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"I Know the Grass Beyond the Door"

A Letter from the President

Here we are at the door of the New Year, friends. It's time for the Members' Open Mic and other special events. 

But first... imagine we are standing at the top of a grand staircase.

In the past, as a means of dealing with anxiety and other distracting realities of human existence, I tried hypnotherapy.  To be precise, I tried self-hypnosis... because according to the well-known hypnotherapist Michael Sealy, all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. We just need a guide to get us started. I'm happy to report that it helped tremendously, and I still use it occasionally. For instance, after a particularly challenging meeting or in the dental chair, I often happily imagine that I am standing at the top of a magnificent staircase. (Come along with me.)

It's one of those grand staircases in the movies, with many steps down. You and I can see the big wooden door below, and it leads into a glorious topiary garden. We practically glide down them, slowly, enjoying the descent, luxuriating in the anticipation. Now we have reached the bottom of the stairs, opened the door, and had a short walk up to a giraffe or a fox shaped by greenery. Can you catch the scent of the garden now, and feel a breeze? In addition to the topiary, there are irises and daylilies, gerbera daisies, and all of our favorites. Roses as far as the eye can see, but we are enchanted above all by the animal topiary.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti is here, reciting "I've been here before." (The dentist asks if I'm in any pain, but no... I'm admiring this topiary fox.) 

I have been here before,

But when or how I cannot tell:

I know the grass beyond the door,

The sweet keen smell,

The sighing sound, the lights around the shore.

This process is excellent, and there are many other ways of transporting ourselves beyond the current circumstances, reframing and rediscovering in the midst of complications. Being the president of the Society is an honor and a pleasure, but there are moments when I need to use my imagination. For example, we've had some resignations from the board, for a variety of reasons. The board and its continuity is my responsibility, so when there is a gap, a failure, or a change of any kind, I need to reevaluate. And I've done it.

I'd like to say thank you to Len Lawson, Jo Angela Edwins, and Asiah Mae for their time served as officers, and recognize their considerable talents and skills. In addition, Janet Kozachek, who gave much of her time and energy to the Outreach Committee as its coordinator, is also moving on. We will miss Janet and the others. I ask you to support their creative work whenever and wherever possible, and I hope they will all continue to be part of what we are doing around the state.

Meanwhile, from the top of my staircase, I saw prime candidates for these vacant officer positions walking around in my mental garden, and I have reached out to them. The remainder of the board is in full support. I believe we will have new officers to elect at the January Open Mic, so please be there if you would like to cast your vote. This is a bit of a shift from the typical May Forum elections, but since this is happening mid-year, we need a vote now for the sake of continuity. I will follow up soon with more information about the direction we are taking in community outreach (Every Corner, Every County).

Mid-year is also a good time for a close look at our financial records, as we always want to be accountable to our members. At the board meeting yesterday, Treasurer Jim Lundy presented an in-depth report of our finances. The board is satisfied that we are in excellent financial health overall. We have consistently met and continue to meet our obligations, and we are using our donations and gifts, large and small, wisely. 

That said, we do need your ongoing support. It is your membership fees that keep us strong, and now is the right time to renew because (drumroll!) it's time for the Spring Contests! And if you are already a member, but you have a little extra to share at the moment, we'd deeply appreciate your donations to this year's budget. If we have more, we can do more! Donate at the Join Us/Workshops link at the top right of the website. Scroll down to Donation to our Cause. Thank you.

Please reach out to Jim if you have any questions about membership:, and to Charles Watts if you have questions about the contests:, about that Open Mic:

Come on out!

Now let's review December.



We had a magnificent Holiday Party on December 9. If you missed it, I hope this inspires you to come next year and to volunteer to help us put something like this together again. I owe a great deal to Ashley Crout, Jessy Hylton, Jo Angela Edwins, Danielle Verwers, David Lemieux, and Danny Sciortino for help with planning, shopping, decorating, cooking, and cleaning. Thank you to everyone who came out and celebrated with us. Outstanding winter poems, laughter, music, and good conversation.

new member, Loli Munoz Jo Angela Edwins

Danny Sciortino Stella (Ashley Crout's dog companion)

Danielle Verwers Jane Zenger

On December 3, we were hosted by the Unitarian Church in Columbia for Poetry Church, organized by Al Black. Thanks to Jessy Hylton (not pictured here), who did a special reading for the children.

Lang Owen Ed Madden

We made someone in the congregation cry with our dog poems. I think we can call it a success. :>)

Jordain Al Black

I'll be back with a January review in the next newsletter, but let's move on to the Writer's Group, Jim and Upcoming Events, followed by Members in the News and the results of the latest Poetry Prompt contest.

Please join us for the PSSC Writers' Group at

the third Saturday of each month,

10:00 a.m., at 1163 Pleasant Oaks Dr, Mt Pleasant, SC.


