Updated: Feb 1, 2021
Happy Old Year! ...what?
I swear, this month was going to be BIG! Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, it will be a big month done in a small way. You see, before the pandemic knocked down our plans like bowling pins, we were planning a 100th anniversary gala to celebrate the first meeting of the Poetry Society of South Carolina. The first meeting of the members of the PSSC took place at 4:45 o'clock on Saturday, January 15, 1921, at South Carolina Society Hall. We are the oldest state poetry society in the United States and we were determined to throw a fancy party for this anniversary! Our plans instead are to hold the real party a year from now on the 101st anniversary. It will have to do. Now, let’s look back. Picture if you will two groups of poets meeting weekly in Charleston in the aftermath of the Great War. The men’s group met at the home of its leader, John Bennett. He was providing advice, critiquing, and tutelage to DuBose Heyward and Hervey Allen, both of whom would become famous writers. The women’s group was led by Laura Bragg, the director of the Charleston Museum – the first woman to hold such a position in the United States. She was meeting with Josephine Pinckney, Helen von Kolnitz, and the two Elizabeths: Miles and Meyers. Both Jo Pinckney and Helen von Kolnitz Hyer went on to be well-known authors (Pinckney more so). The lives of Miles and Meyers took different paths, great in their own ways. These eight people were the nucleus for the fledgling Poetry Society of South Carolina. We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them. I often wonder what they would have thought of the PSSC if they could pop in from the afterlife for a day. We’re a smaller-scale organization than they envisioned in the heady days of 1920, when they were ready to change the world (or at least the South). But they all lived long enough to see the Poetry Society drastically dial back its expectations to survive the Great Depression. Perhaps the thing that would surprise them the most is the world we live in, especially the virtual world where we are spending more and more of our time as the years go by. It even surprises me, and I’ve been watching it grow from the first time I saw “Pong” in 1975. Imagine going from a black and white TV with three channels to a Zoom meeting. They would be floored. I was floored last month at our December Zoom Poetry Showcase. Nothing could have prepared me for how heartwarming it would be. Part of its charm was the talented poets who shared their work in the showcase. But we had a little time at the end for just talking, raising a toast, and saying hello. The “society” of the Poetry Society has been missing for close to a year and it was nice to be reminded of it again. There were about 40 of us enjoying each other’s company, poetry, and the slideshow of the Ghosts of Christmas Past. It was a reminder that our group has never been only about poetry. In fact, the majority of Poetry Society members of the 1920s found the lectures only a pretense for the main attraction, which was to hobnob over drinks and hors d’oeuvres afterward. It has never been otherwise in the decades since, although the proportions of poetry and society rise and fall over time. For this month’s meeting, you, we, and anyone around the world, have the chance to feel a little bit of the society touch again. First, we will pay tribute to the 100th anniversary of our great organization by taking a virtual trip back to 1921. Perhaps we will raise a toast to the Poetry Society members who have come before us. This will be followed by the annual members' open mic. Details of how to sign up for the open mic are provided further down the Newsletter. There’s a feeling in the air that 2021 will see us rebound from the awful, grinding year that was 2020. The first taste of that promise for our little group will be the January meeting. I hope you can attend, and if you can, I hope you will. And one other thing: Happy New 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 January Meeting
Our January 8 meeting will take place virtually. This is our Annual Open Mic, this time reimagined for the year of social distancing. This will be live-Zoomed at 7:00 and then available for viewing from our Youtube channel later on.
Time & Location
Friday, January 8, 7:00 PM
About the Event:
This year we will begin with a short slide show on the origins of the Poetry Society in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first meeting of the Poetry Society on 1/15/1921. The open mic will follow. The open mic is always the highlight of the year and we will try to make it so again this year, even within the limitations of a Zoom meeting. If you are a paid member of the Poetry Society and would like to read for the open mic, please respond to this email to get on the list. The list will be limited to 13 participants due to time constraints so respond quickly. When the list is full, it's full. Readers must adhere to a strict limit of 3 minutes or less of microphone time, including the poem and any prefacing.
We will start promptly at 7:00 Eastern time. You should start the process of joining the meeting five or ten minutes before 7:00 so you do not miss anything. 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 "January 8 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. January 8 PSSC Meeting Alternate Easy instructions for joining the meeting live: 1. Go to our website: PoetrySocietySC.org 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: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82132652123?pwd=bUQxRVdWUVFLQzBIVVVBaTdNNlZSQT09 Meeting ID: 821 3265 2123 Passcode: 369658 One tap mobile +19292056099,,82132652123#,,,,*369658# US (New York) +13126266799,,82132652123#,,,,*369658# US (Chicago) Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kclbpOhB5x
January Workshop with Len Lawson Topic: PSSC January 23 Len Lawson: Columbia Time: Jan 23, 2021 10:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada) For this workshop, Len Lawson will consider the topic: "What are the elements that define our places and, in turn, define ourselves? Poets can define a location, city, or region with intricate detail or intense emotion by intimately acquainting us with their experiences." For the time being, workshop fees are being waived, so this is a free event. You can register for the workshop through out website, www.poetrysocietysc.org. Len Lawson is the author of Chime (Get Fresh Books, 2019) and the chapbook Before the Night Wakes You (Finishing Line Press, 2017). He is also co-editor of Hand in Hand: Poets Respond to Race (Muddy Ford Press, 2017) and The Future of Black: Afrofuturism and Black Comics Poetry (Blair Press, 2021). His poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. He has received fellowships from Callaloo, Vermont Studio Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and others. His poetry appears in African American Review, Callaloo, Mississippi Review, Ninth Letter, Verse Daily, Yemassee, and elsewhere. Len is also a Ph.D. candidate in English Literature and Criticism at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, earning the 2020 IUP Outstanding Doctoral Student Award. He has taught English in South Carolina higher education for over ten years.
