Updated: Mar 8, 2022
A Letter From the President
A few years ago, when I was thinking about the Poetry Society’s perennial problem of needing to attract more new members, an ironic slogan popped into my head: “The Poetry Society is South Carolina’s best-kept secret.” I literally laughed out loud when it came to me. We’re definitely not trying to be a secret, but we are unknown to most of the people in the state who might enjoy belonging to our group. I would guess that more people know about the inner workings of the Order of Skull and Bones or the Bilderberg Group than they know about the PSSC.
It was really only during the first decade of operating that the PSSC had all the members that it could handle. In the 1920s, meetings were formal events held at South Carolina Society Hall, which had a seating capacity of 200 people. In-town membership was capped at 250 to account for no-shows; there was no limit to non-resident memberships, since they were not entitled to a seat at the monthly meetings. In our heyday, meetings of the Society were standing room only events for poets like Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, Gertrude Stein, and Amy Lowell. The readings were reported on in the newspapers with multiple front-page articles both leading up to the events and recounting them afterward. There was a waiting list for memberships. The reputation of the Poetry Society of South Carolina was known far and wide. In the decades that followed, the Society shrank from the public eye. There were some mighty lean years, especially in the 1960s and '70s.
Two years ago, we anticipated that the combined publicity of our 100th anniversary gala starring Terrance Hayes and the release of my book about the history of the Society would put us in the public spotlight once again. Well, COVID killed the gala, first in January 2021—the actual 100th anniversary date—and then last month when we had hoped to hold the postponed centennial as the rebranded 101st anniversary gala. My book has received some publicity in the Post and Courier, it’s true, but newspaper readerships are not what they were. My interview on Walter Edgar’s Journal was quite an honor and I’m sure that some people learned of the PSSC through it, but we haven’t seen a corresponding rush of new members. There was a modest spike in book sales, but nothing that would portend a new golden age of the Poetry Society of South Carolina through large numbers of new members. Most recently, I was interviewed by Evelyn Berry for Contribute Your Verse.
Recently, the Society’s highly resourceful vice president, Arthur McMaster, initiated a membership drive with a strong sense of purpose. Its name is also its strategy: “Everyone Brings One.” We are asking you to think about people you know: family, friends, people at church, pickleball teammates, coworkers, students, teachers, or even your mailman. Poetry is certainly not for everyone, but it is likely that one of the hundreds of people you know would enjoy being part of the Poetry Society of South Carolina. If every member brought another member to the group, we could have a membership list that would be unrivaled since the 1920s. It might be as simple as an email or text to the right person to start them on a relationship with the PSSC that could last decades. If you're chatting with someone who seems to have a creative aura about them, try to find a way to mention the PSSC. During the month of February, could you commit to spending at least 5 minutes in recruiting one new member for the Society? Five. Minutes.
I would love to hear how it goes. Please report back to me with any new members you recruited and I’ll report the news in the March newsletter.
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 February Meeting
Friday, February 11, 7:00 P.M. EST Poet Dana Levin with Eugene Platt This will be Zoomed, not in person.
Dana Levin is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Banana Palace (Copper Canyon Press, 2016) and Sky Burial (Copper Canyon Press, 2011), which The New Yorker called “utterly her own and utterly riveting.” Her poems and essays have appeared in Best American Poetry, The New York Times, The American Poetry Review, The Nation, Poetry, and Guesthouse, among other publications. Levin is a grateful recipient of many fellowships and awards, including those from the National Endowment for the Arts, PEN, the Witter Bynner Foundation and the Library of Congress, as well as from the Lannan, Rona Jaffe, Whiting and Guggenheim Foundations. Levin currently serves as Distinguished Writer in Residence at Maryville University in St. Louis, where she lives. Copper Canyon Press will publish her fifth book of poems, Now Do You Know Where You Are, in Spring 2022.
Eugene Platt, an octogenarian with a military service-connected disability, was born in Charleston, South Carolina. After serving in the Army (11th Airborne and 24th Infantry Divisions), he earned degrees at the University of South Carolina and Clarion University of Pennsylvania as well as a Diploma in Anglo-Irish Literature at Trinity College Dublin. As a young poet, he was active on the reading circuit, giving over 100 public readings of his work at colleges, universities, and libraries across the nation. His work has appeared in Poetry Ireland Review, Poet Lore, Southwestern Review, South Carolina Review, Crazyhorse, Montana Mouthful, Tinderbox, etc. His 2020 collection Nuda Veritas was published by Revival Press (Ireland). He lives in Charleston with his main muses: Canadian-born wife Judith, corgi Bess, cats Finnegan and Maeve. His website is www.plattwrites.com.
