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"Shut Not Your Doors to Me, Proud Libraries"

Updated: Apr 3, 2023

A Letter from the President

Dear Bestsellers,

On Sunday, I was a human book in the Human Library at the Camden Branch of the Kershaw County Library. It was a fascinating experience, and at the end I received a certificate as a Bestseller. It only took three "readers" for me to earn that rank. One of the best questions posed to me during the readings was, "What gave you the most hope in life despite the challenges you've described?" I had a wonderful mother, I said. Along with her loving care of many kinds, she took me to the library and gave me a life. If you think about it, every library is a Human Library.

If you're following my Every Corner, Every County initiative on social media, you may have noticed that I'm constantly at a library on this journey. It's because I know that every library is an opportunity. They are hubs for curiosity, for open minds, and learning about new passions. Librarians are a collective that shapes our communities. LIke Ray Bradbury, one of my heroes, I really can't say enough about how wonderful they are. On Saturday morning, I was at the McClellanville branch of the Charleston County Library with poet, artist, and extraordinary soul, Melanie McClellan-Hartnell, who has created a traveling wall of poetry and art to which people can contribute. She graciously hosted me at her beautiful forest home covered in ivy.

There was a good reminder from Melanie on the wall in the form of a painting she did in Madrid... "Slow down" and enjoy the moment.

While I was in McClellanville, I met two wonderful librarians who want to do a project with the PSSC. This is one of them...

Later the same day, I stopped at the Harvin Clarendon County Library on my way home, and marveled at the incredible mural that spreads across the ceiling and around the room.

I was also reminded by the fire truck book cart that words and ideas ... and hope... can spread like wildfire.

These are just a few of the libraries I've visited around the state, my friends. I counted, and I've made at least one meaningful contact (in person) in 22 counties so far. We're nearly halfway there, and it feels like a milestone. I've been bringing myself, and you with me, and Walt Whitman:

I'm telling our story because...

But I'm getting ahead of myself, and I need to rewind to earlier events in February! What about Gary Jackson's marvelous reading and workshop at Gage Hall? The reading was packed, and we enjoyed the opening reader, Jammie Hunyh, as well as the joyful announcement of fall contest winners. And it's such a beautiful place, day and night.

And the wonderful Buxton Books came to us...

The workshop was a rainy day wonder -- I sat with Gary, Ruth, Peggy, Tina, and Judith in person and on Zoom, considering persona and its many possibilities for poetry. Unfortunately, I was so busy I forgot to take photographs, but I did come out with a poem called "Van Gogh as Family Therapist."

I also visited Allendale in February, meeting a poet named whose pen name is "Love, Lotus..." (this is the way she ends her poems, and it's come to be used as the name Love Lotus). She gave a reading from her first book, When a Lotus Flower Flourishes, at the Allendale County Library. I was also able to speak to a librarian there about doing a shared project with the five libraries that are connected in that area...

Where I go, the Poetry Society goes. I take along yearbooks so everyone can see how our words have traveled over the years. Oh, and on the way to meet Love, I stopped at the Denmark Public Library to drop off a book of South Carolina Poetry, which the archives at Furman University has generously provided us with for distribution. Thank you to Emily Rosko, PSSC Vice President, for obtaining these wonderful books that contain several Society members' poems from earlier years. Can you believe I've already made it to 22 counties! I need to give you a full report soon... and meanwhile, back at home in the Columbia area, we're not slowing down either.

Besides libraries, coffee shops are wonderful places to read poetry, and I was pleased to join Mind Gravy as a featured poet along with musician Lang Owen, poets Kelley Lannigan, Kent Singleton, Candi Guilds, and others... hosted by Al Black at Cool Beans. This event takes place every Wednesday night. Come out and bring your poems for the Open Mic portion, and you can find out more at Mind Gravy Poetry!


