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  • Jim Lundy

Please Mister Postman, look and see. Is there a letter, a letter for me?

Updated: Nov 1


A Letter from the President

Since they arrived by truck, I have spent a good deal of time in line at the Post Office mailing out signed hardcover editions of my book, The History of the Poetry Society of South Carolina. During this grueling week, a stereotype has been reinforced in my mind about people in their twenties that I have been observing for some years now. Just about any time I see someone about that age at the USPS, it appears to be their very first visit. Case in point: on September 23, I was in line with a young couple who were, thanks to seemingly endless failures of important postal systems that day, waiting with me and an ever-growing assembly of hopeful (but progressively despairing) patrons for thirty minutes while the lone clerk struggled to bring her station online and calibrate her scale. In case you, yourself, have not visited a post office in a while (or ever), I’m sorry to report that all is not well at this beloved institution. But I digress. My transaction was partially successful, then I was asked to step aside as they tried to work out the final process of fixing a jam in the receipt printer. That is when the young couple stepped up, and I had the opportunity to casually snoop as I waited. It turns out they wished to purchase a pre-stamped envelope. "What size, large or small?" the clerk asked. They showed her the piece of paper they were mailing. She determined that they needed a long, business-sized envelope. She sold it to them. They then asked her what they needed to do with it. She pointed to the middle of the envelope and told them to put the address there, and then pointed to the upper left corner and told them to put the return address there. These terms meant absolutely nothing to them; they required more detailed instructions. After more back and forth than I would have expected, she patiently coached them through the process of addressing their first envelope. If it hadn’t already been printed with the stamp on it, she would have had to show them were to stick it. Before you think I am engaging in Generation-Z bashing, I want to assure you that is not my intention. For them and others even older, the Post Office is some curious relic of the ancient past that they have never needed, nor had any curiosity about. If you were to transport me back in time to a gas-lit telegraph office, I would look just as ludicrous to the impatient line of men wearing bowlers and spats, checking their pocket watches while waiting for me to understand the process of composing a telegram. For these Gen-Zers, for all they knew, the rest of us in line probably rode to the Post Office by horse and buggy. Technologies come and go, and for a generation for whom texting has always been the method of choice for communication, the USPS isn’t on their radar. My college student tenants, who are also subjects of my ongoing study of wonder and amazement, do not even retrieve the mail that is delivered to their mailbox. It holds no interest for them. I have to remind them to put it in the recycle bin when it gets too stuffed for the mailman to fit any more in. For them it is literally junk mail—which brings up another topic, email. It is for them a foreign country they have never visited. But again, I digress. I grew up when regular mail and telephone calls were the only games in town. If your communication could be conducted with a local call, the telephone was the preferred method. For important, urgent matters, the appalling cost of long-distance calls might be justified, but usually a letter would be preferred. I was sending letters—both hand-written and typed on a typewriter—from grade school up until the end of the twentieth century. By then, I preferred the speed and ease of email. I have never owned a cell phone, so for me email, not texting, is still the fancy, futuristic method of communication. My tenants, who don’t know what a landline is, will send texts to my phone number until they’re blue in the thumbs. Their texts affect my landline no more than a GPS signal affects an old paper map from the filling station. Finally, they will text their parents and the parents will call me and tell me that something is broken that I need to go fix. It never occurs to one of my 20-year-old tenants that they can call me on the phone with their actual voice. If have been waiting for me to make a point, here it comes: The Poetry Society of South Carolina has been a hand-written letter in a world of text messages and emojis for a long time. We probably would still be operating the same way had it not been for COVID-19. At first, we simply cancelled the last three meetings of the 2019-2020 calendar year. When the 2020-2021 season approached with COVID unabated, we embraced Zoom technology to allow us to conduct business as (un)usual. And now, here we are, into our third season affected by COVID, evaluating the situation on a month-to-month basis to determine if when we can safely meet in person. But one thing is certain, Zoom is here to stay. Our far-flung membership love it. Our locals... well, for some they prefer it, for others it’s no great shakes. But when we go back to in-person meetings, we will also be Zooming them at the same time, so everybody should be happy. This month is Zoom only. A lot of people have told me that they don’t think they are technologically advanced enough to attend one of these meetings. To them, I say baloney! You can be there in two clicks of a mouse button. But I also say be patient. I have no doubt that we will be back in person at some point within this season; you will not have to settle for second best that much longer. Now, I’d like to make a limited-time offer in the spirit of nostalgia for letter writing. If you write me a letter during the month of October, either by hand or with a typewriter (no fair using a printer), I will write you back. The subject is up to you, but I am especially interested in your experiences with the PSSC. Perhaps you could tell me how you found out about the Society, memories of any members who have since passed away, your favorite memory involving the PSSC, or even something sad. Your topic is not limited to those suggestions. You get extra credit for using an interesting stamp. If you are a member of Generation Z, I would very much like to hear from you, especially if it’s the first letter you ever wrote. If you are sending me a check because you purchased a hardcover copy of The History of the Poetry Society of South Carolina, save two birds with one stamp and include a letter with your check. I promise to write you back in kind with a legitimate letter. I will not always be able to take this much time in my correspondence, but with the book “out there” in the world, I find myself with the desire to put a stamp on an envelope and drop it in the collection box at the old Post Office on Broad Street. Jim Lundy 39 Smith St. Charleston, SC 29401