February 11, 7:00 PM EST Zoom Event
Easy Instructions to join the 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 "February 11 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. February 11 PSSC Meeting Alternate Easy instructions for joining the meeting live: 1. Go to our website: PoetrySocietySC.org 2. Page down to "Reading with Dana Levin and Eugene Platt. 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/82355930502?pwd=cmFjS2h3RHdXQ0JYblNCOXEvTGJ3QT09 Meeting ID: 823 5593 0502 Passcode: 723313 One tap mobile +13017158592,,82355930502#,,,,*723313# US (Washington DC) +13126266799,,82355930502#,,,,*723313# US (Chicago) Dial by your location +1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC) +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago) +1 929 205 6099 US (New York) +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma) +1 346 248 7799 US (Houston) +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose) Meeting ID: 823 5593 0502 Passcode: 723313 Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kuW2BBcWx
Workshop with Dana Levin
Feb 12, 10:00 AM EST
About the Event
“Life’s nonsense pierces us with strange relation,” writes poet Wallace Stevens. In this seminar, we will explore how to “make sense” of poetry’s relationship to the unconscious and the use we can make of this relationship for poetic composition and revision. A short lecture will focus on what poems and poets can learn from divination, reverie, dream; on pattern recognition as the foundation for both dream-work and writing-work; and on “revising towards strangeness” (Brenda Hillman). We’ll look at a dream record of a patient, by pioneering Jungian analyst Marie-Louise Von Franz, as well as poems by Tomaz Salamun, Charles Simic, and Jean Valentine. Then we’ll dive into doing some generative writing, with some tricks for by-passing that pesky inner critic.
Topic: Dana Levin: Poetry & the Subconscious Time: Feb 12, 2022 10:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada) Join Zoom Meeting https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86976390208?pwd=b2lTN3dnWmhEYWNYb1h2bmtUbFVOdz09 Meeting ID: 869 7639 0208 Passcode: 657861 One tap mobile +19292056099,,86976390208#,,,,*657861# US (New York) +13017158592,,86976390208#,,,,*657861# US (Washington DC) Dial by your location +1 929 205 6099 US (New York) +1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC) +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago) +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose) +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma) +1 346 248 7799 US (Houston) Meeting ID: 869 7639 0208 Passcode: 657861 Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/keGXjtpRcs
Jim Lundy was interviewed for the popular podcast Contribute Your Verse. The interview discusses the history of the Poetry Society and the process of researching and writing his new book The History of the Poetry Society of South Carolina: 1920-2021. It can be heard by clicking this link: https://soundcloud.com/contributeyourverse/the-poetry-society-of-south-carolina-w-jim-lundy Contribute Your Verse: Through conversations, audio essays, and wild digressions, host Evelyn Berry explores what it means to develop artistic habits, succeed in creative business, and live a creative life.
NEW: PSSC Online Salon
On February 21, 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 normally held on the Monday after the monthly PSSC meeting, but this month that would fall on Valentine's Day, so it will be held the following Monday. For details, email: EvelynBerryWriter@gmail.com.
Topic: Poetry Salon with Evelyn Berry
Time: Feb 21, 2022 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83694319191?pwd=ZSt4MFBmZDdEQTUzUUZaL0JpTjh5dz09 Meeting ID: 836 9431 9191 Passcode: 010603 One tap mobile +13017158592,,83694319191#,,,,*010603# US (Washington DC) +13126266799,,83694319191#,,,,*010603# US (Chicago)
Reading in Columbia for Fall Lines
After too many Covid-related postponements, the Jasper Project is delighted to release the combined Volume VII and VIII issues of Fall Lines- a literary convergence on Sunday, January 23, 2022, at Drayton Hall on the campus of the University of South Carolina. The event will begin at 2 pm.
Contributors to the 2020 and 2021 issues of Fall Lines are invited to choose one piece of their own poetry or prose from the dual-volume journal to read to the public.
