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What's at the End of the COVID Tunnel?

Updated: Jan 1, 2022

A Letter From the President

When I got my first job out of college and my own apartment, I fulfilled a childhood dream and bought an ant farm. The kit contained everything I would need—the white sand, food, water dropper, and instructions—but the ants had to be ordered separately through the mail by sending in the coupon that came with the kit. Replacement ants could be ordered later for a fee, as circumstances demanded. Since it’s illegal to send reproductive insects through the mail, the small box of worker ants arrived without a queen. I had envisioned egg nurseries, nurse ants, drones, and all the working roles of a living, thriving colony. Instead, the ants, once released from their special postal container into the farm, tunneled single-mindedly to escape the new prison they found themselves in. Nevertheless, this sense of purpose seemed to give their lives meaning and an enviable work ethic. I followed their progress in trying to escape in a far less industrious manner: from my couch. The instructions were very specific about feeding, watering, and avoiding direct sunlight. I was also very strongly cautioned against tampering with them in any way. They would not react well to people tapping on the clear plastic sides, shaking the farm, or knocking it over. I followed all the instructions to a tee. Then one day while vacuuming, I knocked the ant farm from the coffee table with a wild repositioning of the vacuum’s cord. This destroyed their progress on an elaborate network of tunnels and caused a frenzy of activity among the survivors. I feared the worst, but they redoubled their efforts in escaping their plastic prison. The dead were stacked like cordwood on one end of the farm, the living kept digging to the freedom they envisioned. Not more than a week later, another freak accident on my part—the exact circumstances of which escape my memory—set the ant farm on its side once again. This time the ants did not immediately set about returning their prison camp to order. Having suffered one too many setbacks, they never tried to tunnel again. They seemed to lapse into a state of despondency, of deep melancholia. They stopped eating and drinking. They loitered listlessly at the surface of the sand until they died. I have come to think of our experiences during COVID-19 as one big ant farm that keeps getting tipped over. Just like the ants, we all thought of the initial shutdown in 2020 to “flatten the curve” as a temporary situation out from which we would soon tunnel. Shutdowns here and around the world, however, ended too soon and cases spiked. As progress was made on treatments and vaccines and became available, I was sure that our time in the plastic box would soon be over. Surely, I thought, COVID would be vanquished like polio and smallpox, whose vaccines had very enthusiastic public acceptance. What I never imagined was that a significant portion of the population would fight against getting the vaccines. Even now, too many are still unvaccinated for “herd immunity” to work. The end we imagined has been greatly postponed. We are having our and farm knocked over once again. The risk of despondency is real. Rather than surrender to it, we must return to some semblance of social gatherings that bring us joy. Unlike earlier in the pandemic, we now know how to do it safely. It has been close to two years since the PSSC met in person. The very heart and soul of the Poetry Society is the society, and that does not translate well through Zoom meetings. Coexisting with COVID will be the new normal for a while, perhaps even years. We are therefore going back to in-person meetings and we hope to keep it up through the rest of the calendar year, culminating with the annual Forum meeting in May. For December, which has normally been our annual Holiday Party, we are going to repeat last year’s very successful poetry showcase of some of the PSSC’s best poets, but this time it will take place in person at the Charleston Library Society. The CLS now has an advanced air filtering system specifically for airborne viruses, and they are already well practiced in setting up event seating for social distancing. We will require precautions like wearing masks, maintaining distance, and requiring all those in attendance to be fully vaccinated. This will also be a members’ book fair. Anyone with books or merchandise to sell may bring them to the meeting. Anyone who is not a current member can become one at the meeting and sell books at the reception. This will be a great pre-holiday opportunity to buy last-minute gifts for the readers in your life. Please bring cash or checks with you in case your favorite poet cannot accept credit cards or digital money transfers. We will Zoom this and all future meetings, so if you do not live close enough to attend, are not ready to be around people, or are not willing to get vaccinated you can still get the experience in front of your computer or smartphone. This month’s meeting will be a sink-or-swim experiment in zooming like this. Hopefully it will go flawlessly, but please don't get ants in your pants if it doesn't. 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 December Meeting

Our December meeting will take place in person at the Charleston Library Society, 164 King St., Charleston 29401. The reading will feature a showcase of the best poets of the PSSC and will be followed by a book fair. Anyone wishing to sell books at this event is invited to do so. If you are not a current member, you will be asked to join in order to sell your books. Attendance is free and open to the public. Masks are required. We ask that only those who are fully vaccinated attend this meeting. This will be live-Zoomed at 7:00 and then available for viewing from our Youtube channel later on. Dec 10, 7:00 PM Zoom Event

Reading for this event will be Marjory Wentworth, Miho Kinnas, Marcus Amaker, Tamara Miles, Charles Watts, and perhaps one other to be named later. This is an amazing lineup. You will not want to miss it, and since it will also be Zoomed, everybody can attend, either in person or virtually.

