Updated: Dec 4, 2020
The Presidents of the United States of the Poetry Society of South Carolina. Huh?
I do not need to tell you that election day is coming up. It is coming at us from all sides. Things are tense. It occurred to me this morning that generations of Society members have found themselves just as we are today, on the brink of a presidential election. The Poetry Society has existed long enough to have seen sixteen Presidents of the United States. I thought it would be interesting this time to look at a thumbnail sketch of the 100-year history of the PSSC framed in presidential election trivia as a little diversion from our current pre-election stress. In October of 1920, the founders of the PSSC held a small, formal business meeting to adopt its constitution, elect its slate of officers, and direct that a charter be secured under the laws of the state of South Carolina. A few weeks later, the 1920 presidential election was won by Warren G. Harding. It was the first election since the ratification of the 19th Amendment that ensured a woman’s right to vote. This means that a new era for women and the Charleston Renaissance were ushered in almost simultaneously. There is almost certainly some correlation. It was also the last election where national campaigning was conducted through phonograph records, a practice that started during the 1908 campaigns of William Howard Taft and William Jennings Bryan. By the time of the next election, the new technology of radio transmission allowed people all over the country to hear campaign speeches without winding up their Victrolas. Warren G. Harding didn’t quite make it to the end of his first term. He died from a heart attack at age 57 as his wife read to him in bed. His final words were, “That’s good. Go on, read some more.” His vice president, Calvin “Silent Cal” Coolidge, completed the rest of that term and ran for his own victory in 1924, winning every Southern state. He was the only U.S. President born on the fourth of July. Five days after his inauguration, the Poetry Society hosted Richard Burton, the head of the English department of Minnesota University. He was reputed to be one of the most brilliant men in his field in the country. He said in his lecture that “three-fourths of the present-day free verse is dribble.” When Herbert Hoover was elected in 1928, just a year before the onset of the Great Depression, the Poetry Society was already in a steep decline from its peak in the mid ‘20s. Membership had fallen off and the calendar year was truncated to save money. Even so, there were three readings of note: John Crowe Ransom, DuBose Heywood, and Robert Frost. When the Great Depression hit Charleston in earnest, the Poetry Society suffered a mass exodus of membership. It was the beginning of a dire period for the group. Hoover preferred a hands-off approach to the Great Depression, which only worsened. He was defeated by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932. His New Deal benefitted the PSSC with the conversion of the old Planter’s Hotel into the Dock Street Theater in 1937 as a WPA project. DuBose Heyward was paid to be the resident dramatist for the theater and made the venue available to the Poetry Society for its readings over a period of two years. That cozy relationship ended with Heyward’s untimely death on June 16, 1940 at age 54. [You might recognize that month and day as Bloomsday.] Roosevelt had just been reelected for his fourth term in office when he died from a stroke at the age of 63. When his vice president, Harry S. Truman, was sworn in to serve nearly the full term, the Poetry Society had come out of the Great Depression and World War II with a renewed will to live. They were starting almost from scratch, with no official membership or dues collected during a war hiatus that lasted 4 years. In the month that Truman was sworn in for his own first term in 1948, the Poetry Society hosted folk singer John Jacob Niles. In the 1950s, he would become a major influence on the Greenwich Village folk music revival out of which emerged Burl Ives, Pete Seeger, Dave Van Ronk and Bob Dylan, among many others. By the time Truman was replaced by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953, the Poetry Society was being run by John R. Doyle, Jr. He was a Citadel professor who holds the record for most years as Society President and the most years on the board. He was one of a long line of Citadel professors who ran or sat on the board of the PSSC for nearly a half century. It is safe to say that if it were not for the Citadel, the Poetry Society would have folded after World War II. The 1950s were good years for the group. It completely rebounded from the difficult 1930s-1940s and was thriving in membership, with a focus on educational programs delivered by Citadel professors. There were also great nationally known lecturers during this era such as Robert Frost (twice), Randall Jarrell, Padraic Colum, and Robert Penn Warren. Here is a fun fact: the Society’s first female president, Katherine Drayton Mayrant Simons, and Dwight Eisenhower were both born in 1890 and died in 1969. Twelve women have been president of the PSSC. So far no woman has been the President of the United States of America. Thanks to the Citadel, the same Poetry Society that saw the last election where phonograph