Updated: Apr 11
Axiom Balderdash A Letter From the President
There’s a saying: “March winds bring April showers. April showers bring May flowers.” I repeat it here for two reasons. First, many people don’t know the March part of the saying—at least a small, unscientific sampling of my friends has revealed that to me. Second, it’s complete rubbish if you live in the American South. Here in Charleston, we’ve been seeing flowers since January, and now, as I write this in February, cherry trees all over town are in full, glorious bloom. I’ve already mowed my lawn four times this year and flocks of thousands of robins have long since ransacked my trees for berries, pooped them out all over my vehicles, and moved northward. Perhaps there will come a day when accurate climate-related sayings will be formulated to accommodate the decades-long mass migration of Americans from northern cities to the southern half of the country. So far, we’re still singing about snowmen and white Christmases and citing the dubious wisdom of corn being “knee high by the fourth of July,” even as we’re eating local corn on the cob at Carolina Day cookouts. One particular season that seems to be on its way out is the one that has plagued the world for over two years: COVID-19. All indications are that the pandemic’s tide has turned. Although the Poetry Society had a brief foray into the nirvana world of in-person events for our December Member Showcase, we had to retreat back to Zoom for the January and February meetings as the disease’s highly communicable (but significantly wimpier) Omicron Variant attacked the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike. March winds, however, promise to bring Atsuro Riley by airplane from California to Charleston for his scheduled reading at the Charleston Library Society on Thursday, March 10. He will be joined by Arthur McMaster, who is vice president of the Poetry Society and an outstanding poet. We hope that we will close out the membership year with April and May meetings held in person as well. [Please note that this month's meeting is Thursday and not the normal second-Friday date you would expect.] If you were in attendance for Atsuro Riley’s last appearance before the Poetry Society on September 10, 2010, you already know that it was one of the best readings we have ever hosted—certainly in my mind it was the best reading I have ever attended. At its conclusion, the audience spontaneously erupted into applause and gave Atsuro a standing ovation. In all of my research in writing the book about the Society’s century of existence, I have only found one other documented instance of a reading ending in a standing ovation: Arthur Guiterman received one on March 15, 1927. I cannot emphasize this enough: you must attend this reading, either in person at the Library Society or through Zoom from wherever you are. It might be 95 more years before there is another standing ovation. If Atsuro Riley’s Thursday appearance and Saturday workshop weren’t enough to make this the standout month of the year, there will be another in-person event, and this one will be close enough for all of our Columbia members to attend--and not far from Charleston either. On March 3, the Poetry Society and Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College present Janet Kozachek giving a fascinating presentation on her studies of classical Chinese language and poetry. For much of its existence, the Poetry Society’s lectures were not poetry readings, but lectures about poetry and other wide-ranging topics. Janet’s lecture will revisit that tradition. Another educational program, “Rekindling a Sense of Wonder,” will be Zoomed earlier that day, instructed by Miho Kinnas. And furthering the Society’s educational component, Evelyn Berry will host the popular “PSSC Online Salon” on March 14. The specifics of all these events and more can be found below. I hope to see you at some or all of our March events. Jim Lundy president, PSSC
The Poetry Society is supported by South Carolina Humanities, a not-for-profit organization; inspiring, engaging, and enriching South Carolinians with programs on literature, history, culture, and heritage.
The PSSC March Meeting
Thursday, March 10, 7:00 P.M. EST
164 King St., Charleston, SC 29401
Please note: This will take place on Thursday. It will not take place on our usual second Friday due to a scheduling conflict at the CLS.
Poet Atsuro Riley with Arthur McMaster This meeting will take place in person at the Charleston Library Society and will be simultaneously live Zoomed.
Atsuro Riley is the author of Heard-Hoard (University of Chicago Press), which has been longlisted for PEN America’s Voelcker Poetry Award, named a Boston Globe “Best Book of 2021”, listed among the year’s “10 Top Books” by KCRW’s Bookworm, and awarded the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola prize. Riley’s first book Romey’s Order received the Whiting Award, the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, The Believer Poetry Award, and the Witter Bynner Award from the Library of Congress. Brought up in the South Carolina lowcountry, he lives in San Francisco.