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 "December 10 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. December 10 PSSC Meeting

Alternate Easy instructions for joining the meeting live: 1. Go to our website: 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 Meeting ID: 863 5599 7972 Passcode: 805387 One tap mobile +19292056099,,86355997972#,,,,*805387# US (New York) +13017158592,,86355997972#,,,,*805387# 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: 863 5599 7972 Passcode: 805387 Find your local number:

Member Spotlight: Linda Joy Walder

PSSC member and Charleston resident Linda Joy Walder is a complex and multi-faceted woman. Her creativity blossomed in early childhood, and she began writing poetry in elementary school. Her artistic bent continued throughout her education, studying art, literature, and history. After graduating from Vassar College, Linda thrived in the creative world of art and fashion public relations. Then, after graduating from The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Linda continued her focus on the arts as an attorney for artists. For the past 20 years, Linda Joy Walder has been a visionary and activist in the field of adult Autism. Her internationally recognized Foundation (The Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation) has led the global community in accepting, valuing, and supporting the diversity of adults diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Running Naked in the Snow, published by Free Verse Press, is Walder’s debut collection of poems. Free Verse Press is a new publishing company started by Charleston’s Poet Laureate, Marcus Amaker, who says that readers will “experience a wildly creative book from a writer who has confidence in what makes her unique. ‘Running Naked in the Snow’ gives you short poems about seasons, rhythm word experiments, gentle pieces about family, and more.” Running Naked in the Snow will be this month's prize for the Poetry Prompt Contest (see below for the rules).

If you missed the November meeting with Allison Cobb, 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.


Tina Baumis's poem "Gift Shop Jesus" can be seen online in the November 2021 edition of The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. Ellen Jenks and Rose Halliday's new book, Treasures From the Attic, is now available. This book is a collaboration of the two cousins who are both members of the PSSC. It is a collection of poems written over several decades. It can be purchased here. Eugene Platt has received his first Pushcart Prize nomination for the poem "An Inauguration Day Lunch." It was published in Drawn to the Light Press, an Irish online journal. Drawn to the Light Press Issue 3 by orla.a.fay - Issuu Traci Neal will be a guest author on Reading With Your Kids Podcast, reading from her children's poetry book. The podcast was prerecorded in November but will be live beginning on December 2. William Winslow's book Proof I was Here is now out now. Available from Outskirts Press. 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.

Derek Berry and Anne-Chadwell Humpries held a workshop, "Poetry as a Superpower," at the 6th Annual Pat Conroy Literary Festival in November. 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. Members, please send poetry-related news to: 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. The November Poetry Prompt Contest asked that you write a poem or piece of flash fiction reflecting on change--especially technological change--be it good, bad, or indifferent. Submissions were not as numerous as last month, probably due to the onset of "The Holidays." However, we had five excellent submissions from Ellen Jenks, Traci Neal, Ruth Nicholson, Linda Sarkany, and Eugene Platt. The winner, determined by Gil Allen, is Ruth Nicholson. She will receive a signed copy of Gil Allen's new book Believing in Two Bodies. Here is the December Prompt:

The PSSC has a long history of holding a Holiday Party every December. This began in December 1986 and continued until COVID made it impossible to safely conduct in 2021. Beginning with the presidency of Debbie Scott a decade ago, the Holiday Party featured a contest for the best limerick or toast, with prizes awarded for each. In honor of this long but, I fear, dead tradition, this month's prompt contest is for the best limerick. For this month, no flash fiction submissions will be accepted. The topic is up to you, but it wouldn't hurt if it were somehow connected with the PSSC, December, or something topical. Humor is always appreciated. Bawdiness is ok in an subtle way. A limerick with "bad" words will not be considered for the winning poem, but will probably be enjoyed by the judge. Your entry must follow the rules of a limerick, or break the rules in a clever way. Refer to this if you are not quite sure of how to write a limerick: Limerick Rules. This month's winner will receive a signed copy of Linda Joy Walder's book Running Naked in the Snow. Send your submissions to on or before December 30. The winner of the November Prompt Contest:

Cost/Benefit Lament

I no longer sense midnight from the light rail train’s vibration or my nightshift neighbor’s tread. New windows were installed and certified: quiet, tight, efficient. Rejoice, I was told; your life will now cost less. While I observe birds through double panes and argon gas, I’m spared the thrum of hummingbird wings, the rustle of a towhee in dry leaves, the whistle I still listen for, announcing you’ve come home. -Ruth Nicholson

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