records were used to deliver campaign speeches was still around in 1960 to see television become the new medium of choice with the historic Kennedy-Nixon televised debates. These were not great times for the Poetry Society. It had become insular, lacking the drive to challenge the membership with new experiences. During the 1963-1964 season, the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and his alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, occurred in the month between the Society’s lectures on “Anglo-Saxon Poetry” and “Human Isolation in the Poetry of Robert Frost.” The election of Richard M. Nixon in 1968 occurred during the shortest season in Poetry Society history (not counting the War hiatus years). Only three meetings were held, two of which were Forum meetings where poems from the Writers’ Group were critiqued. By the time Nixon resigned from office in the summer of 1974, the PSSC had settled into a comfortable rut of complacency. It had resigned itself to being nothing other than a small club with goals no loftier than enjoying local lecturers on historical topics, holding contests, and drinking “institutional sherry” during the receptions that followed the readings. During the “stagflation” years of Jimmy Carter’s administration, the Poetry Society was rejuvenated in its mission by its president Tony Redd, the last in the long line of Citadel professors who ran the group starting in 1931. He put new focus on finding interesting lecturers, but he had to do it on a shoestring budget. Most who appeared at the lectern in those years were not paid at all. Tony Redd was the first PSSC president who would live to see the 21st century; Gerald Ford was the first U.S. President who would do so. At 96 years old and counting, Jimmy Carter is the oldest U.S. president in history. Captain Alston Deas of the Citadel, who was president for the 1931-1932 season, holds the record thus far for longest-lived PSSC president at 91. Exactly one month after Ronald Reagan was sworn in as the 40th President of the United States, the Society held its 60th anniversary gala at the Confederate Home, 62 Broad Street. By that time, only one of the original 11 founders was still alive, Helen von Kolnitz Hyer, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s, the disease that would eventually end her life in 1983. The would-be assassin of Ronald Reagan, John Hinckley, Jr., shot the president the day before John Frederick Nims read for the PSSC and the College of Charleston in a cosponsored event. Reagan survived, but like Helen von Kolnitz Hyer, he was later undone by Alzheimer’s. The Reagan years turned out to be a sharp turning point in the Society’s trajectory. The College of Charleston more or less absorbed the group into itself by including it in a college consortium that funded readings of the country’s leading poets. While those years of collaboration brought the most exciting programming in the Society’s history, the group lost its autonomy. Nobody would confuse the large public readings at the College of Charleston and the Citadel for true Poetry Society meetings. The identity crisis that resulted left a greatly weakened group with low membership once the Society and the College of Charleston went their separate ways. It was in the time just after College of Charleston control ended that Michael Blumenthal read for the Society. He is the kind of man whose biography makes everyone else’s lives seem boring by comparison. This was a major victory in the group’s struggle to regain its autonomy and membership. Exactly one week later, the 1988 election was won by George H.W. Bush. The Bill Clinton years were very good ones for the Poetry Society of South Carolina. Membership was up dramatically under charismatic Society presidents such as John H. Bennett, Jr. (the grandson of founder John Bennett), and Carol Furtwangler. By the time Clinton won his second term, the Society was attracting large audiences to meetings with a strong sense of comradery. The society element was strong again; the poetry side was on the rise as well. Poets among the membership such as Dennis Ward Stiles, Susan Meyers, Linda Annas Ferguson, Debra Kaufman, and Constance Pultz were dominating the prize competitions as well as being published in national journals or even their own books. In the same month that George W. Bush was elected for his first term in 2000, the Society lost one of its favorite past presidents, John H. Bennett, Jr. He was 55. Bennett was born exactly two weeks after Franklin Roosevelt died. Depending on how you look at it, Bennett was either the first PSSC President to die in the 21st century, or the last one to die in the 20th century. For comparison, Richard Nixon was the last U.S. President to die in the 20th century and Ronald Reagan was the first to die in the 21st century. The early “twenty-zeroes” were another time of retraction for the Poetry Society, characterized by smaller membership, smaller attendances at meetings, and no big-name poets reading to the group. The Susan Laughter Meyers presidency began in 2005. Her leadership and the years that followed were the beginning of what I consider the modern era. The Poetry Society gained a new level of professionalism, focus, and mission. This modern era has also seen the most consistent dedication to bringing diversity