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  • Jim Lundy

It Takes a Committee

(or a village will do in a pinch)


In my last “Letter from the President,” I begged you to take a survey for the greater future of the Poetry Society of South Carolina and many of you came through. Yes, I knew full well that I might as well have been asking you to get a paper cut on your tongue while trying to mail a parking ticket fee. However, forty-two of you undertook the onerous task and spent, on average, twelve minutes filling out the ten-question survey. I am delighted with the level of response. While forty-two might not sound like many people to you, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: the Poetry Society isn’t as large as I think many of you imagine. We struggle to keep a membership of about 140 people, whose dues bring in revenues of $3,700 per year after subtracting the expenses of the Yearbook, which is mailed to every member at the conclusion of the calendar year. When you subtract the other fixed costs of our annual season, we have $1,030 of membership dues left to go toward paying poets for their readings and workshops. In normal years, we offer nine monthly poetry meetings in Charleston, seven of which have a workshop the following day. We also give two regional workshops per year elsewhere in the state. Dividing dues revenues of $1,030 by those eighteen events, membership dues cover $57 per event. Fifty. Seven. Dollars. I believe that most of you will find that number astounding. So how do we do it? We have generous benefactors. For decades, we have been receiving a charitable grant from the John and Susan Bennett Memorial Arts Fund of Coastal Community Foundation. The fund was set up from the estate of John H. Bennett, Jr. (1945-2000), who was a past president of the Poetry Society and the grandson of PSSC founders John and Susan Bennett, for whom the grant is named. We also receive an annual grant from the DuBose and Dorothy Heyward Memorial Fund; DuBose Heyward was one of our founders. This year, in honor of our 100th anniversary, we are grateful to have received funding from South Carolina Humanities, a not-for-profit organization; inspiring, engaging, and enriching South Carolinians with programs on literature, history, culture, and heritage. We also get help from the SC Arts Commission through the Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs, and South Arts in collaboration with SC Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts. The James Island Arts Council supports Poetry at McLeod. From some of the responses we got on the survey, many people must picture the Poetry Society as a grand institution, perhaps on the scale of the Guggenheim Museum or the Nobel Foundation. If you have been picturing me dictating my monthly newsletter letter to my secretary from the fourteenth-floor corner office of the PSSC headquarters building with my name in gold letters on the door, I’m afraid I will disappoint you with this news: the Poetry Society is a tiny band of unpaid volunteers conducting Society business in our spare time. We take the money we get from dues and grants and channel it directly into events, contests, and workshops. This has been our business model for 100 years and our success has waxed and waned over that time depending on the level of dedication of the volunteers on the board. One of the questions I asked in the survey was whether you would be interested in serving on the board for the upcoming season. I am happy to announce that we had many respondents say that they wish to serve on the board, and several are interested in acting as regional coordinators to help us better serve the overall state. As someone who has studied the entire century of the existence of the Poetry Society of South Carolina, I can tell you that there has never been a board since 1921 that didn’t spend a great deal of time rending their garments while trying to figure out how to better serve the rest of the state. In the survey, we received a lot of criticism for being mostly the Poetry Society of Charleston. We heard, “You should have chapters all over the state,” and “You should hold readings and seminars all over the state.” I assure you, we would like nothing better. But here’s the thing that you probably don’t realize: there is scarcely a county outside the greater Charleston area that has more than three Poetry Society members living in it. With our limited funds, it has been hard to justify bringing regular readings to areas where few attend. There have been times over the last century where critical masses of members existed in areas such as Anderson and Columbia, enough so that they sustained their own Writers’ Groups and held readings. But they didn’t just happen, they were assembled with a lot of hard work by one or more charismatic people who recruited local members. They also evaporated quickly once those central figures died or became otherwise unable to work at sustaining the local group. On the bright side, I believe a lot of the inequities that members outside the Charleston area experience have been reduced by a fortunate consequence of COVID-19: the availability of Zoom meetings. In fact, when asked in the survey how they plan to experience PSSC meetings in the future, more people responded that they would attend by Zoom than in person. Perhaps the perennial problem of how to better be the Poetry Society of South Carolina is coming closer than ever before to being solved. That said, meeting in person is more enjoyable to most, and we want to bring that opportunity to as many people across the state as possible. For that we will need hard-working regional coordinators. I would like to end by drawing your attention to the top of the page at the scan of the Entertainment Committee members during the 1924-1925 season. That year there were forty-nine members serving in ten committees – and that’s not counting the officers of the board. The Entertainment Committee alone had sixteen individuals. Today we have Katrina Murphy doing the whole shebang, or at least she would be if we were meeting in person. Likewise, Ethan Fugate is struggling to handle our website alone while holding down a demanding day job at MUSC. Our one tangible product, the annual Yearbook takes a good bit of effort to publish; it’s a dreadful task for one, but a fun group effort for ten. We need more help. There were more people volunteering for the 1925 Entertainment Committee alone than there are in 2021 volunteering for everything we do. We're a skeleton crew trying to deliver a world-class experience to the state. One of the recurring themes in the survey responses was that the PSSC gives people a sense of community, a feeling of belonging. That may well be the thing we do the best. As someone who has served on the board and as a committee chair for over fifteen years, I can tell you that it’s a rewarding experience and a good cause. If you are interested in playing some small part in putting some flesh on the skeleton crew that staffs the country’s oldest poetry society, you can respond to this email and tell me what you might be interested in doing for the coming calendar year. 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 April Meeting