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. Now is the time to renew your membership, or join if you're not already a member. 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 included in the link. The PSSC October Meeting

Our October meeting will take place virtually. Mai Der Vang will be the featured poet. Reading as opener will be longtime PSSC member Debra Daniel. This will be live-Zoomed at 7:00 and then available for viewing from our Youtube channel later on. Mai is also conducting a workshop on the following day, the directions for participating are included further down the Newsletter. October 8, 7:00 PM About the Event: Mai Der Vang is the author of Yellow Rain (Graywolf Press, 2021), and Afterland (Graywolf Press, 2017), winner of the 2016 Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets, longlisted for the 2017 National Book Award in Poetry, and a finalist for the 2018 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. The recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship, she served as a Visiting Writer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her poetry has appeared in Poetry, Tin House, the American Poetry Review, among other journals and anthologies. Her essays have been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, espnW, and elsewhere. Mai Der also co-edited How Do I Begin: A Hmong American Literary Anthology with the Hmong American Writers’ Circle. A Kundiman fellow, Mai Der has completed residencies at Civitella Ranieri and Hedgebrook. Born and raised in Fresno, California, she earned degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Fresno State. Debra A. Daniel is the author of two poetry chapbooks, The Downward Turn of August (Finishing Line Press), and As Is (Main Street Rag). She was twice named SC Arts Commission Poetry Fellow, won the Guy Owen Poetry Prize, awards from Kakalak journal, as well as numerous awards from the Poetry Society of South Carolina. Her novel, Woman Commits Suicide in Dishwasher was published by Muddy Ford Press. She is a Pushcart nominee, has been long listed for the Bath Flash Fiction Award, shortlisted in Smokelong Quarterly, and has won awards from The Los Angeles Review, Bacopa, the SC Fiction Project. Work has appeared in journals and anthologies including: The Los Angeles Review, Fall Lines, Smokelong Quarterly, Kakalak, Emrys Journal, Pequin, Inkwell, Southern Poetry Review, Tar River, Gargoyle, and the Poetry Society of South Carolina Yearbook. Her most recent publications include two novellas-in-flash, The Roster, (highly commended entry for the Bath Novella-in-Flash Award) and A Family of Great Falls, both published by Ad Hoc Fiction in the UK. 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 "October 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. October 8 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/84410810932?pwd=RXN1ZGZQdFVKQ0R4eU9vQTFVazU0QT09 Meeting ID: 844 1081 0932 Passcode: 863897 One tap mobile +19292056099,,84410810932#,,,,*863897# US (New York) +13017158592,,84410810932#,,,,*863897# 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: 844 1081 0932 Passcode: 863897 Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/keejQv59ws PSSC Zoom Workshop with Mai Der Vang: "To Leap Toward Letting Go" October 9, 10:00 AM 10:00-12:00 noon You must register. Attendance will be limited to 25 participants. Poetry’s nimble ability to traverse language, to compress ideas and meaning while expanding them at the same time, to generate movement and fluidity in all directions, makes it one of the most versatile, shape-shifting creative modalities. So much of that “leaping” or shape-shifting happens through a letting go of control, a willingness to allow the words to speak and do for themselves, and an openness toward their free association with one another. This workshop will explore the poetic leap while examining how a language of free association can deepen a poem’s potential to do and say more. We will read and discuss poems together, and we will practice techniques that encourage creative risk while moving us toward new possibilities in our writing. Register here: PoetrySocietySCWorkshop Member Spotlight: Nancy Dew Taylor

