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"The Leaves of My Estranged Autumn"

Updated: Nov 5, 2023

A Letter from the President

Hello, friends! Forgive my later and later newsletter. Here we are on the 5th of October. The whirlwind I am caught up in just keeps moving me along, and it takes a while to come back down to earth long enough to write -- and I always have so much to tell you. (Wow, the Members in the News section is hopping... wait til you see.) This weekend, I greet you from Jackson, Mississippi, where I am facilitating a workshop at an HBCU Conference at Jackson State University.

Well, it's Banned Books Week (shall we call them "estranged books"?) and I heartily invite you to read a book of poems by someone whose work is now or has been banned or otherwise estranged from libraries. I'm thinking of Federico Garcia Lorca, from whose poem "Sonnet of the Sweet Complaint" I borrowed for the title of this letter.(Side note: those who know me well know that I have been working on a memoir of sorts about family estrangement called Same Moon Shining so the title is also deeply relevant to me.)

Anyway, I doubt this sonnet was banned... it seems harmless, but Lorca, a revolutionary, lived under the "the constant threat of censorship". My favorite of his poems is "Lament for the Death of Ignacio Sanchez Majias," also known as "Five in the Afternoon." I have watched the video performance of the poem by Andy Garcia many times, and each time I am deeply moved. The poet, who was murdered by fascists, left behind much to wrestle with, and I'm glad his work wasn't obliterated. If there are holes in what we are reading, how can we know the whole story?

Though the term "revolutionary" can refer to a political movement, we also use it to mean something or someone who causes (or seeks to cause) dramatic change. And I am here to tell you that, in some sense, I aim to see a revolutionary change in our outreach during my time of leadership. I want to see us grow. Did I mention it's time to renew your membership? and if you're not a pay-online person, Jim Lundy will be happy to take a check. I believe he would be happy if you put all your pennies in a barrel and rolled it down the Charleston streets to his house. Even more important than money, however, is every person who can bring interest, talent, and strength to this Society.

And what better time than just before our Fall Contests open?

Alright, let's rewind and look at what was going on in September. On the 30th, I gathered with folks to listen to Yvette Murray at her Words, Words, Words event at the Richland Library Southeast in Columbia. Hosted by member Al Black, this joyful event also featured music by Brian's Moms (Candace Chellew and Beth DeHart). I had the pleasure of introducing Yvette.

Al Black and Yvette Murray

(This and all photos are mine).

Brian's Moms

Yvette Murray at the mic

Members and other guests enjoying the reading.

(You can click on the photo to visit the library's website.)

Earlier in the month (on the 8th), we had a marvelous traditional reading at the Charleston Library Society with Katherine Williams and Rebecca Aronson.

Rebecca Aronson with an attentive audience.

Katherine Williams getting things started.

Jim Lundy and Rebecca Aronson

Jessy Hylton and Gary Jackson

And of course, Buxton Books came through for us again.

That reminds me. Buxton Books would like to change things up a bit starting in November by inviting us just around the corner to the bookstore for wine and signings after the reading, which sounds like fun to me. Your thoughts?

Irresistible window at Buxton Books

Then, backing up all the way to September 2... we had a reading and open mic at Good Life Cafe in downtown Columbia that turned out to be delightful.

Jane Zenger

Janet Kozachek reading to other familiar faces.

(Who can you identify?)

And I believe that briefly summarizes September. Up next, Sarah Cooper with Eugene Platt on October 13! Hope to see you there.

We do have a Poetry Trails event coming up at Swan Lake Iris Gardens, but it may be in January because October and November are packed! Much thanks to Janet Kozachek and Christina Baumis for their efforts on putting this event together.

Every Corner, Every County!


The October Reading

October 13, 2023: Sarah Cooper

with opening reader Eugene Platt

Gage Hall

4 Archdale Street.

Charleston, SC 29401

Also Live Zoomed

Canadian-American poet Dr. Sarah Cooper is a Professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at Clemson. She is the author of two poetry collections: Permanent Marker (Paper Nautilus, 2020) and 89% (Clemson University Press 2022). Her poems also appear in Lunch, Sinister Wisdom, Iron Horse and in Poem-A-Day. As a professor she has received the Holman Award for teaching, was a 2021 LGBTQ+ Faculty Excellence Award winner, a 2022 Gentry Award winner for teaching excellence and the 2022 Tee A. Corrine Fellow at the University of Oregon.