Arthur McMaster's poems have appeared in such distinguished journals as North American Review, Southwest Review, Poetry East, Poet Lore, Rattle, and Rhino, with one Pushcart Prize nomination. He is the winner of the 2017 Poetry of the South Carolina’s DuBose and Dorothy Heyward Society Prize. His most recent volume of poetry is The Whole Picture Show, published (Summer 2021) by Revival Press. He also has work in the 2018 anthology of South Carolina poets, Archive. A retired Converse College English professor, he teaches in the Continuing Education Department at Furman University.
March 10, 7:00 PM EST
In-Person Event: Charleston Library Society, 164 King St., Charleston, SC 29401 This will also be live Zoomed
Easy Instructions to join the Zoom meeting live:
1. On the night of the meeting, before 7:00, click on the link below (i.e. click anywhere on the blue text of "March 10 PSSC Meeting") 2. You will be taken to the Zoom website and a dialog box will open (give it a second or two!). 3. In that dialog box will be a button "Join Zoom Meetings." Click on it. 4. You might be asked to select a screen name if this is your first time in Zoom. 5. You are now in the waiting room and will be let in when the meeting it starts. March 10 PSSC Meeting Alternate Easy instructions for joining the meeting live: 1. Go to our website: PoetrySocietySC.org 2. Page down to "Reading with Atsuro Riley and Arthur McMaster. Click on "RSVP" there. 3. Supply a name and email address when prompted. 4. You will be sent a link for the meeting by email. Use that link to join the meeting on the night of the reading. If you'd like to join the meeting without any of the easy shortcuts above: Zoom MeetingJoin Zoom Meeting https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84500808785?pwd=QzRkbEZ2c0l2cDU3VFV5RkdxUjVnUT09Meeting ID: 845 0080 8785 Passcode: 250245 One tap mobile +13126266799,,84500808785#,,,,*250245# US (Chicago) +19292056099,,84500808785#,,,,*250245# US (New York) Dial by your location +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago) +1 929 205 6099 US (New York) +1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC) +1 346 248 7799 US (Houston) +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose) +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma) Meeting ID: 845 0080 8785 Passcode: 250245 Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kdWzNfs4Pl
Workshop with Atsuro Riley: The Punctum & The Phosphorus
Saturday, March 12, 10:00 AM EST
About the Event
We will discuss a selection of poems and other literary works (from the dead and the living), on the lookout for the ‘punctum’ and the ‘phosphorus’ —— the words, phrases, musical moves and formal choices that make the work indelible.The lenses and touchstones of our discussion will be the punctum vs. studium concept, formulated by Roland Barthes in Camera Lucida, and the William Carlos Williams quote from In the American Grain: “It has been my wish to draw from every source one thing, the strange phosphorus of the life. . .”
We will consider examples from writers like Gwendolyn Brooks, Frank Stanford, Jamaica Kincaid, Tillie Olson, Grace Paley, Les Murray, James Agee, Tyehimba Jess, Diane Seuss, Dana Levin. . .among others.
Topic: Atsuro Riley: The Punctum & The Phosphorus Time: Feb 12, 2022 10:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada) LocationL Charleston Library Society, 164 King St., Charleston 29401
Artist, illustrator, and writer Janet Kozachek will present a power point lecture March 3, 2022, on how her studies in classical Chinese language and poetry have influenced the structure and content of her published poetry. Chinese poetry plays an essential role in Chinese visual art, with the two symbiotically intertwined into a cohesive whole. Western art does have its own history of text and image, with illuminated manuscripts and seventeenth century emblem books, for instance. Yet although the art of word and juxtaposed image continued to evolve in Eastern cultures, language and visual art went their separate developmental ways in Europe and the United States. Indeed, in western colleges and universities in the mid-twentieth century onwards, words in art and art in words have often been the subjects of mutual suspicion. Art historians were admonished not to “get their hands dirty,” by experimenting with studio materials. Art students were often told to avoid visual representations that alluded to texts or stories.
In her poetry, Kozachek integrates image with text by drawing upon the etiologies of Chinese characters and structures her work by making use of such devices as antithetical couplets. These and other poems will be explored in examples from her full-length poetry book, A Rendering of Soliloquies - Figures Painted in Spots of Time, to be released by Finishing Line Press this February. Copies will be available for signing.
Mar 03, 6:00 PM R Building Auditorium, Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College, 3250 St. Matthews Rd, Orangeburg, SC 29118, USA
Building Location: https://www.octech.edu/wp-content/uploads/Campus-Map.pdf
Miho Kinnas invites you to attend an online Haiku Class.
