Myrtle Beach student wins S.C. Poetry Out Loud competition
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Brynne Hardman, a senior at the Academy for Arts, Science, and Technology in Myrtle Beach, is the South Carolina winner of Poetry Out Loud, a national poetry recitation contest.
Hardman competed in the state finals competition in Columbia on Saturday, March 9 against seven other students from across South Carolina. The competition took place at the Richland Library Main branch.
Hardman recited “To Have Without Holding” by Marge Piercy in round one and “Insomnia” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in round two. She and two other students advanced to the final round, where she recited “The Day Lady Died” by Frank O’Hara and received the highest score from the four judges: Marcus Amaker, Al Black, Kimberly Simms, and Michele Reese. Dr. Ray McManus was host of the event. Amaker, poet laureate of Charleston; and Zuri Wilson-Seymore, the S.C. Arts Commission state coordinator for Poetry Out Loud; gave professional recitation performances of their own poetry.
Joining state winners from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, Hardman will be South Carolina’s representative in the Poetry Out Loud national finals in Washington April 29-May 1, 2019. State winners receive $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip to compete in the national finals, and the state winner's school will receive $500 for the purchase of poetry materials. Each state’s first runner-up, and that student’s school, receives a cash prize as well. The national winner receives a $20,000 cash prize.
About the South Carolina Arts Commission
With a commitment to excellence across the spectrum of our state’s cultures and forms of expression, the South Carolina Arts Commission pursues its public charge to develop a thriving arts environment, which is essential to quality of life, education, and economic vitality for all South Carolinians.
Created by the South Carolina General Assembly in 1967, the Arts Commission works to increase public participation in the arts by providing services, grants, and leadership initiatives in three areas:
- arts education,
- community arts development,
- and artist development.
Headquartered in Columbia, S.C., the Arts Commission is funded by the state of South Carolina, by the federal government through the National Endowment for the Arts and other sources. For more information, visit SouthCarolinaArts.com or call 803.734.8696.
Marcus Amaker named Charleston’s first poet laureate
From the Charleston Post and Courier
Marcus Amaker, a local poet, musician and graphic designer, was named Charleston’s first poet laureate Tuesday evening, a month after the position was established by City Council.
“We established the position of Poet Laureate to encourage the appreciation of poetry throughout Charleston,” Mayor John Tecklenburg said in a statement. “Marcus is a well-known artist in our community who has the drive, passion and talent to make poetry accessible to everyone.”
Amaker, who once edited Charleston Scene for The Post and Courier, is an active collaborator and a tireless performer, often organizing and participating in spoken word events. He is the author of seven books of poetry, and he has contributed poems to a variety of volumes.
“This honor is not just for me, it’s for every poet in Charleston,” Amaker said. “Poetry is such an important and vital art form. I’m looking forward to working with nonprofits, businesses and schools to give literacy a bigger platform. It’s going to be fun to come up with creative ways for poetry to be spread throughout Charleston. I’m also excited to be an advocate for the City through my words. Charleston has inspired me since the minute I decided to move here in 2003.”
Cities are increasingly embracing poetry. Across the U.S., cities large and small have named an official bard. Doing so clearly is a win-win: it gives poetry (and, by extension, poets) a boost, and it adds an artistic sheen to municipalities otherwise preoccupied with budgets, infrastructure, public services, construction and other matters of urban life.
As poet laureate of Charleston, Amaker will do much more than write and recite. He will work in conjunction with the Office of Cultural Affairs implementing a community outreach and education program to encourage the writing, reading and performance of poetry within the city. He will also participate in civic events, promote literacy through poetry in schools and foster the development of a youth poetry initiative.
And Amaker will commemorate the city by composing poetry that speaks to, for and of the region, to be presented at an annual city-sponsored event.
The ordinance establishing the post authorizes a small honorarium funded by private sources, according to city spokesman Jack O’Toole. That honorarium likely would amount to a few thousand dollars.
A poetry reading and reception featuring Amaker is scheduled for 6 p.m. June 29 at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park. Armed with an old-fashioned typewriter, Amaker will be at the Charleston Farmers Market on June 25 with other local poets. He will also be presenting the inaugural Charleston Poetry Festival, in late October.
Seeking solace in poetry after a mass shooting
From PBS Newshour
Article by Mary Jo Brooks
[caption id="attachment_26772" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Marcus Amaker is a poet, graphic artist, web designer and musician. Photo by Jonathan Boncek.[/caption]
The shooting by a white supremacist at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church in June 2015 was a wakeup call for poet Marcus Amaker. The gunman killed Rev. Clementa Pickney and eight parishioners during a Bible study in the basement.
“I think that for a long time a lot of people my age thought racism was not really this tangible thing. But then when this happened at the church, it really became the most real thing that we’ve ever experienced,” said Amaker.
Marjory Wentworth, also a poet, said she fell to the ground and sobbed when she heard of the tragedy. “I don’t think anyone is ever going to get over it here,” she said. “It’s part of our history now.”