To enjoy this reading through Zoom, click this link on the night of the reading:

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 874 4483 6621

Passcode: 387150

Saturday seminar/workshop with Sarah Cooper, Oct. 13:

Seminar Title: Writing the Body, the Body Writing: Poetic Voice & Uncertainty *If you are attending in person, please pay for a workshop/seminar at our website. Scroll down until you see the seminar options. Note that there is also a Zoom attendee registration, just to help us keep up with how many are attending. Thank you. During this workshop we will examine the power of voice when crafting vulnerable poems. We will begin by turn to poets who have done this and analyze methods for deploying voice. Then, we will move into our own writing and ask: who/what is the poetic voice in our writing? How do your experiences shape your poetic voice? Topic: Sarah Cooper Seminar/Workshop Time: Oct 14, 2023 10:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada) Join Zoom Meeting Meeting ID: 863 2063 2762 Passcode: 165743

Main (Traditional) Program for the Upcoming 2023-2024 Calendar Year

*Other events such as regional workshops, readings, etc. will be listed separately on our website and featured in the newsletter when possible.

Readings are at 7 p.m., on the 2nd Friday of each month with rare exceptions. They are free and open to the public. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Unless otherwise specified, events take place at the Charleston Library Society, 164 King Street, Charleston, SC 29401 and are also Zoomed live. An alternative location referenced for some events is Gage Hall, part of the Unitarian Church, 4 Archdale Street, Charleston, SC.

Workshops are at 10 a.m. on the following day (Saturday). They are $10 for members and $15 for non-members, with the exception of Zoom attendees (observation only) and students, who may attend free. Payments are made at the website using the Join Us (and Workshops) tab. Details are subject to change, so always consult our website for the most current information. Members have also received a complete program with your Yearbook.

October 13 and 14, 2023: Sarah Cooper with Eugene Platt

November 10 and 11, 2023: Willie Kinard III with Cassie Primo Steele

December 8 , 2023: Annual Holiday Party and Member Showcase

January 12, 2024: Members' Open Mic

February 9 and 10, 2024: Maya Marshall

March 8 and 9, 2024: Angelo Geter

April 12 and 13, 2024: Tarfia Faizullah

May 10 and 11: May Forum with John Hoppenthaler

Join us as you can for any or all events! It's going to be a magnificent program. Thank you to Danielle DeTiberus, former Program Chair for lining up the main readers for us one more time, and to Jessy Hylton, current Program Chair, for organizing our Opening Readers! Opening Readers for February-May will be added as they are selected.


Members in the News and other Community Events

Al Black will be working with Vivian Glover to host a Spoken Word Concert as part of the SC 2023 Humanities Festival. Orangeburg County Fine Arts Center, 649 Riverside Drive, Orangeburg, on Friday, October 20th, from 5:00-6:00pm. Also, Al's latest Poetry of the People features Elizabeth Robin. And while we are talking about Elizabeth: She has also appeared in Local Life Magazine (Fantastic coverage of the Hilton Head Poetry Trail and local poets!) and she has shared this TV interview (! Glenda Bailey-Mershon has an online book launch for her new poetry collection, Weaver's Knot, coming up on Sunday, October 15, 3-5 p.m. Claire Bateman will be reading from her new collection of poetry, Wonders of the Invisible World, at M. Judson Booksellers as part of their In Conversation series, and Gil Allen will be her partner in conversation! October 18, 5:30 p.m.. This is a free event. Cindi Boiter has invited us to a reading from Ed Madden's new book, A Story of the City: poems occasional and otherwise, published by Muddy Ford Press. Tuesday, October 10, at 5 p.m. The Progressive Network's GROW space is located at 1340 Elmwood Street in Columbia. Introduction by Ray McManus, and special readings by Al Black and Jennifer Bartell, the current city poet laureate! Cindi also encourages us to attend Jasper Magazine's Literary Tent at the Rosewood Art & Music Festival, which features Sandra Johnson, Ed Madden, Carla Damron, Jane Zenger, Susan Craig, and Evelyn Berry, among others.

Buxton Books and Unbound Edition Press Present

Mon, Oct 9 at 6:30pm

A second event with Atsuro will be held at the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library Program Room on Wednesday, October 11, 6-7:30 p.m., as part of USC's Fall Literary Festival 2023.

You have got to see and hear Ashley Crout's YouTube reading of her poem "Riding and Stopping, and Riding Again," which was featured in the City of Greenville's Bus project Greenlink Poems. Brilliant.