Member Spotlight: Helen Brandenburg

By Jim Lundy

Helen Brandenburg describes the core of her being like this: “It’s all about art. Nothing pleases me more.” She can pinpoint the exact moment that art entered her soul. Young Helen was playing in the attic of her family’s downtown Charleston home one day, within earshot of her older sister and her sister’s friend. When they put an Edith Piaf record on the record player, Piaf’s voice connected directly to Helen’s soul. She had the urge to react to it; she began to dance. Helen was not new to dance then. When she was much younger, a doctor recommended she take ballet lessons to strengthen her knees. But after the Piaf record, she became very serious about dancing and studied under Stanley Zompakos, the founder and artistic director of the Charleston Civic Ballet Company. Ballet would be a mainstay of her existence for many years.

Poetry, on the other hand, came later, although she probably has always had the Poetry Society of South Carolina woven into her DNA without knowing it. Her two great-aunts, Panchita Heyward Grimball and Maria Hayne Heyward, were both charter members of the Poetry Society, appearing in the membership list in the 1921 Yearbook through the 1930s. Panchita was the wife of Judge William H. Grimball, of the Ninth Judicial Circuit and lived in Charleston. Maria never married and lived at the family’s ancestral property, Wappaoola Plantation, located on the west side of the Cooper River, approximately opposite Mepkin Abbey. There, Helen’s maternal grandmother and her siblings grew up bilingual, speaking Gullah as fluently as standard English. Sadly, the plantation was lost through improvident investments by one of the siblings in the stock market crash of 1929.

Another type of art, visual artistic expression, is in Helen’s family tree on her mother’s side. She was the granddaughter of the famous painter Edmund C. Tarbell of Massachusetts, one of the collective of American Impressionists calling themselves “The Ten American Painters,” or “The Ten” for short. Edmund Tarbell’s famous 1891 painting, “In the Orchard,” which was to be passed down to Helen, but then was sadly lost for a fraction of its value to an opportunist buyer during a family financial crisis.

Helen herself was the subject of art painted by the artist William Halsey, after whom the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston is named. “I had the ability to sit completely still for hours, so he liked using me as a paid model,” according to Helen. She has one of those Halsey portraits in her collection to this day. With Halsey, there is another foreshadowing link to the Poetry Society; he won the Poetry Society’s prize for the best poem by a South Carolinian high school student in 1931. It seems like the PSSC and Helen have always been on an inexorable path to collide at some point.

That point came in the summer of 2004 when Helen, by then an English teacher at Bishop England High School, was taking a required continuing education class at the College of Charleston. The class was taught by Paul Allen, a legendary CofC English professor with links to the Poetry Society going back to the late 1970s. He saw Helen’s potential in poetry and recommended she contact Richard Garcia, who had recently moved to Charleston and was looking for students for his poetry salon and workshop group called The Long Table Poets. This was the start of an abiding interest in poetry that has lasted to this day, and culminating in 2008 with winning the most coveted (and lucrative) of all PSSC prizes, the Society Prize, for her poem “After the Storm.” Helen eventually retired from Bishop England after thirty years of teaching.

Helen’s introduction to the Poetry Society came, coincidentally, at the end of the five-year stint of PSSC treasurer Trudy Evans. Helen had previously worked as a bookkeeper and had unequaled skills at reconciling bank statements, honed back in the early computer punch-card days. She was convinced to take Trudy’s place on the board for the 2006-2007 calendar year and stuck with it until she became ill in 2020 and decided that it would be a good time to start lessening the load. All told, she was treasurer for fourteen years. This is the PSSC record for the longest continuous service as treasurer in the history of the organization.

Looking back over the last eighteen years of continuous Poetry Society membership, Helen says the best thing about the PSSC is belonging to the community of friends she made there. Her soul is still being fed through beauty, poetry, and art.


