A Letter from the President
As I look back through my images and videos from the Off the Grid Festival in Spartanburg last weekend, the story becomes richer -- details more vivid -- when it's all slowed down into these frames, and I can also observe the way they have told it. This view was my own, focused on the Elderberry Jam stage and on what I saw as I walked through the rest of the festival. My experience, my perspective was not the same as Al Black's was, down at the main stage -- or anyone else's, and the visual moments I captured are uniquely shaped. It's the same with poetry. The title of this letter comes from romantic poet John Clare's "On a Lane in Spring." I like the way he lingers on the pleasures he encounters: Here a beetle runs; and there a fly Rests on the Arum leaf in bottle green A poet notices, and so does a photographer with a bird's eye view, a botanist, an environmentalist -- each with a unique kind of attention. One of my favorite singer/songwriters, Diane Birch, works with this concept in her song "Magic View." And I agree with her that "I would be a fool to miss this magic view." Now, if I just had a Poetry Trails trailer that looked something like this... I could really spread the poetry passion around the state. How could anyone resist this goat, especially if she came bearing a collection of books by our own South Carolina poets, and set up a spontaneous open-mic in neighborhoods and parks? How can we make this happen?
(This and all photos here are my own).
I met some wonderful people at the festival. This young woman, Ryan, for example, was dancing with her friends at the Elderberry Jam stage. Later, she stopped by to see me as I sat on the ground nearby. I invited her to get on stage and read a poem, and she did --- or rather, she recited something, or made it up on the spot. Either way, it was great. Sometimes all it takes is an invitation.
There were educational books at the Hive, a holistic cafe, and of course I dived right in to the reading and the special rose concoction with kava.
Festival folks lining up for good herbal teas and concoctions.
In the last newsletter, or a recent one, I mentioned Ram Dass and his Be Here Now philosophy. Well, I ran into his work again. See below. Is this true of me... or you?
And there was Kelsey Leahy, who goes by Origami Mami -- but besides her origami creations, she's a poet, oboist, reedmaker, and folk storyteller.
Thanks again to member Al Black, for herding the poets, including me, safely to Spartanburg, and pointing us toward the different stages -- and to his wife, Carol, who also supported us throughout the day.
To Anna Howard, who took over for me at the Elderberry Jam stage when I had to get home to tend to my dogs -- you are a gem.
So, overall, being Off the Grid and on stage with poets was delightful. This was really my only official outing in August, but it was great to be in Spartanburg County.
P.S. I'm serious about the camper/trailer.
"Free your mind, and the rest will follow."
I do not have an update on the next Poetry Trails event. Please stand by; we are working on it!
August was another easy month, but we're still winding up. We had our first official board planning meeting with the newest board members, and it went well. We're dreaming and scheming for the best ways to serve all of you and round up more poets for the Society. We also had a fantastic first run of a poetry reading and open mic a couple of days ago at the Good Life Cafe in Columbia, but I'm saving that for next month's newsletter.
I hope you can make it to the Charleston Library Society next Friday for Rebecca Aronson with Katherine Williams, and to the workshop on Saturday!
You'll see Jim's note about Membership Renewal in gold below. I'm adding a special request that every member reach out and invite somebody to attend a reading or workshop, or mention what the Society means to you. Which of the following words and phrases might describe its impact?
Gatherings and Social ties
A sense of belonging
A personal and collective sense of identity
Support for perpetual growth
Contribute to the community
Opportunities to read, write, listen, share
Development of diversity and accountability
Our goal is 100 new members by May! Help us make it happen. One way is to find a friend to take along to the Writer's Group ... please check below for an importance message from Shayna Shanes (and me). The Writer's Group has been part of the Society's history since the 1920's. We experienced a long lapse because of the pandemic, but we'd like to see a strong showing again. Thank you! Every Corner, Every County, Tamara
at 1163 Pleasant Oaks Dr, Mt Pleasant, SC.
Thismonthly event is FREE due to Shayna's generosity.
Please support our efforts to keep the group going and growing.
PSSC member attendance has been low.
Go... create... bring a friend. Thank you again!