At first glance, the two couldn’t seem more different. Wentworth is a high-energy, middle-aged white woman, who lived in Massachusetts and New York before moving to South Carolina 27 years ago.
[caption id="attachment_26773" align="aligncenter" width="452"] Marjory Wentworth is the Poet Laureate of South Carolina. Photo by Andy Allen.[/caption]
Amaker is a young African-American graphic artist and web designer with long braids, a broad smile and easy going manner. He grew up an Air Force kid, living all over the world before coming to Charleston in 2003.
The two met more than 10 years ago at a poetry reading in the city. Now, Wentworth says, Amaker is one of her closest friends. “We talk several times a week. He designed my website and we often perform together.”
They even collaborated on a poem, after incoming Mayor John Tecklenburg commissioned one for his inauguration last January. The result was “Re-imagining History” which tells of Charleston’s complicated history of slavery and race relations.
The final stanza recalls the tragedy of the shooting.
This year, we’ve done laps around despair;
and we’ve grown tired of running in circles
so we stepped off the track and began to walk.
As the earth shifted beneath our feet,
we moved forward together. Our hearts
unhinged, guide us toward a city
remade by love, into a future
that our past could never have imagined,
Both poets were immediately contacted by local media to write poems in response to the shooting. Wentworth had just two days to compose the poem “Holy City” — the nickname for this community with over 400 churches.
“I wanted the poem to feel like a prayer. I wanted it to be something that everybody could read and relate to somehow,” Wentworth said. The poem was published on a full page in the Sunday edition of the Post and Courier.
Amaker wrote his poem “Black Cloth” for the weekly City Paper. He said he wanted it to be a tribute to the nine victims, but also wanted it as a wakeup call.
“For me, it feels like the time for small talk is over. If we don’t change after this, then what is going to change us?” Amaker asks.
In the days and weeks that followed, poets from the community and around the country began sending poems to Wentworth and Amaker. In response, the two created a website for the poetry and eventually hope to publish a book.
“In a time of crisis, poetry is a great way to find the language for something that people don’t have. People crave some way of articulating what they’re feeling. And that’s what poetry does,” says Wentworth.
by Marjory Wentworth
“Only love can conquer hate.”
Reverend Clementa Pinckney
Let us gather and be
silent together like stones
glittering in sunlight
so bright it hurts our eyes
emptied of tears and searching
the sky for answers.
Let us be strangers
together as we gather
in circles wherever we meet
to stand hand in hand and sing
hymns to the heavens and pray
for the fallen and speak their names:
Clementa, Cynthia, Tywanza,
Ethel, Sharonda, Daniel,
Myra, Susie and Depayne.
They are not alone. As bells
in the spires call across
the wounded Charleston sky,
we close our eyes and listen
to the same stillness ringing
in our hearts, holding onto
one another like brothers,
like sisters because we know
wherever there is love, there is God.
By Marcus Amaker
let us no longer walk in your shoes.
you are a traveler of darkness, a walker of shadows,
cloaking yourself in a black cloth like the grim reaper
and arming your soul with the tools of a terrorist-
a misguided soldier who’s trying to start a war.
heaven was as close as your breath that night.
You came to Mother Emanuel to worship in the glow of God,
and speak the light that flows from love.
How beautiful of Him to hear your words
and lift you into the arms of Christ
you walked toward heaven with focus,
even when your shoes were stained
with the dirt of intolerance.
A black cloth lays silent at Clementa’s seat, resting under
a single rose. It was taken from our city’s soil,
where seeds of faith continue to grow.
I see heaven in your tears and feel the weight of sadness
in your voice. I’ve seen strangers hold hands
as the sun wraps us in unbearable heat,
I’ve watched children of contradiction come together
for the unity of the Holy City.
nine members of your family are now in heaven
and you have to confront the reality of racism,
the dusk of pain, the lightlessness of the dawn.
Because I would rather hang a black cloth on a flag pole
than give the Confederate flag
another glimpse of the sun.
About Marjory Wentworth
Marjory Wentworth is the poet laureate of South Carolina. She has taught creative writing at the Art Institute of Charleston and at Charleston County schools for nearly 25 years. Her work has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies and her books of poetry include “Noticing Eden” and “The Endless Repetition of an Ordinary Miracle.” This month she is releasing a non-fiction book called “We are Charleston.” In it, Wentworth and co-authors Herb Frazier and Bernard Edward Powers, examine the reaction of the city following the shooting at the Emanuel AME church one year ago.
About Marcus Amaker
Marcus Amaker is an award-winning web designer, graphic designer, videographer, musician and author. Amaker began his career as a journalist, working for the Post and Courier newspaper. He has released seven books of poetry. His most recent is “Mantra: an Interactive Poetry Book.” His poems have also been featured in “Home is Where: An Anthology of African American Poetry from the Carolinas,” “Seeking: Poetry and Prose Inspired by the Art of Jonathan Green,” and “My South: A people, A Place, A World of its Own." As a spoken word poet, he’s performed for the MOJA, Piccolo Spoleto, Spoleto and North Charleston Arts festivals.