Our April meeting will take place virtually. Chad Abushanab will be the featured poet and Maria Martin will read warmup. This will be live-Zoomed at 7:00 and then available for viewing from our Youtube channel later on. Chad is also conducting a workshop on the following day, the directions for participating are included further down the Newsletter.

April 9, 7:00 PM

About the Event

Chad Abushanab is the author of The Last Visit, which won Donald Justice Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Believer, Best New Poets, Poetry Daily, Birmingham Poetry Review, Verse Daily, Ecotone, Southern Poetry Review, Shenandoah, The Hopkins Review, and 32 Poems, among others. He is an Assistant Professor of English at Bemidji State University in Minnesota.


Maria Martin first began attending the Poetry Society's readings and workshops in 2015. It was her New Years resolution to go to every Poetry Society event because she was a professional babysitter and had no one to talk to about poems. It was also her New Years resolution to begin telling people she was a poet. Through the Poetry Society of South Carolina, she met her teacher, Richard Garcia, who invited her to write with his poetry workshop, The Long Table Poets. Maria Martin's poetry has been published in Narrative, jubilat, Superstition Review and elsewhere. She lives in Charleston, SC and serves on the board of the Poetry Society of South Carolina.


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 "April 9 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. April 9 PSSC Meeting Alternate Easy instructions for joining the meeting live: 1. Go to our website: PoetrySocietySC.org 2. You will be taken to the event page. 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: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81894426052?pwd=YjFoYmxRQ0lsczltK01nZTlHMzcrdz09Meeting ID: 818 9442 6052 Passcode: 232743 One tap mobile +19292056099,,81894426052#,,,,*232743# US (New York) +13017158592,,81894426052#,,,,*232743# 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: 818 9442 6052 Passcode: 232743 Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kctii5G8l7

PSSC Zoom Workshop with Chad Abushanab: "Wordinary Magic" April 10, 10:00 AM 10:00-12:00 noon You must register. Attendance will be limited to 25 participants. Register here: PoetrySocietySCWorkshop

About the Event

Reading a good poem can feel like watching a magic trick. “How did they do that?” we wonder. In this seminar/workshop, we’ll take cues from the masters of illusion as we note the parallels between poetry and stage magic. From transforming the everyday into the extraordinary, to learning the importance of always putting oneself in the place of the audience, we’ll discuss methods to elevate our poems into performances that leave our readers smiling, surprised, and eager for more.

Chad Abushanab is the author of The Last Visit, which won Donald Justice Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Believer, Best New Poets, Poetry Daily, Birmingham Poetry Review, Verse Daily, Ecotone, Southern Poetry Review, Shenandoah, The Hopkins Review, and 32 Poems, among others. He is an Assistant Professor of English at Bemidji State University in Minnesota.

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

Workshop: Writing as Healing, led by Elizabeth Robin WEDNESDAY, APRIL 14, 2021 AT 6 PM EDT Workshop: Writing as Healing, led by Elizabeth Robin Online Event Therapists often suggest journaling as a way forward when grieving the loss of a loved one. For a writer, the choice seems a natural one. This workshop explores the journaling process, how this transforms to poem and essay forms, and why writing offers a useful outlet for grief, and a way to offer solace to others suffering loss. Participants will exit with a reading list and pocketful of writing strategies. To register: https://patconroyliterarycenter.eventbrite.com

CALL FOR POEMS: POEMS ON THE COMET – SPRING 2021 Again this spring we are putting poems on the Comet, our regional transit system buses. Past projects have included poems on the stories of our city, poems about our rivers, poems about time. This spring, let’s think about what to do when it’s over. South Carolina writers welcome, Midlands writers and young writers encouraged! We’ve all seen lists on social media of things people plan to do when the pandemic is over. What do you dream of doing when the pandemic is over? Or thinking more broadly, what will you do when that interminable office meeting is over? Or when the semester is over? Or when winter is over? These are poems about dreams and plans, poems about transitions. What’s next? Poems should be 10 lines or fewer. Submit to: poetlaureate@onecolumbiasc.com for consideration. Rolling deadline, but we are hoping to have 30 great poems by the end of April.