Lisa Hase-Jackson's Insomnia in Another Town will soon be published by Clemson University Press. It won the 2023 Clemson-Converse MFA prize and will be part of the Converse-Clemson Literary Series. Judge Claire Bateman said this about the collection:

Insomnia in Another Town is a peripatetic exploration of place and displacement; animal life and strange weathers; the exigencies of race, class, and gender as childhood memories emit a dark radiance by which to navigate the present. These poems are quietly perceptive, unflinching: There is no small grief…/for all are/interconnected. One touch/sends tremors through our core/like the fly in the web/that wakes the spider at its center. Nevertheless, there’s significant courage here with grace notes of buoyancy as readers are reawakened to joyin bird song along the power lines/and between the tunes/on the radio,/the interstices/of thoughts/no one thinks about.

Jo Angela Edwinswill be featured at the upcoming Poetry Book Club event hosted by Coast Brewing and Itinerant Literate Books on October 21, 2pm – 3pm. Special thanks to our Vice President, Len Lawson, for organizing the ongoing book club events.

Janet Kozachek has organized a PSSC presentation and poetry reading for Saturday, November 4th at the Orangeburg County Library!

Here is the tentative schedule:

10:00 - 10:10: Introduction to the Poetry Society of South Carolina. PSSC President Tamara Miles

10:10 - 10:25: Reading: Tamara Miles

10:25 - 10:40: Reading: Charles Watts

10:40 - 10:55: Reading: Janet Kozachek

10:55 - 11:10: Reading: JoAngela Edwins

11:10 - 11:15: Reading: Al Black

11:15: Grab a delicious Treat

11:30 - 12:00 Open Mic, or more presentations from our select readers depending upon attendance.

Janet also has a PSSC event tentatively scheduled at the Edisto Blackwater Boogie Festival at Gihvens Ferry Park, which is Oct. 27-29. Please stay tuned to social media and the PSSC website for confirmation and details.

Jessy Hylton has shared the following: "Thanks so much for all those who came out last night to hear Jane Zenger! We had a lovely time, and it was amazing getting some new voices on the mic for open mic.

Hopefully, you can join us next week to hear work from Jo Angela Edwins!"

You can order Jo Angela's debut full-length poetry book, A Dangerous Heaven, at The Living Room, a community event center that also houses the Columbia Hub of the Poetry Society, will now be offering classes of various kinds: poetry, art, enrichment, spiritual development/interest, gardening, yoga, guitar, and more. Tamara Miles will soon be teaching some classes, as will Glenda Bailey-Mershon and others. More to come on that soon. Would you like to teach a class? You are not limited to the subjects mentioned here. Tell us what you have in mind and whether you want to teach in person or online: Frances Pearce's poem “A Glimpse” received an honorable mention in the inaugural Charles Moore Poetry Prize Competition, judged by Heather McHugh, and was published in Of Woods and Waters, an anthology. Eugene Platt arranged for our upcoming reading (Oct. 13!) to be featured in Pure Theatre's newsletter. Special thanks to Meagan McMahon of Pure Theatre! Cassie Premo Steele has a new book, Swimming in Gilead, with photography by Sofia Tata. The book will be released by Yellow Arrow Publishing in October. Richard Allen Taylor has a new website is ready for visitors. You'll find information about him, a sampling of his poetry, info on his books, readings, and a new blog. Please note his new book also featured below. Richard Allen Taylor, Poet Author, LETTERS TO KAREN CARPENTER AND OTHER POEMS available here The South Carolina Writers Association has invited Poetry Society members to its annual conference, Storyfest, November 3-5 at the Columbia Convention Center. Complete details here. They are featuring Jason Mott as the keynote, and Ed Madden (Poet Laureate of Columbia from 2015-2023) as one of the faculty. What events or publications have you got coming up?


And... we're still looking for guest housing for our program poets this fall, so let me know if you can help!


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.

Thank you to everyone who submitted a poem this month, and to Glenda Bailey-Mershon, who served as the judge for our latest contest. The winner: "On the Trail, Off the Grid," by Paula Appling of Pickens County!

Here are some thoughts from Glenda, followed by the complete poem:

"I chose this poem for its extended metaphor that activates the imagination. Thinking about life in the confining space of a narrow trail makes us question how we view our lifespans and why."

On the Trail, Off the Grid

When I am fortunate,

my life is eight to twenty-four inches wide

and stretches long before me

and turning,

I can see the past.

One step follows another.

That is all.

(Congratulations, Paula!)

This month's prompt, in keeping with the theme of this newsletter, is "Estrangement". An alternative could be something about banned books/censorship. Submit a poem or piece of flash fiction related to one or both of these themes. Take this in any direction you want. We'll announce the winner in November.

Send the poems to, and let me know which county you are in!


Copyright © 2023 The Poetry Society of South Carolina, All rights reserved.

Photo credit: unknown

Editor: Tamara Miles

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