2022-2023 Program

For those who are new: the Poetry Society's official calendar runs from September to May. The traditional program of readings for this year is provided below. Scroll down for more information on individual poets and visit the PSSC website for greater detail and to RSVP. The events are the second Friday of the month and the Saturday that follows it. Each poet presents a reading and seminar. With the exception of February and March, all events will take place on the second Friday of the month at the Charleston Library Society. February and March events will be held at the Unitarian Church in Charleston, 4 Archdale Street.

September 2022: Melissa Crowe October 2022: Han VanderHart November 2022: Jaki Shelton Green (canceled) December 2022: Holiday Party January 2023: Member's Open Mic February 2023: Gary Jackson March 2023: Ed Madden April 2023: Raena Shirali May 2023: Glenis Redmond

This month's guest poet: Ed Madden (with opening poet Cora Schipa).

March 17, 7 p.m.

Gage Hall

4 Archdale Street


For the March reading, we're delighted to have the former Poet Laureate of Columbia, Ed Madden, reading for us in replacement for Jill McDonough's planned visit. He will also host a seminar/workshop on Saturday. You can register at the website.

He has a new book out, which we're all excited about:

A pooka in Arkansas. Release date March 15.

Selected by Timothy Liu for the Hilary Tham Capital Collection. Growing up gay in rural culture, one learns to be a shapeshifter. One learns that some stories can be told, some can't, and some get told slant. As he sifts through songs, scripture, folktales, and memories of the past, Ed Madden finds in the Irish pooka/púca—shapeshifter, trickster, beast—a figure for longing, loss, and the liberation of stories too long held inside.

Ed Madden is the author of five books and four chapbooks of poetry, most recently A pooka in Arkansas, which was selected for the Hilary Tham Capital Collection, and Ark, a book about his father’s last months in hospice care. He is a professor of English and the former director of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of South Carolina, where he teaches Irish literature, queer studies, and creative writing. Ed served as the poet laureate for the City of Columbia, SC, 2015-2022. He is recipient of an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship and artist residencies at the Hambidge Center in Georgia and the Instituto Sacatar in Itaparica, Brazil.

Poetry Society of South Carolina is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Ed Madden Reading

Time: Mar 10, 2023 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Zoom link for Friday (open to the public)

Saturday's Workshop Topic

FORMS, ENCOUNTERS, GHOSTS: The barber shop. The grocery store. Your own kitchen. A song, a psalm, a fairytale. Encounters real or imagined. Texts that haunt you. Writing what you don't know in the form of what you know.

Zoom link for Saturday (observation only) -- to participate in person, please register at the website or pay in person. Students and Zoom attendees are free, but may not have materials provided or interaction with the poet. (It is at the poet's discretion).

Buxton Books will have the new book available for purchase!

"Opened in 2016, Buxton Books is located on King Street, the main thoroughfare in downtown Charleston. The bookstore specializes in ticketed, dynamic, book-included events both in the bookstore and at many different venues in the city, and they are proud to be the official bookseller for the Poetry Society of South Carolina."

Together, we can go places. Measured places, with stanzas.

Tamara Miles President


The Writers Group is Back! Please join us. Read about our workshop leader and details about the group at the links below. This is an in-person event only.

March 11


April 14 and 15: Raena Shirali

For these events, we will return to the Charleston Library Society, King Street.

Reading, Friday, 7 pm

Seminar, Saturday, 10 am-11:30 a.m.

Raena Shirali is the author of two collections of poetry. Her first book, GILT (YesYes Books, 2017), won the 2018 Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award, and her second, summonings (Black Lawrence Press, 2022), won the 2021 Hudson Prize. Winner of a Pushcart Prize & a former Philip Roth Resident at Bucknell University, Shirali is also the recipient of prizes and honors from VIDA, Gulf Coast, Boston Review, & Cosmonauts Avenue. Formerly a Co-Editor-in-Chief of Muzzle Magazine, Shirali now serves as Faculty Advisor for Folio—a literary magazine dedicated to publishing works by undergraduate students at the national level. She holds an MFA in Poetry from The Ohio State University and is an Assistant Professor of English at Holy Family University. The Indian American poet was raised in Charleston, South Carolina, and now lives in Philadelphia.


