Updated: Dec 1, 2021
“Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?” - Terry Pratchett
Let me tell you about Peter Burke: I don’t know anything about him. With this newsletter going out on the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) and the month ending with a national holiday dedicated to gratefulness, the timing was perfect for his visit the other night. He has been dead for 40 years. Peter Burke was in my homeroom class junior year in high school. I can still picture where he sat, in the next row over and back a few desks from my assigned seat. I have only one visual memory of him: he is wearing a plaid flannel shirt. I have no memory whatsoever of his face. As far as I can recall, I never had a single conversation with him. We were on different academic tracks and had no classes together. He was a stranger to me except for hearing his name at roll call. One night, around this time of year in 1981, he was driving home from his after-school job, ran off the road, and was killed when his car hit a tree. The next day his seat was empty in homeroom. We were sent to an assembly just for the class of 1983 at U of D Jesuit High School. We were not a big class; we numbered 132. We were about to find out that our number was now one less. It was sad and shocking that he died; sudden deaths are the worst kind. I still think so. But even before this happened I was already becoming familiar with death. My grandfather had died four years earlier. His was the first open-casket visitation I ever attended. By 1981, my grandmother was in a steady decline with death expected sooner than later. So, it was not death that shocked me the most about Peter Burke; what got to me was that empty seat. The rest of us kept on going through junior year. Great things were happening. We were growing up and growing wiser. We were becoming, as the Jesuit motto goes, “Men for Others.” But every morning when I saw that empty desk, I had the same thought: he is missing out on all of this. His time stopped and our time kept going. The rest of the Class of ’83 eventually graduated, went on to various colleges and adventures, but Peter Burke was still that guy in a plaid shirt sitting one row over and a few seats down, stuck forever in time. Peter Burke has crossed my mind numerous times every year for four decades. I must have established a conditioned response in my brain that causes me to think of him any time something momentous, or earth-shattering happens: He didn’t get to experience this, is what my brain says to me on those occasions. I feel lucky at those moments that I am still here, living, experiencing. The Class of ’83 has, for the most part, survived into middle age. We’re 56 or 57 years old now. A few are grandfathers, some are celebrities, most have raised children and sent them off to college. High school pales in comparison to what we’ve seen and done in the last 38 years since graduation. So I was surprised that Peter Burke showed up the other night in a dream. He was still 16. I figured he wouldn’t recognize me so I introduced myself. It wasn’t necessary. He said, “Oh, I know all about you,” which somehow made complete sense. I said, “I’m sorry that you didn’t get to come with us.” He shrugged it off. He said, “We all get what we get.” Then he seemed to glow with wisdom. He looked right at me and said, “I’m glad you’re noticing time. It’s the only thing we have.” That is when I woke up. The clock glowed 3:12. Peter Burke visited me on the night of the day I received an email asking me if I would like to be a guest on Walter Edgar’s Journal on South Carolina Public Radio to discuss my new book about the Poetry Society. If you’re not familiar with the show, Dr. Edgar invites authors who have new books on South Carolina history and culture to discuss their work in a lively exchange. His guests are real authors with credentials, and apparently, he thinks I am among their ranks. I will drive up to Columbia on November 9 for the taping. This is quite an honor for me. It is momentous. It occurs to me now that the moments when I think of Peter Burke or, in this case, when he visited me in my dreams, are expressions of gratitude. The dream reminded me to be consciously grateful for every minute of my wonderful life. The grim reaper eventually swings his scythe for us all. Some get more years, some get less, but as Peter said, “We all get what we get.” 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.It is Time to Renew Your Membership
September began the 2021-2022 season. Our membership levels are quite disappointing thus far, so please join or renew your membership today. It's fast and easy with PayPal by clicking here: Join/Renew Membership, or you can do it through the regular mail with a check. Instructions are also included in the link.
The PSSC November Meeting
Our November meeting will take place virtually. Allison Cobb will be the featured poet. Reading as opener will be Hannah Beresford. This will be live-Zoomed at 7:00 and then available for viewing from our Youtube channel later on. Allison is also conducting a workshop on the following day, the directions for participating are included further down the Newsletter.
Nov 12, 7:00 PM Zoom Event
About the Event
Allison Cobb (pronouns she/her) is the author of four books: Plastic: an Autobiography, Green-Wood, After We All Died and Born2. Cobb’s work has appeared in Best American Poetry, Denver Quarterly, Colorado Review, and many other journals. She was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award and National Poetry Series; has been a resident artist at Djerassi and Playa; and received fellowships from the Oregon Arts Commission, the Regional Arts and Culture Council, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Allison lives in Portland, Oregon.
Hannah Beresford, originally of the Helderberg Escarpment of upstate New York, earned her MFA from NYU after spending four years on red dirt at Oklahoma State. Her poems are published in The Adroit Journal, Mid-American Review, Sycamore Review, Pleiades, among others. She was the recipient of a 2019 Poetry Foundation, Poetry Incubator fellowship and a 2017-2018 fellowship at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. She serves as a poetry editor for No Tokens.