Haiku & Senryu: Rekindling A Sense of Wonder @ writers.com
March 3, 2022 7 - 10 pm EST
Please go to the URL below for the information
PSSC Online Salon
On March 14, 2022, PSSC members are invited to the Poetry Salon on ZOOM. This event, curated by Evelyn Berry, is modeled after the salon society meetups of the early 20th century, during which Poetry Society members would gather to discuss art, life, and the future of poetry. Poets will read and discuss three contemporary poems (published in the last 5-10 years). The salon will explore craft, style, experimentation, voice, and form. Poets will be exposed to newer writers who are pushing the art of poetry forward in the 21st century and poets who are honoring centuries-long traditions of prosody. These salons are held on the Monday after the monthly PSSC meeting. For details, email: EvelynBerryWriter@gmail.com. The zoom link for this salon is here.
February: follow your heart March: listen to your gut
PSSC member Dr. John Corless sends along this message and poem, which we are glad to share for the wellbeing of our members: March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month and is devoted to increasing public awareness about this disease, the #2 killer of men & women combined. Colon cancer, or more accurately, colorectal cancer (CRC), is no longer just a disease of older people. For more than a decade, CRC has been increasing in younger folks—for reasons that are not yet clear. To address this, the screening age was recently moved down from 50 to 45. It is a terrible tragedy at any age, but particularly unsettling when young people succumb to this preventable and highly treatable disease. As the current president of the South Carolina Gastroenterology Association, a card-carrying member of the PSSC, and an amateur poet of sorts, it occurred to me that enlisting poetry (or at least verse) might be a good way to entertain and educate people about this very important topic. To that “end”, I was inspired to write eight stanzas of rhymed verse addressing salient aspects of CRC, even ending with a small nod to the Bard. It’s not high art, but it might save the life of a few poets, and God knows we need them!
√ UR :
Colon cancer now ranks in the #2 spot Killing both men & women, and that’s quite a lot. So let’s take a moment to become more aware Of possible dangers in your derrière.
We now know how most colon cancers arise, They don’t just appear, or fall out of the skies. Many start off as polyps, small and benign, But given the chance they can get out of line,
Turn into a cancer that’s able to spread Throughout your whole body & leave you quite dead. But instead of expiring, you could live to old age If your cancer is found at a treatable stage.
If cancer’s found early, 9 of 10 can survive So we’ve started to screen folks at age 45 To get cancers discovered, and new ones prevented Using tests and techniques that doctors invented.
Or perhaps colon polyps are seen and destroyed With the painless techniques that your doctor employed While you were sedated & comfortably resting, Your polyps were cut out, then sent off for testing.
If the polyps were small, and only a few, The tissue report will guide what to do, And determine just when you’ll need scoping again: Don’t worry, it’s usually in five years or ten.
So get off your duff, get your rear in high gear And find out for sure if your colon is clear. Talk with your doctor about what you should do: You have options for screening, choose the best plan for you.
Now please spread this message, make others aware To show that you love them, and know that you care, For “All’s Well That Ends Well” as Shakespeare did say, And to beat colon cancer, early screening’s the way!
John K Corless MD
Member Spotlight: Dr. Tamara Miles
Our congratulations go out to PSSC board member Tamara Miles, who was honored in February at the S.C. Technical Training Affiliation's annual convention as Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical School’s Educator of the Year. Since joining OCtech’s faculty in 2004, Tamara has taught every level of college English, as well as humanities and college skills courses. She served as program coordinator for the college’s Presidential Scholars Program and is advisor of OCtech’s Alpha Alpha Delta Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa international honor society. Since joining the Poetry Society's board last year, Tamara has been extraordinarily active in imagining, planning, and organizing regional events, even though some of these plans were disrupted by COVID. One of those events will take place at Orangeburg-Calhoun Tech on March 3: a reading by artist, illustrator, and writer Janet Kozachek. In December 2021, Tamara starred in a series of short videos shot in downtown Charleston highlighting points of interest in the history of the Poetry Society. That video series can be viewed here: PSSC at 100.
