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March Newsletter | Getting Ready for the Next Hundred Years

Updated: May 15, 2021

(put on your rubber gloves, we're going to scrub some grout!)

Not that long ago, I was listening to an interesting story on NPR that talked about differences in siblings. I learned that studies have shown that siblings are no more alike in personality than strangers selected at random from a population, even though they share genetics and were raised in the same household. The quote that has been stuck in my head ever since I listened to that story is this: “No two siblings were raised in the same family.” The explanation for this intriguing statement is found in the “non-shared environment theory.” The theory explains that every child who grows up in a family experiences it very differently, depending on the order in which they were born, the age they experienced major family events (divorce, death, moves, etc.), and the way their parents grow and mature. Although our parents are immutable to us as children, we do not realize that they are growing and changing at the same time we are. Their fortunes change as well. The first child might grow up poor and the last child might grow up rich. And vice versa.

In the picture above, I am standing on the right. It is the winter of 1972 in Detroit, Michigan. My older sister is standing next to me holding a doll, and my younger sister is technically in the picture but out of view; my mother is about 8 months pregnant with her. If my parents look like they’re too young to have a 7- and 9-year-old with a baby on the way, it’s because they were children themselves when they wed as high school sweethearts. They married young, had three kids, separated, and divorced. My older sister was living with her fiancé by then, I was away in college, and my baby sister was a "tween," growing up more like an only child than the youngest of three. As the story on NPR said, no two of us were raised in the same family. The Poetry Society of South Carolina is also a family. It’s also like a business—we’re about the same age as Chrysler Corporation and a little younger than General Motors. Businesses can be thought of as a family of people working together for a time before moving on, dying, or retiring. Or maybe we’re closer to a baseball team with our annual seasons, some winning, some losing. We might say that the New York Yankees won 27 World Series, but Babe Ruth and Derek Jeter were never on the field together even though they were on the same team. There is continuity, but within it is perpetual flux. Every generation that came to the Poetry Society found a different family, a different team. The 1920s were opulent, the 1930s were grim. The group started almost completely from scratch after the four years of hiatus during World War II, but they gained military precision in building up a new membership under the control of professors from The Citadel. Yes, odd as it may seem, anyone who joined the Poetry Society during the 1940s through the 1970s might have thought of it as a continuing education program run by that military school. Citadel professors were presidents of the Poetry Society for 22 of the first 100 years, and Citadel faculty sat on the board for an additional 24 years, for a total of 46 years of Citadel control, influence and guidance. Over those years, Citadel professors were the featured readers at PSSC monthly meetings on 36 occasions. Members even mailed their annual dues to “Box 36 Citadel Station, Charleston.” I have wrestled with the concept of an ever-evolving family as I’ve tried to wrap my head around the vast sweep of the history of the Poetry Society. How can I describe an organization that has lasted 100 years with a cast of thousands of characters -- who all of whom experienced the Poetry Society differently -- as a single story? I think I have figured out how to do it, and I can’t wait until you can get your hands on my book and read about our remarkable organization. But this undertaking has made me more aware than ever of our place in history right now. I now understand from my research that the Poetry Society’s team has had more losing seasons than World Series, and we are only still around because of the occasional Babe Ruths and Lou Gehrigs who served on the board and hit more home runs than everyone else. I feel that we are now at a pivotal place in our history; the actions we take in the coming months will be of crucial importance to our continued existence. We began business operations in a different world, one designed for the needs of a generation born in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War. But here we are now, time travelers in the twenty-first century, struggling to remain relevant and provide a product that serves the needs of a world that would have been unrecognizable to the founders. We have to figure out how to do that. The Poetry Society is very important to me, so I would like it to not just survive, but to thrive as we begin our next 100 years during these uncertain times. Our board often discusses how we can get better attendance at our readings or better serve our far-flung members. We are trying to identify which of our long-held traditions might have run their course and what we can do to replace them. We want to sell a product that flies off the shelves, not one that sits there collecting dust.

We need your help. I’m going to ask you to do something that most people look forward to as much as scrubbing mildew from grout with a toothbrush: I need you to take a survey. We have to have some data to work with. All I’m asking is for 5 minutes of your time to help set the course of our Society for the next 100 years. There are only 10 questions. To sweeten the deal, everybody who completes the survey will be eligible for a drawing for a valuable prize. Once you complete the survey, email me at to be entered into the drawing (you can also reply to this email, but change the title line to “Survey Drawing.”) Take the survey on or before March 31 to be eligible for the prize, which will be revealed in the April Newsletter. Follow the link directly below that says "Take Survey" to be taken to the survey page. The team needs you. The family needs you.

Jim Lundy President, PSSC

Take SurveyThe 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.

Mar 12, 7:00 PM

The PSSC March Meeting

Our March 12 meeting will take place virtually. Val Nieman will be the featured poet. This will be live-Zoomed at 7:00 and then available for viewing from our Youtube channel later on. She is also conducting a workshop on the following day, the directions for participating are included further down the Newsletter.

About the Event

Valerie Nieman is a Professor of English at North Carolina A & T. She earned her BA in journalism from West Virginia University and an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. A writer of both poetry and fiction, her awards include the Eric Hoffer Prize for Blood Clay, the Greg Grummer from phoebe magazine, the Nazim Hikmet Prize from the Nazim Hikmet Poetry Festival, and the Byron Herbert Reece Prize from the Georgia Poetry Society. In addition, Ms. Nieman has held fellowships from the North Carolina Arts Council and the NEA and been the recipient of major grants in West Virginia and Kentucky.