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 "November 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. November 12 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: Join Zoom Meeting https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85160724484?pwd=TkNkVXZsMDBzVGIrVzFXMFRGQ1JKUT09 Meeting ID: 851 6072 4484 Passcode: 557248 One tap mobile +19292056099,,85160724484#,,,,*557248# US (New York) +13017158592,,85160724484#,,,,*557248# 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: 851 6072 4484 Passcode: 557248 Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kdPobyr1qV
PSSC Zoom Workshop with Allison Cobb:
How to be human now: A Seminar/Workshop with Allison Cobb Time: Nov 13, 2021 10:00 AM to noon Eastern Time (US and Canada)
We live at a time when our smallest daily actions (turning on a light, starting a car) have planetary impacts. At the same time, we exist within larger systems that often leave us feeling we have little choice about these issues--most of us need to drive and use electricity to conduct our lives. How do we think about living ethically and leaving a positive legacy for the future under these circumstances? We will explore these issues through writing. Please bring two items to the workshop. One item should represent an object of technology that you use regularly but that weighs on you. It could be an item made from plastic, like a bag or a straw, or it could be a car key, or your cell phone--anything. The second item should represent something that simply brings you happiness. It could be a photo of a family member or pet, or a juicy orange, or a flower. There are no rules for either of these objects. Bring along anything that makes sense to you!
Register here: PoetrySocietySCWorkshop
Poetry at McLeod: November 13, 2021 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. In this innovative series, African American poets reclaim the plantation landscape by exploring the past, present, future, and the imagined in their own voices. Often representing pain, suffering, survival, and perseverance, these poets confirm that plantations are places of conscience. One poet recalled, "Reading poems where my ancestors were was a return. On their behalf I was returning with power. It belongs to them. I would be a part of reclaiming it." Poetry at McLeod is free to the first 50 participants, thereafter free with park admission. No advance registration is required.
Writing workshops the following day are also free but space is limited so preregistration is required. Not able to attend in person? Our Poetry at McLeod series is also broadcasted live via our Facebook page! This series is made possible by the generous support of The Poetry Society of South Carolina, the SC Humanities Council, the Charleston County Public Library, and the Charleston County Parks Foundation. About the Poet
Join poet and author Dustin Pearson as he reclaims the plantation landscape with a poetry reading of his own works. In 2019, The Root named Dustin one of nine black poets working in “academic, cultural and government institutions committed to elevating and preserving the poetry art form.” All ages. No preregistration needed. This activity takes place outdoors.https://www.facebook.com/events/mcleod-plantation/poetry-at-mcleod-november-13-2021/582673989816792/
Member Spotlight: Gilbert Allen
Gil Allen is a longtime resident of upstate South Carolina and the Bennette E. Geer Professor of Literature Emeritus at Furman University, where he taught from 1977 until 2015. He has discussed literature and read his own work at public schools, colleges, literary festivals, writing workshops, and libraries throughout the Southeast. He has appeared frequently on South Carolina Public Radio, and he is listed prominently in Walter Edgar’s The South Carolina Encyclopedia. In 2007 his sequence of poems “The Assistant” received the Robert Penn Warren Prize in Poetry. He was inducted into the South Carolina Academy of Authors, the state’s literary hall of fame, in 2014. The prize for the November Prompt Contest is Gil Allen's Believing in Two Bodies. Here's a review: By turns nostalgic and prophetic, Gilbert Allen’s new book Believing in Two Bodies is a masterpiece, telling stories that span a lifetime of deeply felt experience and distances both literal and metaphysical. In employing a variety of poetic forms and voices, these poems comment not only on “a lost America, adored / bright spill, remembered chord,” but also on our own new century, a world that “has remained / a mystery, an opera in which all / blood must be music in its own sweet time.” Awash in time, narrative, and a burning lyricism that will make your heart ache, Believing in Two Bodies is the kind of collection we need to help make sense of our own discordant lives. As the speaker says in “Forty Years North of Dreamland,” “You’d never be like them, you told yourself, / and yet you are. Like every one of them.” —Rob Griffith, author of The Devil in the Milk
If you missed the October season opener with Mai Der Vang, you can watch it in its entirety on our Youtube channel by clicking here.
The History of the PSSC is Now Available
Years in the making, the full history of the country's oldest state poetry society is now available. Read a review here. To purchase a copy, click here: PSSC Softcover Edition. We are down to a couple extra hardcovers, so if you would like to get a signed copy, respond to this email.