Drayton Hall is located at 1214 College Street. Street parking is available. The public is invited to attend.
Strict COVID protocols will be in place. Masks are mandatory except when reading. Only vaccinated contributors and guests are invited to attend.
Member Profile: Thomas L. Johnson
Longtime member Thomas L. Johnson is a librarian emeritus from the University of South Carolina. Thirty years ago this month, he read for the Poetry Society of South Carolina as the featured poet. He has been the guardian spirit of literary South Carolina for more years than anyone except he himself actually knows. He is a lifetime member of the board of governors of the South Carolina Academy of Authors and is the author of two books of poetry: The Costume (2011), and Worlds Unmasked (2021). Worlds Unmasked is a collaboration with his daughter, L. Miranda Johnson, who provided photographs for which Thomas wrote haiku. As a body of work, capturing the strange dichotomy experienced through COVID—both the alienation of society and the grateful appreciation of self—Worlds Unmasked exposes the isolation, loneliness, and despair of feared illness amidst political, social and economic upheaval, countered by the restorative hope found in the beauty and resilience of nature... and human nature. Worlds Unmasked can be ordered by contacting the following: www.LitchfieldBooks.com; email@example.com; or the Johnsons at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Poetry Society's Spring Contests submission period is open until midnight, February 15th. One thousand dollars in prize money is up for grabs. For details, see our website with this link:
Talk More About Poetry: A Column by Brian Slusher
Jim Lundy writes in his fascinating book The History of the Poetry Society of South Carolina 1920 to 2021 that while the Society itself has shown great value over time, much of its past winning poems have “not aged well.” That’s not surprising; poetic fashion changes in the same way we don’t wear pocket watches on fobs or leisure suits anymore. Language is a river, not a cistern, and still water gets stagnant quick. But some poems manage to flow on in the culture. This month we take a deep dive into the archives to “Oberammergau” by Lenora Speyer, a work that won the Society’s Blindman Prize in 1923. It shows age perhaps in its heavily Christian message, yet its other strengths demonstrate solid craft that any reader can appreciate. Last month I praised Marilyn Mumford’s apt use of her poem’s title to create multiple effects. Likewise, using a well-known place name as a title is a great opening strategy, as it imparts so much information without any extra words. The city Oberammergau is famous for the Passion Play it puts on, a spectacle portraying the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. With this as backdrop, Speyer lets us know immediately this is a spiritual poem where dramatic language is expected. Speyer then uses a common children’s counting song as a structure for the poem: “Rich man, poor man, beggar-man, thief.” Using a well-worn rhyme could be cliché in unskilled hands, but here Speyer uses it to impart a sense of innocence, universality, and a hypnotic quality in its repetition. As the speaker directly addresses the diverse groups of people–”Weary Gentile, Turk and Jew, / Lord and peasant, Christian too”--the poem transcends being propaganda and includes all humanity. Speyer also uses an unusual rhyme scheme for her poem. Her use of an a-x-a-b-b pattern gives her a lot of flexibility with that unrhyming x line to select whatever word she needs rather than making a forced choice. Her smart strategy delivers the musical quality without resorting to unrelenting rhyme, which can make a poem sound childish or humorous. Speyer is also wise in her use of allusion. For each of the types her speaker addresses, she matches that type with resonant Biblical references, such as “Rich man, rich man, drawing near, / Have you not heard of the needle's eye?” and “Merchant, there is a story grim / Of money-changers scourged by Him!” While this whole exercise could come off as a religious commercial, Speyer instead aims for a broader message. By invoking the Passion Play and describing the multifaceted people who come to watch the drama, she asks “Are we actually living this creed or just being an audience?” As her speaker puts it plainly “Did you give to the poor as He bade you do? / Proud sir, which of the thieves are you?” A good poem doesn’t preach, it doesn’t tell us what to do–it shows us who we are in memorable language and asks us to consider what that means. The speaker in “Oberammergau '' doesn't pretend to be above us, but acknowledges in the final unrhyming couplet (faith isn’t easy or neat) we all have doubts and struggle to understand the meaning of our lives. “Poetry is news that stays news,” Ezra Pound wrote, and so “Oberammergau” will continue to show up on Poetry Nook websites and on whatever unimagined format the future will bring because it's just a good poem.
