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February 2021 Newsletter

Updated: Mar 1, 2021

Walk a Mile in Someone's Shoes (for 100 years)

My mother was a firm believer that her children’s immortal souls would be in jeopardy if they were not forced to sit through the entire Three Hours’ Agony on Good Friday. If you are unfamiliar with this observance, it is the three-hour span between noon and three o’clock where Jesus was said to have hung on the cross. We had Good Friday off from Saint Mary’s of Redford grade school, and this incredible luxury of time to build with my Lincoln Logs or play television tag outside with my non-Catholic friends was ruined annually by sitting quietly in a darkened church for a lugubrious three hours. Nowadays, I can sit in silence through three hours of just about anything by picturing how I might reorganize my woodshop or by writing limericks in my head. But as a child, it was my own crown of thorns. One thing I liked about it, however, was the fourteen Stations of the Cross. This was a virtual tour of the events of the Passion of Christ that involved walking from plaque to plaque around the perimeter of the church and hearing the story of each one. For one thing, it was a chance to stand up, which was heavenly in and of itself. But I also liked the idea of tracing the steps, of being a vicarious participant by moving through the story. Decades later, I was reminded of the Stations of the Cross when the Poetry Society conducted the annual Poetry Walk, a walking tour to the homes of important PSSC members, where Society volunteers at each location gave an account of the life of the person followed by one of their poems. More recently, the Poetry Society’s 100th anniversary year became more relatable to me when I realized that I was born 100 years after founder John Bennett, one of the main protagonists in the story of the PSSC. This makes me the same age during the centennial year that he was as the Poetry Society was envisioned, incorporated, and began holding meetings. For the 2020-2021 season, I could have my own personal Stations of the Cross every month as I reflected on what was happening 100 years ago as the months progressed. This has been helpful to me this year in interpreting the history of the Society for the book I am writing. Last month, we Zoom-celebrated the 100th anniversary of the first membership meeting with guest historian Harlan Greene, who talked about the founding of the group and the conducive environment for poetry into which it was born. One hundred years earlier—almost to the day—John Bennett gave a lecture at the January 1921 meeting about poetry; there were no special guests from outside the organization. February is the 100th anniversary of the first guest lecturer to speak for the Society. When Carl Sandburg read on February 16, 1921, he was a controversial figure to the poets of the group. Then forty-three years old with three books in print, he was gaining a reputation as a leading poet of free verse. Most of the members of the Society did not consider what he was writing “poetry;” their poems rhymed. He was facing a tough audience that night. Even Laura Bragg, one of the few founders who embraced new forms, admitted that what he was writing might not actually be poetry. John Bennett thought Sandburg was likable enough, but said, “once was enough of his poetry, not much of which will survive the shock of reflective criticism.” In the end, it was his singing and guitar playing that won them over, not his poems. When events are unfolding, we cannot see our place in history. One hundred years ago, Carl Sandburg’s future as an internationally known poet, biographer, folk singer, and lecture-circuit personality was still in the future. He would go on to win three Pulitzer Prizes, presage the folk music revivals of the 1940s and ‘50s, read for a joint session of Congress, and write a book, Rutabaga Stories, that has been loved by generations of children. President Lyndon Johnson said at Sandburg's death, “He was America.” As I walk my own PSSC Stations of the Cross this year as a fifty-five-year-old man, I am reminded that John Bennett was where I am right now, the same age, not aware of how his life would unfold and how the Poetry Society would shape the state of South Carolina and the lives of those who were part of the organization. Time turns normal things we do every day into history. I keep in mind that when John Bennett sat through Carl Sandburg’s reading, he was watching someone whose work he estimated would be “on the world’s poetical junkpile before five years are out.” The events of our day will be remembered in a way that we cannot predict. On Friday, February 12, we have the opportunity to hear the work of Joy Priest, a poet and writer originally from Louisville, Kentucky. She is a mentee of Nikky Finney and has won numerous awards for her work. Priest is the author of Horsepower (Pitt Poetry Series, 2020), the winner of the Donald Hall Prize for Poetry. She is widely published. We cannot know what people 100 years from now will reflect on when they write or talk about this PSSC meeting. Will it seem as auspicious as Carl Sandburg’s appearance seems to us now? At Sandburg's reading, attendance was limited by the size of South Carolina Society Hall. This time, the opportunity to be part of Joy Priest's reading is available to anybody in the world with access to a computer or smart phone thanks to Zoom virtual meetings made necessary by this global pandemic. Just as the Poetry Society was launched in the aftermath of the Great War and Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1920, we are beginning our second century at a time which will be transformed by adversity. I am excited to see how it will play out, aren’t you? 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 February Meeting

Our February 12 meeting will take place virtually. Joy Priest will be the featured poet with Joshua Garcia opening. This will be live-Zoomed at 7:00 and then available for viewing from our Youtube channel later on.