May 12 and 13: Glennis Redmond

Charleston Library Society, King Street

Reading, Friday 7 pm

Seminar, Saturday 10 am

Glenis Redmond is a performance poet, a Kennedy Center Teaching Artist, and a Cave Canem alumni. She is the author of three books of poetry: Backbone (Underground Epics, 2000), Under the Sun (Main Street Rag, 2002), and What My Hand Say (Press 53, 2016). She will have three more books published in 2022: Listening Skin (Four Way Books), Three Harriets & Others (Finishing Line Press), and Praise Songs for Dave the Potter, Art by Jonathan Green, and Poetry by Glenis Redmond (University of Georgia Press). She is presently working on a seventh collection, Port Cities: Portals of the Second (Domestic) Middle Passage.


Members in the News

Ashley Crout, board member, has had four poems accepted by Screen Door Review. Unsure of the publication date: look for more information next month! Christina Baumis, board member, has a new haiku published at the Haiku Foundation. Its Haiku Dialogue, Avian Adventures features her wonderful poem about a heron. Yvette Murray, board member, has a beautiful new book out this summer: Hush, Puppy. “Hush, Puppy” rocks, dances, strides, kicks, prances, and taps across pages that can barely contain such rich music. It is replete with heritage, history, today’s news, and some language of the future not quite heard yet— Richard Garcia William Epes is hosting Tuesday Duets 3/7 @ 8 PM ET Jonathan Brown & Kimberly J. Simms Save the Date! Tuesday Duets 3/7 @ 8:00 PM ET brings seasoned Southern slam and hip-hop poets Kimberly J. Simms & Jonathan Brown as Featured Artists to our virtual Tuesday Duets stage. Expect eye- and ear-popping musicality, deep historical reach, passion and storytelling drawn from books, albums, and new digital projects. This is Greenville, SC, meets New Orleans, LA in verse on the great, big cultural bridge across the literary New South. Join Zoom Meeting Janet Kozachek is our new Community Outreach Coordinator; she's just getting started, so look for words from her coming up. Meanwhile, she has a new book of art and poetry that will be available this summer: A Book of Bothersome Cats. “Janet Kozachek dares us to underestimate her. Light verse? Anthropomorphic cats? Listen and look deeply into this beautiful book for all the layers the author has laid for us like gentle surprises. Tucked into corners and borders, the delight lies in the details: Procrastinator Cat’s bedside reading; Bully Cat’s elaborate jacket; the Guru Cat sitting on a rattlesnake; a cigar held in the paw of the floofy Fat Cat; suggestive portraits on Proper Cat’s dining room wall; and my favorite, the marvelous, coiling tunnel to the rabbit underground of Conspiracy Cat. The author sets an expectation for twists at the turn of every page. As a polymath and multi-artist, Kozachek has way too much understanding and artistic ammunition to take her magnificently annoying array of cats less seriously. Her book has both softness and claws, and her wry, rhyming wit also holds compassion for human folly. "In the tradition of Eliot and Lear, A Book of Bothersome Cats sent this pandemic reader laughing back to Stanley Kunitz’s more serious concerns. In our darkest days, he advised us, “Live in the layers, not on the litter.” Kozachek’s book howls quietly, with a big, silent grin and a twitching tail that does not go away.” – William Epes, founder of the online arts resource group “strand line break,” host of the multi-arts, open mic series Tuesday Duets. “Janet Kozachek’s A Book of Bothersome Cats, a sequel to her Book of Marvelous Cats, is playful and fun. Its rhymes and colorful feline characters make it seem suited to children, but the foibles and flaws the bothersome cats possess are decidedly adult maladies. Her illustrations, as always, are precise and intricate, inviting long study to encourage appreciation of every detail. Like all cats, the bothersome cats are complicated characters who are nevertheless endearing and well worth getting to know.” – JoAngela Edwins, Ph.D. Professor of English, Francis Marion University. Poet Laureate of the Pee Dee Region of South Carolina. Author, Play. Winner of the SC Academy of Authors' Carrie McCray Nickens Poetry Fellowship, Pushcart Prize. “A famous artist once said that art was a poem without words. A famous poet once said that poets create art with words. In A Book of Bothersome Cats, Janet Kozachek does both. I encourage you to buy this book; in fact, buy several and give them as gifts." – Al Black, Founder and President of Mind Gravy Poetry, author of I Only Left for Tea and Man with Two Shadows; co-editor of Poets Respond to Race. Short Bio: Janet Kozachek is an internationally trained and exhibited artist. She holds a Master of Fine Arts Degree in painting and drawing from Parsons School of Design in New York and a Certificate of graduate study from the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing (CAFA). She is the author of The Book of Marvelous Cats, My Women My Monsters, and A Rendering of Soliloquies – Figures Painted in Spots of Time, and A Book of Bothersome Cats. Sample Poem (with publisher's permission to allow for a sample) Illustration attached. Troll Cat Troll Cat follows you on social media, denigrating all your links to Kittypedia. He tells you that he thinks it strange, for a cat to say that people can cause the climate to change. Then quick as a wink, off he’ll tread, and perch himself on another’s thread. His whiskers twitch and he begins to smirk, as he calls a climate change denier cat a “jerk.” He finds it amusing to be a troll, gallivanting about from pole to pole, poking one friend, then prodding another, confessing to a sister, then tattling to her brother. Troll cat sparks fires by calling out names, keeping the taunts ever flowing to fan all the flames. Pretending to be a Persian Cat he calls a Siamese weird, suggesting he hide his face by growing a beard. Then he says Siamese Cats are the best cats around and that the Maine Coon Cats have put on too many pounds. Just to add to Troll Cat’s fun for a while, He steals the famous Lola Angora Cat’s profile. Through this illustrious cat’s face he speaks, spreading news that a Tom Cat cannot control his leaks. Then pretending to be an educated Tabby, He says that Norwegian Forest Cats tend to be too flabby. Then Troll Cat summons everyone to say that the only good cats left are all from Norway. Troll Cat just enjoys stirring up all kinds of trouble – especially for folks who live in a bubble. He can do it all from inside his house, for he rules the world with a keyboard and mouse.

