 2016, Buxton Books is located on King Street, the main thoroughfare in downtown Charleston. The bookstore specializes in ticketed, dynamic, book-included events both in the bookstore and at many different venues in the city, and they are proud to be the official bookseller for the Poetry Society of South Carolina."

February 10, 7 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.)

Unitarian Church, 4 Archdale Street, Charleston


You can also join us on Zoom if you can't make it in person:


Poetry Society of South Carolina is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.


Topic: Gary Jackson

Time: Feb 10, 2023 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)


Join Zoom Meeting


Meeting ID: 895 7965 5357

Passcode: 248407

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Meeting ID: 895 7965 5357

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Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kso8ylVX8

 

Update: Date Change for Jill McDonough


March 17 and 18: Jill McDonough with Cora Schipa

Please note that these events will be held at Gage Hall,

4 Archdale Street, Charleston.

Reading, Friday, 7 pm

Seminar, Saturday, 10 am-11:30 am

Three-time Pushcart prize winner Jill McDonough is the recipient of Lannan, NEA, Cullman Center, and Stegner fellowships. Her most recent book is Here All Night (Alice James, 2019). She teaches in the MFA program at UMass-Boston and offers College Reading and Writing in Boston jails.

 

April 14 and 15: Raena Shirali

For these events, we will return to the Charleston Library Society, King Street.

Reading, Friday, 7 pm

Seminar, Saturday, 10 am


Raena Shirali is the author of two collections of poetry. Her first book, GILT (YesYes Books, 2017), won the 2018 Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award, and her second, summonings (Black Lawrence Press, 2022), won the 2021 Hudson Prize. Winner of a Pushcart Prize & a former Philip Roth Resident at Bucknell University, Shirali is also the recipient of prizes and honors from VIDA, Gulf Coast, Boston Review, & Cosmonauts Avenue. Formerly a Co-Editor-in-Chief of Muzzle Magazine, Shirali now serves as Faculty Advisor for Folio—a literary magazine dedicated to publishing works by undergraduate students at the national level. She holds an MFA in Poetry from The Ohio State University and is an Assistant Professor of English at Holy Family University. The Indian American poet was raised in Charleston, South Carolina, and now lives in Philadelphia.

 

May 12 and 13: Glennis Redmond

Charleston Library Society, King Street

Reading, Friday 7 pm

Seminar, Saturday 10 am


Glenis Redmond is a performance poet, a Kennedy Center Teaching Artist, and a Cave Canem alumni. She is the author of three books of poetry: Backbone (Underground Epics, 2000), Under the Sun (Main Street Rag, 2002), and What My Hand Say (Press 53, 2016). She will have three more books published in 2022: Listening Skin (Four Way Books), Three Harriets & Others (Finishing Line Press), and Praise Songs for Dave the Potter, Art by Jonathan Green, and Poetry by Glenis Redmond (University of Georgia Press). She is presently working on a seventh collection, Port Cities: Portals of the Second (Domestic) Middle Passage.

 

Eugene Platt kindly sent me a copy of the Atlanta Review, Fall/Winter 2022, which contains his poem "Carolina Catechism." Also, the launch of Eugene's Weaned on War will be at Buxton Books in Charleston on Saturday, February 11, at 5:00 p.m. After an introduction by Wesley Moore (retired teacher, Porter Gaud School), he will read a selection, then there will be a reception. Although this is a free event, due to space limitations the bookstore requests RSVPs. Please RSVP here: Weaned on War: An In-Store Celebration & Poetry Reading with Eugene Platt! — Buxton Books Ed Madden has released Poems on the Comet: Openings which are on the Columbia Comet bus systems, with a booklet coming later. The following poets are featured: Preach Jacobs Ed Madden Anne Soni Barbara Whittaker Betsy Throne Jacquelyn Markham Jisoo Lee Jo Angela Edwins Kevin Oliver Kristine Hatvigsen Christina Baumis Lee Snelgrove Libby Bernardin Lisa Hammond Lucia Brown Mary Bryan Ray McManus Milo Kinnas Monifa Lemons Nancy Martinich Jorden Jeffreys Nathalie Anderson Angelo Geter has announced the 3rd annual One Word Poetry Festival in Rock Hill from April 27-30, 2023. The week Is full of an adult open mic w/live band, workshops, a youth arts showcase, poetry slam competition and a poetry brunch which will feature a reading and panel discussion from all the SC Poets Laureate. Columbia, SC: Jennifer Bartell Boykin (recently appointed) Greenville, SC: Glenis Redmond (recently appointed) Charleston, SC: Asiah Thomas (recently appointed) PeeDee area: Jo Angela Edwins Edgefield, SC: J. Drew Lanham Rock Hill, SC: Angelo Geter Rock Hill Youth Poet Laureate: Abigail McCluney Tina Baumis shared her new publication in the Haiku Foundation's "Haiku Dialogue's" School Days, Family and Friends. Jim Lundy is giving a talk on the history of the Poetry Society of South Carolina at the Lowcountry Senior Center on Friday, February 3, from 1:00-2:00. Signed copies of his book will be available. Find the details here. Evelyn Berry is a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellow, a tremendous honor. Marcus Amaker's Free Verse Poetry Festival has published its upcoming events. Richard Taylor's article on Jim Lundy and his history of the PSSC appears in the January (Winter 2023) issue of The Main Street Rag, available from http://mainstreetragbookstore.com/?product=armed-luminous          

And you? What are you up to? Send me word. I'm planning to go to Every Corner, Every County.


 
 

Hey-ho, we now have PSSC hats. I love my PSSC mug for sipping espresso, and Tina Baumis looks fabulous in her long-sleeve shirt. Take a look at what else is available. A portion of the proceeds goes to the Poetry Society. You can look sporty and support the important work of the Poetry Society with each purchase. Click here to visit the website. You can also pick up a copy of The History of the Poetry Society of South Carolina from Amazon --- and if you enjoy it, please leave a review.


 

The Poetry Prompt Contest is a monthly contest where we encourage you to submit a piece inspired by the new prompt found below. The winning poem or flash fiction is published in the following month's newsletter. We also offer the winner the opportunity to record a video of him or herself reading the poem to be posted to the Poetry Society's Youtube channel. There is no obligation to record the video, it is only there as an offer if the winner feels comfortable doing so.


The Prompt Contest will take a hiatus until further notice. Stay tuned..

 

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Photo credit: unknown

Editor: Tamara Miles


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