to the podium. Other than a spike in membership during the 90th anniversary year when Billy Collins read, we have maintained a steady membership level, uniform calendar years, and programming that brings notable poets in from all over the country. It is the era in which the Society first embraced the internet, as did presidential elections. Barack Obama’s campaign is credited with the first time the internet was used extensively to organize supporters, advertise, and communicate with potential voters. This is the fourth major campaigning technology the Poetry Society has been around to witness (to recap: 1. phonograph records, 2. radio, 3. television, and 4. internet). Perhaps, many years from now we will be able to see in hindsight that this calendar year, 2020-2021, is the start of a brand-new era. I believe that the ability to make our readings available to anyone, anywhere through Zoom and YouTube will be a feature of all years going forward even after we resume in-person meetings. The PSSC has never been able to serve the entire state the way that is possible now. As for me, I am one of the thirty-nine individuals who have served as president of the PSSC over the last 100 years. Seventeen of us are still around, walking the Earth in the 21st century. I was born squarely between the deaths of Herbert Hoover and Dwight D. Eisenhower. My first three years as PSSC president took place starting in the last few months of George W. Bush's second term and into Barack Obama's first term. My second two terms have thus far existed within Donald Trump's presidency. We will know more about his future in the coming days, weeks, or possibly months, depending on how vote counting goes. I hope you found something of interest in this brief outline presented in a Presidential context. The Newsletter contains much more information below. In the words of Warren G. Harding, “Go on, read some more.” Be Well, 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 November Meeting- ERRORS CORRECTED FROM THE PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER
Our November 13 meeting will take place virtually. The feature is Laure-Anne Bosselaar. She will be joined by Aidan Forster. This will be live-Zoomed at 7:00 and then available for viewing from our Youtube channel later on.
Time & Location
Friday, Nov 13, 7:00 PM
About the Event
Laure-Anne Bosselaar is the author of The Hour Between Dog and Wolf, Small Gods of Grief, winner of the Isabella Gardner Prize for Poetry for 2001, and of A New Hunger, an ALA Notable Book. Four Way Books published her latest collection: These Many Rooms. Her poetry was featured on Poetry Daily, The Academy of American Poets’ website, and in reviews such as Orion, Georgia Review, Five Points, Ploughshares and Harvard Review. Garrison Keillor read four of her poems on NPR’s A Writer’s Almanac. A Pushcart Prize recipient, she was also awarded the James Dickey Poetry Prize for 2020. She is the editor of four anthologies, and taught at Emerson College, Sarah Lawrence College, UCSB, and is a member of the founding faculty at the Solstice Low Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program.
Aidan Forster is the author of Exit Pastoral (YesYes Books, 2019) and Wrong June (Honeysuckle Press, 2020). His work appears in The Adroit Journal, Best New Poets 2017, Columbia Poetry Review, Ninth Letter, Teen Vogue, and Tin House, among others. He studies Literary Arts and Public Health at Brown University.
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. 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 "November 14 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. November 13 PSSC Meeting Alternate 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.
PSSC Workshop with Laure-Anne Bosselaar Saturday, November 14, 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Our workshops are normally ticketed events. However, we have decided that they will be free for current members of the Society as long as we are forced to meet online due to COVID-19. Workshops are interactive for the participants and instructor so attendance on Zoom will be limited to 25 people. Please note the special time for this workshop! To register: Click on the link below to register through Zoom: Register Through Zoom
Alternately you may register this way: 1. Go to our website: PoetrySocietySC.org 2. Find the event and click on "RSVP." 3. You will be taken to the workshop's event page. Click on "RSVP" again. 4. Supply a name and email address when prompted. 5. You will be sent a link for the meeting by email. Use that link on 10/10 to join the workshop. The topic is as follows: WAIT, WAIT, LET ME REPHRASE THIS! Writers often find it difficult to revise their work on their own without the help of a writing group, mentor, teacher or editor. We will investigate together how to strengthen and hone our revision skills by systematically and individually addressing all the elements of craft in a poem including structure, tone, line-breaks, closure, form, and emotional impulse, to name a few. Mostly, our conversation should be motivating and fun – so bring your sense of humor, imagination and a note book. If possible, but not indispensable, have 5 X 7 index cards ready. This seminar is for poets of every level from beginners to potential Pulitzer Prize winners (yes, that’s you!)