The First PSSC Meeting of the 2023-2024 Calendar Year
September 8, 2023: Rebecca Aronson with opening reader Katherine Williams Charleston Library Society 164 King St. Charleston, SC 29401 Also Live Zoomed
Rebecca Arson is the author of Anchor (Orison Books 2022, Ghost Child of the Atalanta Bloom, winner of the 2016 Orison Books Poetry Prize and finalist for the 2017 Arizona/New Mexico Book Awards and the winner of the 2019 Margaret Randall Book Award from the Albuquerque Museum Foundation, and Creature, Creature, winner of the Main-Traveled Roads Poetry Prize (2007). She has been a recipient of a Prairie Schooner Strousse Award, the Loft's Speakeasy Poetry Prize, and a 2018 Tennessee Williams Scolarship to Sewanee.
She has work appearing recently or soon in The Laurel Review, In the Tempered Dark: Contemporary Poets Transcending Elegy, Crosswinds, Plume, and others. She is co-founder and host of Bad Mouth, a series of words and music. She lives in Albuquerque with her husband, teenage son, and a very demanding cat. She teaches writing at Central New Mexico CC.
To enjoy this reading through Zoom, click this link on the night of the reading: Rebecca Aronson 9/8/2023
Saturday seminar/workshop with Rebecca Aronson, September 9:
What Lies Beneath: Revision as Excavation
In this approach to full-draft revision, we work on re-seeing the whole poem, shifting the poem’s focus, discovering a new set of images and associations, or retelling the poem’s central story. In this workshop, we will dig into drafts to discover other layers and facets of the poem’s subject and imagery. In a series of three to five exercises (depending on time) we’ll explore, expand, and excavate a draft to discover its branches, ghosts, and doppelgangers. Bring one poem draft you are ready to explore and significantly rewrite.
More details about each of the coming events as well as Zoom links for readings and workshops will be provided in the revelant month's newsletter and on the website.
Main (Traditional) Program for the Upcoming 2023-2024 Calendar Year
*Other events such as regional workshops, readings, etc. will be listed separately on our website and featured in the newsletter when possible.
Readings are at 7 p.m., on the 2nd Friday of each month with rare exceptions. They are free and open to the public. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Unless otherwise specified, events take place at the Charleston Library Society, 164 King Street, Charleston, SC 29401 and are also Zoomed live. An alternative location referenced for some events is Gage Hall, part of the Unitarian Church, 4 Archdale Street, Charleston, SC.
Workshops are at 10 a.m. on the following day (Saturday). They are $10 for members and $15 for non-members, with the exception of Zoom attendees (observation only) and students, who may attend free. Payments are made at the website using the Join Us (and Workshops) tab. Details are subject to change, so always consult our website for the most current information. Members have also received a complete program with your Yearbook.
October 13 and 14, 2023: Sarah Cooper with Eugene Platt
November 10 and 11, 2023: Willie Kinard III with Cassie Primo Steele
December 8 , 2023: Annual Holiday Party and Member Showcase
January 12, 2024: Members' Open Mic
February 9 and 10, 2024: Maya Marshall
March 8 and 9, 2024: Angelo Geter
April 12 and 13, 2024: Tarfia Faizullah
May 10 and 11: May Forum with John Hoppenthaler
Join us as you can for any or all events! It's going to be a magnificent program. Thank you to Danielle DeTiberus, former Program Chair for putting it all together for us one more time! Opening Readers for February-May will be added as they are selected.
Member Spotlight: Ed Gold By Jim Lundy
Ed Gold was born in Baltimore, Maryland, during a blizzard in January 1948. His father, uncle, and two of their best friends—all of whom were Jewish veterans of World War II—settled their respective families into four adjacent row houses in northwest Baltimore, courtesy of loans through the GI Bill. Ed’s father, Leonard, borrowed the $50 down payment from his father-in-law. “It was like living in a kibbutz,” Ed recalls, “It was there I learned how to deal with people with difficult personalities.” Eight years later, three of the families would relocate to adjacent split-level houses in northwest Baltimore, following the post-war mass exodus of families leaving crowded cities to inhabit expansive suburban settings with yards for the kids to play in.
Ed met a group of friends in the new neighborhood he would remain close to for the rest of his life. One of them, Billy, ended up inadvertently providing Ed with one of the most important eureka moments of his life. When they were in the fourth or fifth grade, Ed was talking about something or other. Billy, on considering this, said, “But Eddie, that wouldn’t be kind.” At that moment, he began to ruminate on the meaning and importance of kindness for the first time, and he altered his entire relationship with the world accordingly. Decades later, his poem “Dewdrop,” which was inspired by this quest, was published in THINK: A Journal of Poetry, Fiction, and Essays.