Members in The News Ethan Fugate reviewed Allison Cobb's book Plastic: An Autobiography in Boog City. Charles Watts's poem "For Olga, Starting with O" is in The Stratford Quartlerly for Autumn 2021. His poem "The Current Below" appears in Stone Poetry Journal. Libby Bernardin has two recent publications: "The Parable of the Mustard Seed, the Chanteuse,and Wild Rice" appeared in Zingara Poetry Review this past week. "Dear October" is included in The Strategic Poet: Honing the Craft, edited by Diane Lockward and also is forthcoming in Fall Lines. William Winslow's book Proof I was Here is now out now. Available from Outskirts Press. Danielle Verwers made a video of her poem "Failed Essay on Education: after Eliza Gonzales," Which was the winner of the September Prompt Contest. Watch it here. The following publications by Glenis Redmond will be published 2022: An essay titled "Field Work, The Push/Pull of Past and Present" in the Winter volume of Orion Magazine; The Three Harriets published by Finishing Line Press. Praise Songs for Dave the Potter with Artwork by Jonathan Green and Poetry by Glenis Redmond published by the University of Georgia Press; and The Listening Skin published by Four Way Books. Eugene Platt's poems "Weaned on War," "Sunset Concert," and "The Good Vet" were selected for publication by Inlandia: A Literary Journal. His poem "A Widower's Wistful Worship" will appear in winter 2022 in the online journal Months to Years. High Desert Journal will publish his poem "The Day I Killed My Cat." Rise Up Review accepted his poem "War Games." Libby Bernardin has two recent publications: "The Parable of the Mustard Seed, the Chanteuse,and Wild Rice" appeared in Zingara Poetry Review this past week. "Dear October" is included in The Strategic Poet: Honing the Craft, edited by Diane Lockward and also is forthcoming in Fall Lines.
Arthur McMaster's prose poem "Moon Maintenance" is in the current annual issue of Bacopa Literary Review. Work by Claire Bateman also appears in this 2021 issue with her prose poem "Gravity Pajamas." Arthur McMaster's pantoum "mortgage" is included in David Kirby's new book The Knowledge: Where Poems Come From and How to Write Them. Derek Berry and Anne-Chadwell Humpries are holding a workshop, "Poetry as a Superpower," on November 6 through the 6th Annual Pat Conroy Literary Festival. Six Poetry Society members, Elizabeth Robin, Derek Berry, Yvette Murray, Danielle Verwers, and Ann-Chadwell Humphries are reading at the Carrie Allen McCray Nickens Poetry Fellowship Reading at the 6th Annual Pat Conroy Literary Festival on November 6 at 4:30. Carrie Allen McCray Nickens read for the Poetry Society in 1993 and 2006. The following publications by Glenis Redmond will be published 2022: An essay titled "Field Work, The Push/Pull of Past and Present" in the Winter volume of Orion Magazine; The Three Harriets published by Finishing Line Press. Praise Songs for Dave the Potter with Artwork by Jonathan Green and Poetry by Glenis Redmond published by the University of Georgia Press; and The Listening Skin published by Four Way Books. Members, please send poetry-related news to: Flatbluesky@hotmail.com To make this easier on us, please provide your news in a format that is exactly the way you want it to read in the Newsletter.
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'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. November's winner gets a signed copy of Gil Allen's book Believing in Two Bodies. The October Poetry Prompt Contest asked that you capture the feeling of transition, especially in the direction of waxing to waning, life to death. This prompt proved very popular, with eleven entries. I was glad to receive poems from John Corless, Beth Dillenkoffer, Ellen Jenks, Jean Kay Juhos, Terri McCord, Traci Neal, Troye Platt, Linda Sarkany, Brian Slusher, Linda Joy Walder, and Charles Watts. The winner is Brian Slusher, who will receive a signed copy of Nancy Dew Taylor's book Showing Face. See his poem below. Here is the November Prompt:
In total, I responded to 18 letters for my October challenge to handwrite or type a letter on a typewriter and send it to me through regular mail (I used a typewriter for my responses). This was a very enjoyable experience and reminded me that a nice thing that has been a mainstay of communication for hundreds of years is dying out in the speed of our electronic society. Technology is exploding and changing the way we live, work, communicate, interact, think, and sleep. Your challenge for November is to write a poem or piece of flash fiction reflecting on change--especially technological change--be it good, bad, or indifferent. Interpret this in any way that strikes you. The winner will get a signed copy of Gil Allen's book Believing in Two Bodies. He will also be the judge for the entries. Send your submissions to FlatBlueSky@hotmail.com on or before November 30. The winner of the October Prompt Contest: OCTOBER LETTER TO YOU As the ink unspools from my cheap plastic pen I look out at the leaves starting to litter the lawn, their brown like canvas, a gathering of tents pitched in a fugitive season that will grow into a city, occasional oranges and reds bright as fire barrels. I lean in to hear the circled nomads hands extended to the warmth flicker of shadows as they murmur of the missed chances of the past year, the broken promises that rattle with every bump in the road. But one is smiling, says he heard an owl in the early dawn and though he hasn’t consulted the Book of Omens, he’s sure it’s a good sign. I don’t know why I’m writing you this way paper and long pauses and do I even have a stamp? But maybe standing by the microwave, waiting for your tea to heat, you need a change. The days are getting shorter, so I’ll go ahead and sign this PS I miss the way you push your hair behind your ear. -Brian Slusher