Poetry Society of South Carolina 100th Anniversary Series

The Poetry Society of South Carolina is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2021 and will offer readings and workshops from January – May by such notable faculty as Len Lawson, Joy Priest, Leslie Sainz, Valerie Nieman, and Michele Reese. The centennial celebration will include a publication about the 100-year history of the society; an exhibit of photography and memorabilia that will be on display in Charleston, Columbia, and Greenville; a release of recordings from several decades of society readings; and the presentation of three Centennial awards. SC Humanities helped support these programs with a Major Grant.

Due to COVID-19 and uncertainty regarding in-person meetings, the locations and times of the following events are currently TBD. If groups cannot assemble in person, the events will be presented on Zoom. Final determination will be posted on the website, poetrysocietysc.org, as each event date nears. All readings and workshop are free and open to the public. All readings are scheduled for 7PM on the designated Friday. The workshops typically run from 10AM – Noon, unless otherwise posted.

Upcoming events include:

January 8 – A Brief History of PSSC’s 100 Years & Our Annual Poetry Showcase
Each January, the Poetry Society of South Carolina begins the new year with an open mic showcase for members. This year the proceedings will be via Zoom and include a brief history of the Society. The history will be a preview by President Jim Lundy of his forthcoming book covering the 100 years of the Society. To obtain the link, register through the website. Participants must have an active membership.

January 23 – Poetry Workshop with Len Lawson, “A Poetics of Place”
What are the elements that define our places and, in turn, define ourselves? Poets can define a location, city, or region with intricate detail or intense emotion by intimately acquainting us with their experiences. Through the poetry of Phillip Levine, bell hooks, and others, this workshop will examine the elements of place in poetry and guide participants in developing or even redefining places as their own.

February 12 – Poetry Reading by Joy Priest
February 13 – Poetry Workshop with Joy Priest, “Writing Place: The Autobiographical Landscape”
Recently, the poet Ocean Vuong gave a “mini-essay” on metaphor via Instagram. In those essay-posts they wrote that figurative language was their “favorite literary device,” because it can create, what they called, “the DNA of seeing,” which they expounded on to say, “a strong metaphor can enact the autobiography of sight. For example, what does it say about a person who sees the stars in the night sky—as exit wounds?” In this workshop, we will discuss this mini-essay and the function of figurative language. We will read together poems of place and discuss some craft strategies for writing the emotional landscape. From our tour through these strategies, we will generate a series of prompts that we can use during and after the workshop to develop our figurative autobiographies.

February 20 – Poetry Workshop with Leslie Sainz, “Collapse & Surprise: Letting Uncertainty ‘Steer’ Your Poems”
In this workshop, we will lean into what Fanny Howe refers to as a poetics and ethics of “bewilderment” to examine how granting ourselves permission to let our poems remain unknown to us strengthens our relationship to language and music, and ceremonially brings us into the presence of our readers. The work of Samiya Bashir, Lucie Brock-Broido, and Hoa Nguyen will be our guides.

March 12 – Poetry Reading by Valerie Neiman
March 13 – Poetry Workshop with Valerie Neiman, “Poetry – Behind the Mask”
Each day we go about our routine lives, but inside we are superheroes or explorers, pirates or rock stars, hiding our secret identities behind the mask of our unassuming face and daily clothes. One way to enter this secret world is to write a persona poem – persona meaning mask – in which we give a voice to an alternate identity. Join Valerie Nieman, author of Leopard Lady: A Life in Verse, for an exploration of hidden realms of the self.

March 20 – Poetry Workshop with Michele Reese, “The Art of the Line”
There are many ways to think about the poetic line, but I’ve always liked James Longenbach’s statement— “poetry is the sound of language organized in lines.” With that in mind, this workshop will play with sounds and rhythms to create line endings. We will employ the strategies of syllabics, meter, and rhyme to experiment with published poems and to complete writing exercises. Through this attention to sound, our goal will be to lend greater illumination to the subjects of the poems. Discussion will also address the uses of form in our daily practice.

The Poetry Society of South Carolina hosts free readings and lectures and fosters the craft of poetry by offering seminars, workshops, writers’ groups, and prizes that include cash awards and publication. Among the major American poets they have featured through the years are Edna St. Vincent Millay, Robert Frost, Henry Taylor, and Billy Collins. Learn more: https://www.poetrysocietysc.org/.

The mission of SC Humanities is to enrich the cultural and intellectual lives of all South Carolinians. Established in 1973, this 501(c) 3 organization is governed by a volunteer 21-member Board of Directors comprised of community leaders from throughout the state. It presents and/or supports literary initiatives, lectures, exhibits, festivals, publications, oral history projects, videos and other humanities-based experiences that directly or indirectly reach more than 250,000 citizens annually.