Time & Location

Friday, February 12, 7:00 PM Eastern Standard Time

Zoom Event.


About the Event:

Joy Priest is the author of HORSEPOWER (Pitt Poetry Series, 2020), winner of the Donald Hall Prize for Poetry. She is the recipient of the 2020 Kunitz Prize and her work has appeared in the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, APR, The Atlantic, Poetry Northwest, and Poets & Writers, among others. She is currently a doctoral student in Literature & Creative Writing at the University of Houston.

Joshua Garcia lives and writes in Charleston, South Carolina, where he is pursuing an MFA in poetry at the College of Charleston and is an editorial assistant at Crazyhorse. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Image, Hobart, Bodega, Homology Lit, and elsewhere.

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 12 PSSC Meeting")

2. You will be taken to the Zoom website and a dialog box will open. 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 12 PSSC Meeting Alternate Easy instructions for joining the meeting live: 1. Go to our website: 2. Find the event and click on "RSVP." 3. You will be taken to the event page. Click on "RSVP" there. 4. Supply a name and email address when prompted. 5. 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: Meeting ID: 892 3262 2331 Passcode: 725058 One tap mobile +13126266799,,89232622331#,,,,*725058# US (Chicago) +19292056099,,89232622331#,,,,*725058# US (New York) Meeting ID: 892 3262 2331 Passcode: 725058 Find your local number:

Zoom Workshop with Joy Priest: "Writing Place: The Autobiographical Landscape" 10:00-12:00 noon You must register. Attendance will be limited to 25 participants. Register here: PoetrySocietySCWorkshop

About the Event:

Recently, the poet Ocean Vuong gave a “mini-essay” on metaphor via Instagram. In those essay-posts they wrote that figurative language was their “favorite literary device,” because it can create, what they called, “the DNA of seeing,” which they expounded on to say, “a strong metaphor can enact the autobiography of sight. For example, what does it say about a person who sees the stars in the night sky—as exit wounds?” In this workshop, we will discuss this mini-essay and the function of figurative language. We will read together poems of place and discuss some craft strategies for writing the emotional landscape. From our tour through these strategies, we will generate a series of prompts that we can use during and after the workshop to develop our figurative autobiographies.

Joy Priest is the author of HORSEPOWER (Pitt Poetry Series, 2020), winner of the Donald Hall Prize for Poetry. She is the recipient of the 2020 Kunitz Prize and her work has appeared in the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, APR, The Atlantic, Poetry Northwest, and Poets & Writers, among others. She is currently a doctoral student in Literature & Creative Writing at the University of Houston.

February Zoom Workshop with Leslie Sainz 9:30-12:30

February 20 – “Collapse & Surprise: Letting Uncertainty ‘Steer’ Your Poems”

In this workshop, we will lean into what Fanny Howe refers to as a poetics and ethics of "bewilderment" to examine how granting ourselves permission to let our poems remain unknown to us strengthens our relationship to language and music, and ceremonially brings us into the presence of our readers. The work of Samiya Bashir, Lucie Brock-Broido, and Hoa Nguyen will be our guides.

Leslie Sainz is a first-generation Cuban-American, born and raised in Miami, Florida. A 2019 National Poetry Series Finalist, she received her MFA in poetry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she was the Editor-in-Chief of Devil’s Lake. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from AGNI, jubilat, Narrative, Black Warrior Review, Ninth Letter, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Journal, and others. She has received scholarships, fellowships, and residencies from CantoMundo, The Miami Writers Institute, The Adroit Journal, and The Stadler Center for Poetry at Bucknell University. This workshop is free to attend, but there are limited virtual seats. Register here early to get a place: Register.

South Carolina Writers Association This Tuesday, Feb 2nd, Derek Berry is leading an online discussion with South Carolina Writers Association on "Writing as Play." Topics will include experimentation over expertise, daring over drudgery, and persistence over perfection. Writing Conversations is a free series hosted every Tuesday by SCWA. Register for the Zoom event free here: Register. Haiku Poetry Workshop April 7, 2021 Miho Kinnas will conduct a Linked-Haiku Workshop via zoom organized by Pat Conroy Literary Center. Course description: The poetry we know as haiku is a modern invention. Many experts say that haiku's real joy is in renku (linked haiku), and Basho's most revered work is the series of renku books. You will participate in a game of associations - an essence of any writing, and our goal is to produce at least two sequences of linked haiku of different types. Register here: Register Septima P. Clark Poetry Contest Students are invited to submit work to the 2021 MUSC Septima P. Clark Poetry Contest. This third annual contest honors acclaimed Charleston native and civil rights advocate Septima P. Clark for her dedication to service, education and equality. This year’s contest theme is "Life During COVID-19." Poems featuring this theme will be given preference. The 2021 contest has been opened to students across the state in addition to Lowcountry schools with categories for elementary school (kindergarten through fifth-grade), middle school (grades sixth through eighth-grade), and high school (ninth through 12-grade) students now through March 15. Finalists for each category will be announced mid-April, and winners will be invited to read their poems in a virtual Awards Ceremony on Friday, April 30. The reception will feature Charleston’s Poet Laureate, Marcus Amaker. For details click on this link: Details.