Angelo Geter has announced the 3rd annual One Word Poetry Festival in Rock Hill from April 27-30, 2023. The week Is full of an adult open mic w/live band, workshops, a youth arts showcase, poetry slam competition and a poetry brunch which will feature a reading and panel discussion from all the SC Poets Laureate. Columbia, SC: Jennifer Bartell Boykin (recently appointed) Greenville, SC: Glenis Redmond (recently appointed) Charleston, SC: Asiah Thomas (recently appointed) PeeDee area: Jo Angela Edwins Edgefield, SC: J. Drew Lanham Rock Hill, SC: Angelo Geter Rock Hill Youth Poet Laureate: Abigail McCluney Evelyn Berry will be hosting a 30/30 Poetry Prompts event for National Poetry Month in April: Join her Facebook group here. Marcus Amaker's Free Verse Poetry Festival has published its upcoming events.          

And you? What are you up to? Send me word. I'm planning to go to Every Corner, Every County.


Hey-ho, we now have PSSC hats. I love my PSSC mug for sipping espresso, and Tina Baumis looks fabulous in her long-sleeve shirt. Take a look at what else is available. A portion of the proceeds goes to the Poetry Society. You can look sporty and support the important work of the Poetry Society with each purchase. Click here to visit the website. You can also pick up a copy of The History of the Poetry Society of South Carolina from Amazon --- and if you enjoy it, please leave a review.


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.

The Prompt Contest will take a hiatus until further notice. Stay tuned..


Copyright © 2022 The Poetry Society of South Carolina, All rights reserved.

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Editor: Tamara Miles

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