Advance praise for Showing Face: Part memoir, part local history, part heartfelt apology, Showing Face tells a vital story that our nation would rather forget. As the poet imagines the separate-but-unequal worlds of Mabelle Hanna McCray (her family's black maid) and Joseph Armstrong De Laine (a black minister driven out of Lake City, South Carolina, after his church was burned), she knows that what she offers is “too little, too late.” But she also knows that she must “show face”—to honor “two amazing individuals” who might otherwise be unremembered. This powerful book will make Americans of a certain age ask themselves, “How did we not see? Or if we did see, why did we not speak? Or if we did speak, why did we not act sooner?” --Gilbert Allen Author of Believing in Two Bodies (poems) and The Beasts of Belladonna (stories) Contact Nancy Dew Taylor at dewtaylor@charter.net for details on ordering.

If you missed the September season opener with Destiny O. Birdsong, 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 in softcover. To purchase a copy, click here: PSSC Softcover Edition. Those who reserved a hardcover copy should have already received it. There are a few extra hardcovers still available, so if you would like to get a signed copy, respond to this email. MEMBERS IN THE NEWS Miho Kinnas's poem "What Dusk Taught" will appear in a limited-edition, hand-sewn issue of Pinyon Review, No. 20, Fall 2021. Glenis Redmond will be inducted into The South Carolina Academy of Authors. The induction ceremony will be held this Spring. The other two inductees: Ashely Warlick and Tommy Hays. Glenis has a forthcoming book published by University of Georgia Press, Praise Songs For Dave the Potter: Art and Poetry for David Drake by Jonathan Green and Glenis Redmond, with editor and contributor Dr. Gabrielle Foreman and Dr. Lynette Overby. Ann-Chadwell Humphries 's book Finding the Light in the Dark has been reviewed by Sandra J. Lindow in Kaleidoscope. Read the full review here. Nancy Dew Taylor's new book, Showing Face, is now available. Contact Nancy directly for details: DewTaylor@charter.net. Pat Reviere-Seel announces: "Come celebrate with me at my virtual book launch for When There Were Horses - with me on October 7, at 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. Check her website, http://www.patriviereseel.com on the Events page for the invitation. Hosted by the marvelous Malaika King Albrecht and Redheaded Stepchild, there will be an open mic after my reading, so bring a poem to share." Gervais Hagerty's debut novel IN POLITE COMPANY is now available. 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. October's winner gets a signed copy of Nancy Dew Taylor's book Showing Face. The September Poetry Prompt Contest was to write a poem or piece of flash fiction on the topic of School. This prompt proved popular, with five entries. I was glad to receive poems from Ellen Jenks, who sent "The School Bully;" Eugene Platt, who entered "At Trinity College;" Ruth Nicholson submitted "Reversals, 1956;" Danielle Verwers sent "Failed Essay on Education;" and Jackie Morfesis sent "Soul School." The winner is Danielle Verwers, who will receive a signed copy of The Year Book of the Poetry Society of South Carolina: 1922, which includes a new foreword by Jim Lundy. Danielle's poem appears below. Here is the October Prompt: October seems to be a transitional month. We are moving from summer to winter, from growing to harvesting, and with Halloween and the Day of the Dead at the end of the month, we go from a focus from life to death. For October, capture the feeling of transition, especially in the direction of waxing to waning, life to death. I want to leave this as open to interpretation as possible, so use your imaginations to fulfill this theme as you see fit. The winner will get a signed copy of Nancy Dew Taylor's book Showing Face. She will also be the judge for the entries. Send your submissions to FlatBlueSky@hotmail.com on or before October 31. The winner of the September Prompt Contest: Failed Essay on Education after Eliza Gonzales I was born into blue collar know how, convinced I could repair the engine of a broken system I would have done this, but I was tossed A boxed-in room has no windows for open air only the yellow green flicker of fake light I settled for pumping gas into empty tanks praying they wouldn't backfire, leak set us all ablaze... to sell the soul for a salary was an easy thing Now I long for what is more dream than memory: a time when life was lucid tools spread on dad’s workbench Get an education he said So you won't have to live like this the garage door wide open so sunshine could save him a few cents on the electric bill as he worked - Danielle Verwers Copyright © 2021 The Poetry Society of South Carolina, All rights reserved. Our mailing address is: The Poetry Society of South Carolina P.O. Box 1090 Charleston, SC 29402 Our web address is: www.poetrysocietysc.org Find us on Facebook at: The Poetry Society of South Carolina Want to change how you receive these emails? You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

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