Talk More About Poetry: A Column by Brian Slusher
Of the poets who have thus far appeared in the Poetry Society's Yearbook during the twenty-first century, it remains to be seen whether one of them will be recognized as a Major American Poet; such a coronation takes time and luck to materialize. But certainly there are plenty of excellent candidates among the Society’s prize-winners-–so many that I shy from naming names for fear of hurting someone’s feelings through omission. Yet I will name one: the late Starkey Flythe who distinguished himself in many ways. His Yearbook poems showcase excellence in the form. Of those, I often return to his 2010 “We’re Taking the Real Estate Exam.” The title sounds like the set up to a joke or at least a signal of a good story, like “A couple of friends walk into a testing room….” There are two characters presented, the speaker and Martha. I often investigate names in poems, since the poet has near infinite choice and a range of associations to deploy with any moniker affixed. Martha is a prominent person in the New Testament, a woman focused on being a good hostess (perhaps that is why Edward Albee used this name in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) and she demonstrates considerable faith. Could Flythe be using a Biblical allusion or did he have a real friend named Martha? This Martha, real or not, does serve up a lot of alcohol, as she carries “a flask disguised as an eyeglass case” that she swigs as she aces the test. The speaker marvels at her cool, observing her “going at it / like a safe cracker listening for Fort Knox clicks” (what great sonic work in that line!). After a liquid lunch, Martha drives the speaker home, fishing fresh drinks out of a backseat cooler, all the while “never veering over the line” as she speeds down the road as though it were “a foyer to all the houses / she’ll sell.” What this poem does so effortlessly is present a portrait of an eccentric--dare I say Southern--individual whom we all know or know of, the type of person who breezes fearlessly through the world with panache, who is connected to an impressive society most of us will never have access to. Martha is someone we adore, even as she makes us feel paltry in comparison, because we, the dullards stumped for the answers to life, are taking the real estate exam while the Marthas of this world are taking on life and having a real good time doing it. The craft lessons I take from Flythe’s delightful poem are to use precise details to convey atmosphere. He creates “Southern” through the use of “Mason jars,” “Cajun martini,” “gothic lettered,” and ”pink flamingos”--and remember how much you can say about all of us by focusing on one extraordinary character who will be the life of all the “neighborhood parties you’ll never be invited to.” If you enjoy this poem, check out Flythe's other Poetry Society works “Jr. League Cookbook,” “Katherine locked in the bathroom,” and “The House.”
Brian Slusher is a long-time member of the Poetry Society and one of the winningest current members, with over twenty PSSC prizes to his credit. Contact Brian Slusher with your thoughts and comments on this column at: email@example.com.
If you missed the outstanding February reading with Dana Levin and Eugene Platt, you can watch it in its entirety on our Youtube channel by clicking here.
MEMBERS IN THE NEWS
Congratulations go to the winners and honorable mentions for the Poetry Society's Fall Contests, which were announced at our February meeting. This year, the big prize, the DuBose and Dorothy Heyward Society Prize, was awarded to Beth Dillenkoffer. Both Brian Slusher and Danielle Verwers won two prizes each. See the winners and read the poems here. Of the seven 2022 finalists for the Carrie Allen McCray Nickens Fellowship, awarded by the South Carolina Academy of Authors, four were current members of the Poetry Society of South Carolina. They are: Evleyn Berry, Ann-Chadwell Humphries, Terri McCord, and Danielle Verwers. Additionally, our own Celeste McMaster was a finalist in the SCAA Coker Fiction Fellowship. The winner of the McCray Nickens Fellowship is Danielle Verwers, who also recently won the Susan Laughter Meyers Summer Scholarship as well as the Klyde Robinson Poetry Prize from the PSSC. Congratulations to all. Ann Herlong-Bodman’s poem, “He had followed us” was named a finalist in the Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest 2022 and appears in the winter collection. Her poem “Somewhere South of Summer” was published in the 2021 KaKaLaK and “Woman at Window” accepted by Blue Mountain Review. Jerri Chaplin has collaborated with two Northeastern poets, Dan Valenti and Paul Kocak, on the new book Third Person Singular: 33-1/3 Poems Each. Most of the poems were written since March 2020 and focus on life in the harried time of the COVID pandemic. The book is out now and available for purchase. Jerri will be giving readings in South Carolina in late fall. Evelyn Berry will be speaking at the Writers on Writing Panel on March 6th at 6pm, Redemption Church, 930 Broad Street in Augusta, GA. Three poems by Ruth Nicholson, "Overdue," "Spring Safari: Hartsville, SC," and "At Congaree Swamp," appear in the recently published 2020-2021 edition of Fall Lines. Traci Neal has two poems featured in the art and poetry exhibit, The Art of Being: Woman, at Richland Library Main Branch. The exhibit started on February 25 and will be ending on April 15, 2022. Neal will be performing her spoken word poetry at the University of South Carolina-Columbia event, Ears Wide Open with Fuse and Universe on March 31, 2022, from 12 pm to 1 pm. Charles Watts's poem "32 Rainbows" was published in the anthology BEAUTIFUL: In the Eye of the Beholder: 200 Stories and Poems by authors and poets worldwide. Debbie Daniel received third prize in the 2022 Bath Flash Fiction Award. PSSC President Jim Lundy was interviewed on the Contribute Your Verse Writing Podcast for his book about the history of the Poetry Society of South Carolina. It can be heard here. His earlier interview for Walter Edgar's Journal can be heard here. Members, please send poetry-related news to: Flatbluesky@hotmail.com To make this easier on us, please provide your news in a format that is exactly the way you want it to read in the Newsletter.