You know longtime PSSC member Terri McCord as a frequent prize-winner in our fall and spring contests. Her new book is getting rave reviews. She has generously offered to send a signed copy of the book to the winner of the April Prompt Contest (see details at the end of the Newsletter).




Praise for The Beauts:


The Beauts masterfully blends ekphrastic poems, which take paintings and photos for their subjects, and poems of scientific marvel. Terri McCord has a gift for precise, painterly language that creates remarkable imagery. From the moon, a volcano, and a planet no longer considered a planet to cicadas, jellyfish, and a lake that "seems brailled," these are poems that invite multiple reads to savor. An inspired collection! Customer Review


This is a lovely little chapbook collection of poems that lead the mind’s eye down the path of familiar images with unexpected twists. I hear a Southern voice of an intuitive observer. The words are compelling and pull you to read and read again as perspective redirects as you ponder beauty. Customer Review


Through this tilted tumbler / glass, in a restaurant, / I view the moon, / see-through and magnified. These lines that open Terri McCord's poem "Through and Through" suggest her penchant for looking at the world from whatever quirky angle she can extemporize. How lucky we are that in this collection she shares with us her brilliant discoveries. Among her many skills, McCord is a master of startling transitions and stunning metaphors. These are poems that must be read again and again in order to fully appreciate all that lies beneath their initial charm. McCord's new collection is, indeed, A Beaut.

-Cathy Smith Bowers, former NC Poet Laureate





If you missed the March Meeting with Val Nieman and Isabel Prioleau, you can watch it asynchronously on our Youtube Channel. Click on this link.


MEMBERS IN THE NEWS


The Carrie McCray Nickens Fellowship of the South Carolina Academy of Authors has announced the finalists and they are all active members of the Poetry Society of South Carolina: Derek Berry, Ann Humphries, Miho Kinnas, Yvette Murray, Elizabeth Robin, and Danielle Verwers. The contest is being judged by Tiana Clark.

Dr. Emory D. Jones reports the following publication credits: Five poems published in The Scarlet Leaf Journal, January 2021. “Wild Horses” was published in WyoPoets News of January 2021. “Winter Sequence” and "Sanctuary" to be published in Pasques Petals 2021 Spring Issue. “Haiku--On a pale blue sky….” was published by Haiku Universe on February 6, 2021. “Mississippi Memories” and “A View from Mississippi” to be published in Deep South Magazine 2021. “Tin Roof: An Etheree” was published in #429 (February 21, 2021) of The Weekly Avocet. Mary O'Keefe Brady's poems, "A Gust of Air, A Gulp of Breath" and "Entertainment in the Time of Covid" will be included in ArtsWestchester spring exhibition, "together apART: Creating During COVID." The exhibition will be in-gallery in White Plains, NY, with parallel on-line components. It is currently slated to open on May 1.

Ryan Robidoux has had three poems published in Issue 9 of Screen Door Review: https://www.screendoorreview.com/issue-9-2021/

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 at anislandbookshelf@gmail.com

Or visit: https://culturehhi.org/artists-organizations/anislandbookshelf/

Members, please send poetry-related news to: Flatbluesky@hotmail.com




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. The April winner will also receive a signed copy of Terri McCord's new volume of poetry, The Beauts. 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 March Poetry Prompt Contest was to write a poem or piece of flash fiction on the topic of endurance. We had three excellent entries by Ellen Jenks, Emory Jones, and Jacquelyn Markham. All three had qualities to love, but Jacquelyn's won us over; she is the winner and her poem can be found below. Here is the April prompt: Years ago, when I was doing a lot of online dating, I found that many of the women I was meeting were not as advertised. When I was commiserating with a friend of mine about what a waste of time it was to mislead someone you would eventually meet, she said something that helped me understand the situation and, I believe, is very true: "We describe ourselves as the person we want to be, not the person we are." I have come to think that this is not only true for dating sites but for all self-portraits we construct. Whether we're describing our country, our careers, religion, luxury automobiles, camping trips, our actions, our critical reasoning skills, etc., we are describing them the way we want them to be, and we are often blind to anything that conflicts. In technical terms, this is known as illusory superiority. Your April challenge is to write a poem or piece of flash fiction on the topic of illusory superiority. This could be a really fun topic. I am leaving this wide open to interpretation. Remember, the winner this month will receive a copy of The Beauts, the new book by Terri McCord. Send your submissions to FlatBlueSky@hotmail.com on or before April 30. The winner of the March Prompt Contest: Endure Nestle into your space & fill every corner with love Dance in the living room until 3 a.m. Uplift spirits fallen from eons of isolation Remember resilience in landslides of change Affirm you will survive Nourish creativity in all you do Care for self, soulmates & strangers Endure Jacquelyn Markham 3/2021

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