North Carolina Museum of Art The North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh is hosting virtual poetry program on 2/23. Here is the link with all the information: Link.

Spring Contests News

The Spring Contest Submission deadline is February 15. We will be awarding $1,050 in prize money in eight contests. If you're a member, you can enter them all (or as many as you want to) for free. If your membership has lapsed, you can rejoin and enter the contests before the 15th, or pay $5 per poem for submissions without a current membership. Go to our website for instructions on how to enter: Contests.

If you submitted poems to the Fall Contests, you will want to be in attendance at our February 12 Zoom meeting where the winners will be announced. This will include the winner of the Susan Laughter Meyers Summer Scholarship, which was judged this year by Kevin Morgan Watson, Editor of Press 53.

It is Time to Renew Your Membership

The mission of the PSSC is to promote poetry and poets. When it became clear that the format of our 2020-2021 calendar year would change dramatically due to COVID-19, we decided to honor all commitments we had with scheduled poets for honorariums. Therefore, our expenditures for the upcoming year will be the same as they would have been if the virus had not dramatically altered the format of the readings and workshops. In short, we need your financial support this year as much as any other.

The 2020-2021 Calendar Year began on July 1st and runs through June 30, 2021.

Joining or renewing is very easy. You can do it online at our website, or through the U.S. mail at:

The Poetry Society of South Carolina P.O. Box 1090 Charleston, SC 29402 Thank you for your support.

If you missed the January 100th Anniversary Meeting with guest speaker Harlan Greene, you can watch it asynchronously on our Youtube Channel. Click on this link.


Jackie Morfesis's poem "Diving Deep" and her artwork was featured on By the River, SCETV on Jan. 14th. Elizabeth Robin's third book -- and first full-length poetry book -- To My Dreamcatcher was accepted for publication by Finishing Line Press. It will come out in 2021. Miho Kinnas is starting a pop-up bookstore, An Island Bookshelf, in the box office lobby of the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina in Hilton Head. She plans to build a strong poetry section. Please consider sending your books (on consignment) and drop by when you are in Hilton Head. Please visit "An Island Bookshelf" on Facebook. For any questions, private-message her or email Or visit:

Members, please send poetry-related news to:

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 Youtube channel. There is no obligation to record the video, it is only there as an offer if the winner feels comfortable doing it. The January Poetry Prompt Contest asked you to write a poem or piece of flash fiction on the topic of of hope, optimism, and better times ahead. Other than those guidelines, I left the topic wide open, to be taken wherever your imagination went. It was tough picking just one winner for the prompt contest this time -- this prompt seems to have really hit a chord. We received outstanding entries from Emory Jones, Ruth Nicholson, Ellen Jenks, and Helen Stetson. The winner is by Ruth Nicholson, entitled "Lodgers." Here is the February prompt: Due to COVID-19, millions of people around the world have found themselves at home more than usual. They might also find themselves spending more time with their families or spouses than at any time in their lives. For most people who lived a 9-to-5 life of going to work every day, it is disconcerting to be at home on a weekday and they often work from the place that was previously their refuge from the daily grind. As a result, we have made new relationships with our surroundings -- from setting up an impromptu office space, to finding home renovation projects to undertake with extra time. Our homes are turning into something else. Your February challenge is to write a poem or piece of flash fiction on the topic of our changing relationship with "Home." Use your imagination, take the prompt in any direction you see fit. Send your submissions to on or before February 28. The winner of the January Prompt Contest:

Lodgers Hope is the thing with feathers… —Emily Dickinson We mount again, beneath the eaves, a small historic home: English redware bird bottle, souvenir of Colonial Williamsburg. For a decade, no one rented it, not even less-than-choosy wrens. Three years ago you fancied it— you pair of gentle bluebirds— and graced the place with vivid color, fluid songs, busy parenting. Undeterred by our comings and goings, you returned each spring with pinestraw, string, and downy fluff to make a nest and raise one brood or more. We trust your fledglings all survived, even when the rat snake menaced from a nearby tree, prompting us to build a wire-mesh baffle and fasten it firmly, quickly, to shield your house and family. While fear’s black coils are sheathed in scales, hope wears feathers— your feathers—and we are more than ready to welcome you back. —Ruth Nicholson

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