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 January Open Mic, you can watch it in its entirety on our Youtube channel by clicking here.
MEMBERS IN THE NEWS
Traci Neal's performance poetry video, South Carolina Habitat For Humanity will be showcased in Ocala, FL at NoMa Gallery for their first juried show called Passion, on February 3, 2022 - March 26, 2022. For more information, visit NoMa Gallery. Watch South Carolina Habitat For Humanity video. Traci will also be performing poetry at the 9th Annual Africstyle Black History Fashion Show on February 5, 2022, in Columbia, SC. For ticket purchases, visit Africstyle Initiatives LLC. NoMa Gallery: https://nomaocala.com/ Youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7acXx57Yyo&t=7s Africstyle Initiative LLC: https://myafricstyleinitiatives.com/products/9th-annual-black-history-africstyle-fashion-show-tickets-bridal-show Ruth Nicholson's poem "Penn's Cave" appears in Volume 38 (2021) of Emrys Journal. Linda Walder's poem "Nana" was selected and appeared in the Charleston City Paper's Lit issue https://lnkd.in/emdWYDbz George Pope's book The Baby Whisperer was selected as a 'Top Choice' by the Charleston Library Society and featured in a Post and Courier front page article. Eugene Platt reports that Orla Fay, editor of Drawn to the Light Press, has accepted his poem "Breaking News:" for the next issue. Also, his poem "In a Deserted Farmhouse" has been accepted by Pinyon, an annual print journal housed at Colorado Mesa University. On January 13, 2022, E. Ethelbert Miller interviewed PSSC member Miho Kinnas. Their conversation topics ranged from her poetry, African-American haiku, to the state & history of tanka. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/on-the-margin-thursday-january-13-2022/id1155173935?i=1000547792644 Evelyn Berry has been elected as the Secretary of the Authors Club of Augusta. Her work has recently appeared in Anti-Heroin Chic, Fall Lines, Susurrus Magazine, Weekly Hubris, and petrichor. Ellen Jenks and Rose Halliday's new book, Treasures From the Attic, is now available. This book is a collaboration of the two cousins who are both members of the PSSC. It is a collection of poems written over several decades. It can be purchased here. William Winslow's book Proof I was Here is now out now. Available from Outskirts Press. 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 January Poetry Prompt Contest asked you to write a poem or piece of flash fiction that evokes the cold (in any sense of the word), in honor of the coldest month of the year. This proved to be a popular topic; we received nine entries. They came from Ellen Jenks, Eugene Platt, Charles Watts, Jeane Kay Juhos, Terri McCord, Traci Neal, Ellen Jones, Linda Sarkany, and Emory Jones. The winning poem was "Visitation Rights" by Eugene Platt. His poem can be found below. This month's judge was Tamara Miles. Here is the February Prompt: February, the shortest month, brings us Valentine's Day. Some years ago, I overheard a barroom philosopher say, "I used to think that love and hate were opposites. Then I got married and found that they're two sides of the same coin." For this month's prompt contest, I would like to explore the complexities of love. What is love, exactly? We can love our parents and love pizza. Here in the South, you know when a sentence starts with, "I love her to death but..." the next thing you're going to hear is harsh criticism that doesn't sound lovey at all. The ancient Greeks defined 6 kinds of love, each with its own name, which is somewhat helpful to separate the love for your spouse and the love you might have for warm towels just out of the dryer. For February, your task is to write a poem or piece of flash fiction on the topic of love, especially in the sense of its many nuances and contradictions. Send your submissions to FlatBlueSky@hotmail.com on or before February 28.
The winner of the January Prompt Contest: Visitation Rights The winters of Upstate New York are long, but never last till June. The snow which closed your school today, a school I’ve never seen, I’m sad to say— this snow shall melt and moisten the earth, promote the growth of renewed life in lovely shades of yellow, green, and white. One sun-filled morning sometime soon, allow yourself to awake without aching and see the first forsythia of spring— and beneath budding trees the tracks of a unicorn a lot like you. Follow it to a happy place in your heart where families like ours never part. Way down here in South Carolina, where snow and unicorns are rare, it’s always winter without you. To cope with the soul-soaking cold, I’ve learned to burn a bundle of oak and count the days until you come for the summer visit we await perennially. -Eugene Platt