Another pivotal eureka moment for young Ed was the day the oldest of the nine children in the three families, Betty—who had just started college—read him the poem “anyone lived in a pretty how town” by e.e. cummings. Then she suggested that he read it again, but this time think of "anyone" and "noone" as characters in the poem. “That’s the moment I got poetry,” Ed remembers, “and it blew my mind.”
In high school, Ed was active as an editor and contributor to the school’s literary magazine as well as its weekly newspaper. He continued in this direction at the University of Maryland by majoring in comparative literature and anthropology, both of which, he estimated, were focused on understanding people. He even took a class in Turkish.
Ed followed his BA by returning to Baltimore to earn his M.A. in creative writing at the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, then led by the poet Elliott Coleman. While he was enrolled in that program, a fortuity altered the course of his life. He was approached by Rod Jellema of the University of Maryland, his first poetry mentor, who asked if he would be willing to fill in for Reed Whittemore, who had become seriously ill. (Fortunately, Reed got better a year or so later.) Ed began teaching Whittemore’s Intro to Creative Writing class as an adjunct professor, commuting between Baltimore and College Park, an hour away. He ended up teaching at Maryland for fifteen years.
This was a fertile time for Ed’s poetry. His work was published in numerous journals, and his chapbook Owl was selected for publication in 1983 by SCOP Press. He would marry one of his former students, a Charlestonian, Amy Robinson, in 1978, and they are still happily married to this day. It was because of Amy’s connection to the Holy City that Ed applied to and was accepted for a spot in Piccolo Spoleto’s Sundown Poetry Series in 1981.
In 1984, concurrent with the birth of their daughter, Ed quit teaching and became a writing consultant, with multiple clients in corporate America. His assignments included being on a team of writers that came up with the first user manuals for the IBM personal computer with the American Institutes for Research. One of his more long-lasting clients was the U.S. Postal Service, which employed him for many years as he traveled the country helping them refine their approach to customer complaints. "I helped them write letters to customers whose letters didn't get delivered."
Ed really hit his stride when he began consulting for the special inspector general performing oversight of the post-war reconstruction of Iraq, and later for the special IG for Afghanistan. Billions of dollars were at stake. For ten years, Ed co-edited the quarterly reports to Congress that these IG offices were required to produce.
By 2009, Amy and Ed were preparing to transition their lives from Washington, D.C., to Charleston to be close to Amy’s family. It would take four years of splitting their time between the two cities before they made it permanent in 2013.
In the spring of that year, Ed read for a second time at the Sundown series, after which he was approached by a man who seemed to know a great deal about poetry and recognized his talent. That man was Richard Garcia, who led (and still leads) a poetry critiquing group called The Long-Table Poets. “I am indebted to Richard,” Ed told me, “Everyone needs a mentor to help you get to the next level, and Richard is both a brilliant teacher and poet.” This was also Ed’s entrée into the Poetry Society of South Carolina and through it an introduction to a network of poets and friends. In short order, he was recruited to be a board member, serving in various capacities for six years. It was also during that time that he became active in administrating the Poetry Society’s Skylark Prize for high school students. This contest is one of the Society’s oldest traditions and has been awarded in one way or another for almost the entirety of the Society’s century-long existence. In 2017, Ed took over the lead of the committee and has overseen it ever since. "I love carrying on this tradition and giving young poets an opportunity for a big splash." The winning high-school poet wins $500.
Since his permanent move to Charleston, about forty of Ed’s poems have been published in a variety of journals. Together with the poems that were published during his teaching years, more than eighty of his poems have appeared in print. In 2022 he read for the Sundown Series for the third time, more than thirty years since he first appeared there.
The long shutdown of most activities during the worst part of the COVID pandemic gave Ed a lot of time to refocus on his craft. This luxury of extra time resulted in his second book, which is coming out this year, thirty years after the first was published. It is entitled Sundown, both because it was largely drawn from his 2022 appearance at the Sundown Poetry Series, and because it is a contemplation of aging, the sundown years of life. Nowadays, Ed is semi-retired, working about 25% of full time. As a poet, however, he feels like he is at the height of his powers. “I am blossoming,” he told me, “I love this chapter of my life in Charleston.”
To pre-order Ed's new chapbook from Finishing Line Press, click here: www.finishinglinepress.com. The preorder period will be open until September 8.
Members in the News (and an opportunity for you to consider and share...)