November 7: PSSC Fred Dings workshop:
Facets of Metaphor: A Workshop
Time & Location
Nov 07, 10:00 AM
About the Event
This craft talk will examine the many sides of metaphor, exploring metaphor as ornament versus locus of meaning; explicit and implicit metaphor; metaphor that clarifies meaning and metaphor that adds ambiguity; metaphor that parses and unites, and other considerations. While nearly every canonical poem and a great majority of non-canonical poems would possibly serve our discussion, we will read a few poems by some master metaphor makers such as William Shakespeare, Elizabeth Bishop, and Wallace Stevens, as well as poems by some contemporary poets, such as Mark Doty and Reg Saner and excerpts from various others.
Fred Dings was born and raised in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He earned his MFA at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and PhD at the University of Utah, where he studied with Mark Strand and Larry Levis. His books of poetry include The Four Rings: New & Selected Poems (SFA Press, 2020), Eulogy for a Private Man (TriQuarterly Books, 1999), After the Solstice (Orchises Press, 1993). His work has appeared in The New Republic, New Yorker, Paris Review, Poetry magazine, TriQuarterly, World Literature Today, and many other periodicals. Dings currently teaches at the University of South Carolina.
Register this way: 1. Go to our website: PoetrySocietySC.org 2. Find the event and click on "RSVP." 3. You will be taken to the workshop's event page. Click on "RSVP" again. 4. Supply a name and email address when prompted. 5. You will be sent a link for the meeting by email. Use that link on 10/10 to join the workshop. Ukweli: Searching for Healing Truth "Ukweli means truth. Poet Horace Mungin, in search of healing truth, will read poems at McLeod Plantation Historic Site from his series of poems on American history against a backdrop of racial disparities highlighted by Covid-19 and demonstrations against racism. Special guests will place the poetry into the historical context of how slave labor built the American economy that privileged so many generations of white Americans. Radio host Osei Chandler will moderate discussions between panelists and the audience. There are two programs remaining in the series. Each are moderated by Osei Chandler and feature Mungin’s poetry with special guest authors and historians. The final programs are: Imam Hakim Abul-Ali on November 7, and Yvette Murray on November 21. All programs start at 1:00 pm and are free, but limited to 50 people on-site. Each will be streamed live on-line at Facebook.com/McleodPlantation The 5th Annual Pat Conroy Literary Festival will take place online Nov. 5th - Nov. 8th and includes a poetry workshop with Len Lawson as well as poetry readings with Len Lawson, Miho Kinnas, Gary Jackson, Emily Davis-Fletcher, Elizabeth Robin, & Ellen Malphrus. https://patconroyliteraryfestival.org/ Nov 5th, 7pm-- Carolina Poets is hosting a special post-election virtual open mic on Facebook & Instagram Live. Space is limited. If interested in participating, contact Derek Berry at email@example.com or via Facebook or Instagram at /derekberrywriter
Eugene Platt is inviting you to attend his virtual book release reading for Nuda Veritas on November 19 at 5:00. Everything you need to know about the book and easy instructions for joining the reading can be found in the following link: https://www.buxtonbooks.com/new-events/2020/11/19/virtual-poetry-reading-with-eugene-platt This major event would have taken place in person during "normal" times, however the virtual format will allow people from all over the world to enjoy this reading. Eugene Platt has read numerous times for the Poetry Society of South Carolina. His first reading was in 1972 and he appeared before the group as recently as 2016. "A poet of discovery, Eugene Platt delves into a vast well of experience and brings to the surface a reverence for family, love, enduring life, and American history. These poems span romance and war, birth and death, and the varied, sometimes contradictory experiences of a man traveling through this thing we call life." - Lisa Hase-Jackson
The Blue Mountain Review’s LBGTQ Poetry Chapbook Prize is currently open for submission, judged by Jessica Jacobs and Nickole Brown. 1st Place receives 100 copies of the book and $200.00. 2nd Place receives $100.00. 3rd Place receives $50.00. All those who place will be interviewed in the Blue Mountain Review and on the NPR show, Dante's Old South. To learn more, vis
The PSSC Writers' Group
Lisa Haas Jackson has secured a private Zoom account that will allow the Writers' Group to meet for two hours with no risk of being "Zoom-bombed." If you wish to participate, email Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org to get on the invite list. Each month you will receive an invitation via email with sign-in information and a password. Once signed in you will be routed to a waiting room before being admitted into the meeting. These precautions will eliminate the possibility of non-invitees entering our meetings and bombing us with unwanted media. Meetings will be held on the third Saturday of the month from 10 a.m. to noon. For the rest of 2020 the dates are November 28. No meeting in December. The dates for 2021 will be set in January.