Poetry Prompt Newsletter Contest
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 February Poetry Prompt Contest asked you to write a poem or piece of flash fiction on the topic of love, especially in the sense of its many nuances and contradictions. Love, in all its complexities, proved to be an unpopular topic. We received four entries, but they were all excellent; determining the winner was difficult. Ellen Jenks submitted the perfectly titled, "To Underline All is to Underline None." Eugene Platt submitted "Love Poem for a Dying Wife," which has been a favorite of mine since I heard it more than a decade ago. Danielle Verwers's poem "Answers," in which the speaker replies to a young person's question about love; a question that remains ambiguous to the reader. And finally, Ellen Hyatt submitted a piece of flash fiction, "As Time Goes By," which was ultimately chosen to be the winner. You can read it below. Here is the March Prompt: I was born in the wrong place. I realized that the second I visited Charleston in March 1988. I flew from a wintery hellscape in Detroit, Michigan, to mid 70° temperatures and a city that was full of flowers. In March, the first day of spring was always a cruel joke in Detroit because there would be snow on the ground, filthy slush in the roads, and the possibility of snowstorms well into April. St. Patrick's day was especially cruel with all the imagery of the vivid greens of the Emerald Isle in my head as I looked out at a city that was completely dead and devoid of green. In honor of the first day of spring and St. Patrick's Day, this month's challenge is to evoke the rejuvenation of spring and the magic of St. Patrick's day. The ancient Celts saw spirits and gods everywhere in the world around them. Their folklore was full of strange creatures and supernatural races that lived underground and in the forest, and they thought spirits inhabited very tree, brook, and stone. Your task for March is to capture the beauty and magic of this time of year. There is no need to mention Ireland, the Celts, or folklore. Use the magical feeling you get from nature's rebirth, longer days, and warmer weather as a starting point. You probably already have the feeling of spring inside you right now as the days grow longer. Capture that in a poem or piece of flash fiction in some way that's totally up to you. Send your submissions to FlatBlueSky@hotmail.com on or before March 31.
The winner of the February Prompt Contest: As Time Goes By
It wasn't a morning-after in Paris, but it was at a café—the Café Rendezvous where they'd been going as a couple every year for six years whenever they had something to celebrate, like birthdays, their wedding anniversary, or today on Valentine's Day.
Waiters knew them by name, had their table ready, and made sure the label of their favorite wine faced them when poured. The piano player was always cued for standard love ballads that would be the centerpiece for their evening. Tonight, among the tunes is a lilty version of "I'll Take Romance" (as Eydie Gormé and sophisticated pop artists of the past might have sung it); a jazzed-up rendition of "My Funny Valentine;" and . . . of course . . . the fundamental, the indelible "As Time Goes By."
That was six months ago. Today, she's cleaning out the freezer. She comes across the small cake she had the bakery recreate with the same vanilla-almond flavor of their original wedding cake to celebrate their seventh anniversary in June. She recalls Corinthians 13, love being kind. Then in tandem, rushing into her mind: Shakespeare's Sonnet 116, love altering not when alteration it finds—Elizabeth Barrett counting the ways—Yeats still loving the pilgrim soul when you are full of sleep and old and grey—Neruda’s love poems—all of them! And Hoagy's Stardust, Porter’s Easy to Love, Fitzgerald’s Love so Rare, Sinatra’s Where or When—
She recalls when he told her, "I need more space". . . how she, at first, thought he meant for his clothes in the closet. -Ellen Hyatt
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