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 text of "March 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. March 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: 824 4900 4348 Passcode: 755659 One tap mobile +19292056099,,82449004348#,,,,*755659# US (New York) +13017158592,,82449004348#,,,,*755659# 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: 824 4900 4348 Passcode: 755659 Find your local number:

Mar 13, 10:00 AM PSSC Zoom Workshop with Valerie Nieman: "Poetry Behind the Mask" 10:00-12:00 noon You must register. Attendance will be limited to 25 participants. Register here: PoetrySocietySCWorkshop

About the Event

Each day we go about our routine lives, but inside we are superheroes or explorers, pirates or rock stars, hiding our secret identities behind the mask of our unassuming face and daily clothes. One way to enter this secret world is to write a persona poem – persona meaning mask – in which we give a voice to an alternate identity. Join Valerie Nieman, author of Leopard Lady: A Life in Verse, for an exploration of hidden realms of the self.

Valerie Nieman is a Professor of English at North Carolina A & T. She earned her BA in journalism from West Virginia University and an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. A writer of both poetry and fiction, her awards include the Eric Hoffer Prize for Blood Clay, the Greg Grummer from phoebe magazine, the Nazim Hikmet Prize from the Nazim Hikmet Poetry Festival, and the Byron Herbert Reece Prize from the Georgia Poetry Society. In addition, Ms. Nieman has held fellowships from the North Carolina Arts Council and the NEA and been the recipient of major grants in West Virginia and Kentucky.

Mar 20, 10:00 AM

March PSSC Zoom Workshop with Michele Reese: "The Art of the Line" You must register. Attendance will be limited to 25 participants. Register here: PoetrySocietySCWorkshop

About the Event

There are many ways to think about the poetic line, but I’ve always liked James Longenbach’s statement— “poetry is the sound of language organized in lines.” With that in mind, this workshop will play with sounds and rhythms to create line endings. We will employ the strategies of syllabics, meter, and rhyme to experiment with published poems and to complete writing exercises. Through this attention to sound, our goal will be to lend greater illumination to the subjects of the poems. Discussion will also address the uses of form in our daily practice.

Michele Reese is Professor of English at USC Sumter. She earned her PhD at the University of Missouri. In addition to appearing widely in magazines, such as Paris Review, Citron Review, Kestrel, Mid-America Poetry Review, and Poet Lore, her poetry was anthologized in Home Is Where: An Anthology of African American Poets from the Carolinas and Chemistry of Color: Cave Canem South Poets Responding to Art. Dr. Reese’s research and scholarly writing have led to numerous appearances at national and international academic conferences. She has received grants and research stipends from the University of South Carolina and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The College of Charleston's MFA Creative Writing Program's Dorothea Benton Frank Writing Series presents a Fiction Reading by NYT bestselling author, Adriana Trigiani hursday, March 4 at 7:00 pm

Bio: Adriana Trigiani is the New York Times bestselling author of eighteen books in fiction and nonfiction. She wrote and directed the film version of her debut novel Big Stone Gap, which was shot entirely on location in her Virginia hometown. Her screen adaptation of Very Valentine debuted on Lifetime television in June 2019. Adriana is the cofounder of the Origin Project, an in-school writing program that serves more than 1,500 students in Appalachia. Adriana is at work on her next novel for Dutton at Penguin Random House for release in 2021, and a children's picture book for Viking at Penguin Random House for release in 2021. Adriana hosts a weekly Facebook Live show every Tuesday evening at 6 PM EST featuring guest authors, giveaways and more. Join her on Facebook and Instagram @AdrianaTrigiani. Adriana lives in Greenwich Village with her family.

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:

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.

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. This calendar year is nearing its end. If you wish to be included in the 2021 Yearbook when it comes out this fall, you must join now to be included.

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 February Meeting with Joy Priest and Joshua Garcia, you can watch it asynchronously on our Youtube Channel. Click on this link.


Ann Humphries had poems published in recent issues of Kaleidoscope and Museum of Americana.

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

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 February Poetry Prompt Contest was to write a poem or piece of flash fiction on the topic of our changing relationship with "Home." The winner this month was Ellen Jenks, whose lovely poem can be found below. Here is the March prompt: America has been dealing with life under COVID-19 restrictions for a year now, with half a million dead from the virus and millions more affected by lingering effects of the illness. Many have been devastated by loss of employment, eviction, isolation, depression, etc. Nobody thought we would still be living in relative isolation more than a year after we first shut down the country to "flatten the curve." Waiting for the end of this pandemic has become an endurance contest. With the hope of vaccines putting an end to this nightmare, we are starting to see the finish line in the distance, but this endurance contest is far from over. Scientists have studied human endurance for athletes and determined that there is a limit to it, namely, prolonged burning of calories faster than 2.5 times the resting metabolic rate, over which the body begins devouring itself. Although COVID is not like running a marathon, it is an extended period of psychological exertion, a period of extended endurance. Your March challenge is to write a poem or piece of flash fiction on the topic of "endurance." Capture in your piece the feeling of pushing yourself longer and harder than you thought possible. Use your imagination, take the prompt in any direction you see fit. Send your submissions to on or before March 30. The winner of the February Prompt Contest: Childhood Home Revisited By Ellen Jenks That's the oak of all my climbing memories. Why, it's only half as tall as it used to be! I know that branch was higher from the ground. I had to jump way up to catch it and swing myself around. I wonder how the yard became so small. When I was a child, it was acres wide. When I took the bat and whacked the ball, It never ever reached the other side. These rooms are not as tall as I recall, And, tiny now, were caverns when I was small. My voice would echo off the other wall. Why, two people can't even pass in the hall! What is this tight space behind the stairs? It was a cathedral where I would go At bedtime to say my evening prayers. My body won't squeeze in here anymore. How did Mother clean it when I was four?

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