Annual Members' Open Mic

January 12, 2024

4 Archdale St.

Charleston, SC 29401

Our annual Open Mic is one of the highlights of the year. A decades-long tradition, this event gives our current members a chance to show off their work to an attentive audience. The event is free and open to the public. If you wish to read but are not currently a paid member of the PSSC, you can join that night. If you are not sure if your membership is current, we will be able to check for you before the event. Please plan on arriving well in advance of the start time of 7:00 if you want to sign up for the open mic. Each participant can read one poem. Please limit your total time at the microphone (prefacing plus reading the poem) to 4 minutes so we can get to everyone on the list in the allotted time. 

If you're unable to attend in person, you can watch the proceedings in the comfort of your own home through Zoom. On the night of the event, simply click this link:



Main (Traditional) Program

for the remainder of the 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 after the guest reading (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.

January 12, 2024: Members' Open Mic

February 23 and 24, 2024: Maya Marshall with Richard Allen Taylor

March 8 and 9, 2024: Angelo Geter with Miho Kinnas

April 12 and 13, 2024: Tarfia Faizullah with Elizabeth Robin

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 lining up the main readers for us one more time, and to Jessy Hylton, current Program Chair, for organizing our Opening Readers!


Events Around the State


Billy Baldwin will read for the 2024 Litchfield Tea & Poetry Series on January 11 at 10:00 a.m. His reading will be followed by an open mic, so bring a poem. This takes place at Waccamaw Library, 41 St. Paul Place, Pawleys Island 29585. It is free and open to the public. 

The Poetry Society's Annual Open Mic will take place on January 12. See the full details in this Newsletter under the "Open Mic Time" picture. Watch on Zoom live with this link: Zoom.

The Poetry Society's Spring Contests submission period opens this month on January 15 and closes at midnight on February 15. For a list of prizes and details for submitting, click here: Contests.

PSSC lifetime member Richard Allen Taylor will be a featured at the Writers' Place Reading Series in Kansas City, MO, on January 19, 8:00 pm Eastern Time. This will be Zoomed. For full details and a link to attend this meeting through Zoom, click here: WPRS.

Poets on Stage event: January 20, Good Life Cafe, 1218 Taylor St., Columbia, SC 29201. 7 pm, featuring Loli Munoz, Fran Cardwell, and Charles Watts in a unique co-performance with musical accompaniment. Come hungry because the food is fabulous. Open mic follows. One poem each.

Poetry Trails, a production of the PSSC, will take place on January 27 at Swan Lake Iris Gardens, 822 W. Liberty St., Sumter, SC 29150. The event runs from 10:00 a.m. to noon. Bring a poem to share and experience the scenery of the park. Details here: Poetry Trails.

The South Carolina Academy of Authors is accepting submissions for prizes in poetry, short fiction, and fiction until February 29. Their Boatwright Coker Fellowship in Poetry prize awards $1,250. There is also a student prize in poetry. Submissions are being handled on the Hub City Submittable page that can be accessed with this link: Hub City.


If you would like to add an event to future newsletters, email the information to before the first of the month.


Members in the News

*With a shift to a separate Events around the State section (thank you, Jim!),

we are short on news this month. Send more for February!

Tina Baumis shared a link for presenters from Katherine Mansfield 100 New Zealand haiku festival that she was involved with:

Al Black features Jesus Redondo Menendez in the current Poetry of the People.


And... we're still looking for guest housing for our program poets, so let me know if you can help! 

Find Society merchandise below, followed by the Poetry Prompt Contest. 


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 winner of the December contest: "As Second Owner," by Ellen E. Hyatt of Berkeley County!

Here are some thoughts from the judge, followed by the complete poem:

"I fell in love with this poem when I read the line about the ironing board. The speaker's humor is blended well with the theme of transition and some regret for what has been lost. It is all held in the symbols -- markings, books, a hammock -- of someone else's life now reimagined by the second homeowner. A mourning and a reclaiming."

As Second Owner 

In the end, I bought the house that he

was left with. I hang paintings to cover

imprints from picture frames that hung

above the stairway to the second floor.

I ignore the ironing board dutiful,

mounted in the guest closet. I paint

bedroom archways etched with lines

delineating heights of children

who outgrew the markings

before their other outgrew

the marriage.

“Flew the coop,”

one neighbor tells me, “in April.

Some April Fool’s joke on her husband—

He thought she was at the beach house,

painting sunrises, sunsets, or star gazing.”


I do read some of the books arriving

in the Little Free Library they built.

Each book, a gift, as are brochures

arriving in their names, inviting

world travel. But

I didn’t accept the delivery

last Saturday from Pawley’s Island,

a box addressed to the two of them.

I’ve no use for a present

of knotted rope to suspend

between the American beech trees.

No desire to be netted by a future

the couple once dreamed of—

cozied up, lying under a starry sky,

their love everlasting.

(Congratulations, Ellen!)

This month's prompt, in keeping with the theme of this newsletter, is "staircase." An alternative could be "hypnosis." 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 February.

Send the poems to, and let me know which county you are in!

See you at the Open Mic,




Copyright © 2023 The Poetry Society of South Carolina, All rights reserved.

Photo credit: unknown

Editor: Tamara Miles

Our mailing address is:

The Poetry Society of South Carolina

P.O. Box 1090

Charleston, SC 29402

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