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.
We are currently in the process of preparing the 2020 Yearbook for mailing. It will be sent out to all members of the 2019-2020 calendar year in this month. If you have moved since you joined or renewed your membership, please send us your new address. It makes us sad to get Yearbooks returned as undeliverable.
MEMBERS IN THE NEWS Terri McCord's new volume of poetry, The Beauts, is now on preorder with Finishing Line Press. Presales are welcome and help determine initial press run. Collection is due out November 20th. If you want autographed copy, she will take orders and send to Finishing Line Press and make sure you receive your copy, hand delivered if necessary, but probably through the U.S. mail. Contact Terri at email@example.com.
Celebrated Furman author and emeritus English faculty member Gil Allen has two new books to be published this October, The Beasts of Belladonna: Stories (Slant Book, 2020) and Believing in Two Bodies: Poems (Kelsay Books, 2020). There will be a book launch, reading, and panel discussion with Dr. Joni Tevis, exploring Dr. Allen's celebrated work in poetry and now in short fiction. He will be doing a Zoom reading/book launch for Furman on November 10 at 4:00. If you would like to sign up, use the following link:
https://furman.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_1501y36BTY-zSyfRBXFwSw Dr. Ed Madden of the University of South Carolina has some free copies of the Poems on the Comet Write on Time available by emailing the following link and providing name & address: http://columbiapoet.org/ Longtime member Thomas L. Johnson announces a new book A True Likeness: The Black South of Richard Samuel Roberts, 1920-1936, University of South Carolina Press. "A True Likeness is clearly a labor of love and scholarship. It is an invaluable contribution to American history, a thoughtful and enlightened approach to black Southern Life. . . . a magnificent book."―Booklist. 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 October Poetry Prompt Contest asked that you write a poem or piece of flash fiction considering an inner well of strength, knowledge, or courage that lies deep inside us that is as innate as the body's ability to mend broken bones. We had excellent submissions from Ellen Jenks with a piece of flash fiction called "Courage of a Lion," Tina Baumis with "Rubbish Routines," Jeanne Kay Juhos sent "Once There Was a Time," and Tim Harkins submitted "How I Learn to Fly." The winner is Tim Harkins and you can read his poem below. Congratulations Tim! Here is the November prompt: After considering the theme of giving thanks and the upcoming election and its aftermath and rejecting both, I have had a more intriguing idea. It struck me recently that I have seen a lot of pictures over the last few months of people who are now sporting a totally different look due to COVID's impact on their ability or willingness to get a professional haircut over the last 7 months. Even for those who have maintained their optimal level of grooming, their appearance has been altered during the time they are wearing a mask while in public. We simply do not look the same now as we did before the pandemic. I recently had a dream that I believe is related to this: I was looking in the mirror, noticing how the hair on my neck needed to be trimmed. I turned slightly and found that the hair had grown down my neck and all the way down my back, which was now covered with dense, matted fur. The message I have taken away from this troubling dream is that I have been permanently altered by the experience of fear and isolation from this pandemic (although I was delighted to wake up and find that I do not have a hairy back). For November, consider how you or a character you create has been altered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Do you look in the mirror and see a stranger? Do you feel like a different person now than you did before? Does it feel almost like a dream when you remember life before the threat of a deadly contagion? Write a poem or piece of flash fiction on the topic of altered identity. This does not have to be limited to COVID, it could be any major event that has changed you or your fictional character. Take this in any direction you want to go. Send your submissions to FlatBlueSky@hotmail.com on or before November 30. The winner of the October Prompt Contest:
HOW I LEARN TO FLY In a dream, the woman said, Your posture is bad. But if I stand straight, I fly. Not like a crow flapping the shortest distance between two points separated by impossible oceans, then mountains honed to an edge. My dreams involve insolvable puzzles. When I straighten, I levitate. It’s always a surprise. I never know if a wiggle or word will let me rise or turn to avoid the trees and power lines. Somehow I drift toward the first distant hurricane and it’s still not scary enough to wake me. -Tim Harkins