The PSSC Writers' Group
We are sad to announce that Lisa Haas Jackson has resigned as the moderator of the Writers' Group, a job she performed splendidly for 2-1/2 years. She will be reprioritizing her time to focus on her own work. The Writers' Group is the oldest tradition of the Poetry Society. It began in 1922 and has been in continuous operation since then. (You can catch up on the 100-year history of the Writers' Group here.) The group meets monthly to critique each other's poems and have a little fun doing it. If you are interested in being the next moderator of the Writers' Group and would like to be considered for the volunteer position, please respond to this email with details of your interest in running the group. The Writers' Group will be on hiatus until a new moderator is found. We wish Lisa the best of luck in all her future endeavors and deeply thank her for the work she has put into the Writers' Group over the past years.
Fall Contests News
We received 250 entries for the Fall Contests this year. The results will be announced at our February meeting and the checks will be sent out by mail. Charles Watts is our contest chairman and does an excellent job; we are lucky to have him. The three judges for the contests were found by our valued board member Yvette Murray.
The Judges for the Fall Contests were:
Pushcart Prize-nominated poet Rich Ferguson appeared before the Poetry Society in March 2012. He is a performance poet who has shared the stage with Patti Smith, Wanda Coleman, Moby, and other esteemed poets and musicians. Ferguson’s newest poetry collection, Everything is Radiant Between the Hates, will be published in January 2021 by Moon Tide Press.
Dustin Pearson is a McKnight Doctoral Fellow in Creative Writing at Florida State University. He read for the PSSC in November 2019. He is the recipient of a 2021 Pushcart Prize.
Glenis Redmond travels nationally and internationally reading and teaching poetry so much that she has earned the title, Road Warrior Poet. She appeared at the Poetry at McLeod series in Charleston in the spring of 2019. She has recently been awarded the highest award for the Arts in the state of South Carolina, The Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award.
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 December Holiday Party, you can watch it asynchronously on our Youtube Channel. Click on this link.
MEMBERS IN THE NEWS
Ann Humphries was featured guest of Hub City Bookshop; Pat Conroy Literary Center Open Mic; Chewing the Gristle with Al Black and Tim Conroy. Claudia Updike writes: After spending part of 3 years living in Japan from 2014-2016, I returned to normal retired life greatly missing Japanese culture. In November of 2018, in conjunction with the Johns Island Public Library, I took the plunge and started a monthly Haiku Workshop. Two years later, we have about 7 members in our Sea Island Haiku Circle. We have not met since last February, except for a recent Gingko Walk to socialize outdoors and absorb some Lowcountry vistas for Haiku inspiration. We have not met virtually, but have talked about it! We welcome new and interested poets to our workshops when they begin again. We do keep in touch with emails, and hope to welcome new Haiku friends in the near future! Contact Claudia Updike at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. 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. 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 December Poetry Prompt Contest asked you to write a poem or piece of flash fiction on the topic of The Year in Review. It did not have to be about this year, it could be any year of the past or future. We had responses from Ruth Nicholson, Ellen Jenks, and Debra Conner. Each poet took the challenge in a different direction, and each was special in its own way. The winner is Debra Conner, whose poem can be found below. Here is the January prompt: Things are looking up. We have endured almost a year of tremendous stress, isolation, and upheaval. But as that time was passing, we were learning more about COVID-19, how it's transmitted, how to better treat it, and vaccines are now available. While we're a long way from finished with COVID and there will likely be lingering effects of closures on jobs and the economy, we are starting to see some light on the horizon. I am reminded of the song "Tomorrow" from the play Annie. It expresses hope and optimism during the darkness of the Great Depression. We, too, are in a historic place of hardship with no guarantees of how soon things will be getting back to normal -- or even what normal will look like in the future. But with the new year, comes new hope. Your January challenge is to write a poem or piece of flash fiction on the topic of hope, optimism, better times ahead, etc. This is a very broad topic, so you can let your imagination run wild. Send your submissions to FlatBlueSky@hotmail.com on or before January 31. The winner of the December Prompt Contest: Emily Dickinson Writes from Amherst, December 2020 It was March, the month of expectation, when I came home again to Amherst. The carriage driver kindly dropped me at the gate. I hurried upstairs. The house, the village streets, strangely silent like dots on a disc of snow. At first it was paradise, this solitude. My imagination, a glorious domain. Seasons passed. Happy to be nobody, I kept the Sabbath at home. Birds came and went without a backward look. Books, like frigates, took me lands away. My soul kept its own society. But now, in the month of my birth, the wind taps like a tired man, my letters to go unanswered. A certain slant of light oppresses like cathedral tunes as it falls across my narrow desk or through the kitchen window as I bake bread. There's a funeral in my brain, zero in my bones. And a fly, with blue uncertain stumbling buzz, goads this leaden year. -Debra Conner