Al Black has a new regular feature in Jasper called "Poetry of the People" and an upcoming Mind Gravy event at Cool Beans Coffee in Columbia. The event will feature Big Bailey, "an award winning comedian and spoken word artist from out Augusta way. Mind Gravy is privileged to be part of his birthday month tour. Singer/songwriter, Cathy Benedetto, is Big Bailey's personal choice for music and we are blessed to have her." Open mic follows the feature guests. Jessy Hylton has shared the following: "Hey hey! After meeting Maria Collum at Al Black's Poetry Church, we knew we had to have her on our mic! Please come out to hear her read next Tuesday night. Normally, the events are at Between the Antlers, but this time we will be on the upper deck of Buzz's Roost!
Terri McCord has recent or forthcoming publications in Kakalak 2023 Anthology, poem and photo; Compass Rose Literary Journal;
South Dakota Review; and Sweet Tree Review.
The Living Room, a community event center that also houses the Columbia Hub of the Poetry Society, will now be offering classes of various kinds: poetry, art, enrichment, spiritual development/interest, gardening, yoga, guitar, and more. Would you like to teach a class? You are not limited to the subjects mentioned here. Tell us what you have in mind and whether you want to teach in person or online: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ruth Nicholson has a new poem in New Verse News:
Glenis Redmond shared the following:
Morning reading. September 7 @ 9 am. Greenville City Poet Laureate Glenis Redmond recruited local poets to interview bus riders and use their stories to inspire an anthology of poems around the theme “Why I Ride.“
Join us as we celebrate their work at a live poetry reading, inspired by the real-life stories from seven of Greenlink’s riders. You’re sure to find out more about why public transit matters. Poets: Glenis Redmond, Ashley Crout, Sarah Blackman, John Pursley, Starry Walker, Kimberly Simms, Anna Castro Spratt, Kathleen Nalley Moore and Amber Sherer. Come hear the poems. Meet the riders.
The South Carolina Writers Association has invited Poetry Society members to its annual conference, Storyfest, November 3-5 at the Columbia Convention Center.Complete details here. They are featuring Jason Mott as the keynote, and Ed Madden (Poet Laureate of Columbia from 2015-2023) as one of the faculty.
William Winslow's new book 112 Haiku is out now from Palmetto Publishing. This is his second poetry anthology. For information or to order, click this link: 112 Haiku William Winslow
What events or publications have you got coming up?
And... we're still looking for guest housing for our program poets this fall, so let me know if you can help!
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.
Thank you to everyone who submitted a poem this month. It's always a pleasure to find them in my inbox. Former board member Yvette Murray served as the judge for our latest contest. The winner: "Mantis," by Charles Watts. If you saw last month's newsletter, you'll see that we have a theme going here. Congratulations, Charles!
Here are some thoughts from Yvette, followed by the complete poem:
"Layers of meaning saturate this beautiful poem. It perfectly captures a most beautiful moment in nature between two creatures very different and very similar at the same time. They both sought solace in nature or perhaps it was a serendipitous meeting at a crossroads. The poet skillfully leaves this for each reader to decide on their own."
There was a warp in space and time
Between the duties of what was
And what would be, so I drove
Up the road and hiked to Barnum Pond
To watch the black ducks gathered
At the outlet brook, flowing upstream
As if the tide was not against them
And to breathe slowly, in and out
A mantis, I do not know
If it was of the praying kind
Small and brown, flew onto
The stem of the Queen Ann’s lace
Growing just below my lotus
Crossed legs and sat, just sat
A decade, an eon, a moment passed
And finally it moved, head down
Crawled to another leaf and sat
Just sat, and then began to shiver
Once, then still, again, then still
Again. Perhaps the seizures of a dying bug
Perhaps the joy of spotting some small
Creature, a roach for lunch. Perhaps
A sexy fire dance, to draw in
Some unsuspecting prey
The cell phone rang. I must be some where
For some thing. I looked for a stick
To poke the mantis back into the world
Beyond our now, but left it alone
And walked to my car and turned
The key. It shuddered to life. I turned
The beast off and went back to die or dine
With the insect. It was gone.
This month's prompt, in keeping with the theme of this newsletter, is "going off the grid" (or, as an alternative, you could write about September). Submit a poem or piece of flash fiction related to one or both of these themes. Take this in any direction you want. We'll announce the winner in October.
Send the poems to email@example.com, and let me know which county you are in!
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Editor: Tamara Miles
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