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Jason Rapp

Platts issues SCAC statement on Marjory Wentworth

 

Official Statement from the S.C. Arts Commission


Earlier today, on Facebook, South Carolina poet laureate Marjory Wentworth announced she is resigning from the post. She provided no further details in that medium, and the South Carolina Arts Commission is not aware of any. [caption id="attachment_26773" align="alignright" width="200"]Marjory Wentworth Marjory Wentworth, the former poet laureate of South Carolina. Photo by Andy Allen.[/caption] As she is a notable figure on the state's arts and culture scene, South Carolina Arts Commission Executive Director David Platts issued the following statement:

"On behalf of all of us at the South Carolina Arts Commission, I wish Marjory well and thank her for the many contributions she has made while serving as our state’s poet laureate.

Throughout much of history, poets have played a significant role in examining and addressing important issues of the day through the lens of their art. The stature of the poet laureate’s position allows all of us to see and recognize that the arts do not merely exist for their own sake. Rather, they can provoke thought, self-reflection, and meaningful dialogue across a wide range of opinions and perspectives, and they can unify by appealing to our better instincts.

In all times, but most especially in uncertain times like we are currently experiencing, artists like Marjory Wentworth exemplify and demonstrate the relevance and the importance of the arts to our daily lives.”


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 grants, direct programs, staff assistance and partnerships in three key 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.

Who’s-who of female #SCartists headline new project

Home-grown historic women to be honored by home-grown talent

[caption id="attachment_40815" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Eartha Kitt placesetting by Mana Hewitt Eartha Kitt placesetting by Mana Hewitt for The Supper Table.[/caption]
The Jasper Project announced its most ambitious multidisciplinary arts project to date – The Supper Table – enlisting the talents of more than 50 of South Carolina’s most outstanding women artists from the fields of visual, literary, theatrical arts, and film. An homage to Judy Chicago’s iconic feminist art installation, The Dinner Party, and using Chicago’s project as a loose model, Jasper Project Executive Director Cindi Boiter conceived of The Supper Table as an innovative way of honoring some of South Carolina's largely un-celebrated, yet groundbreaking women in history. After consulting with experts like Marjorie Spruill, professor emeritus in women’s history at the University of South Carolina, Boiter selected 12 historic South Carolina women who, via their work in the arts, medicine, law, business, athletics, entertainment, and more, changed the course of human history. Using the model created by Chicago, Boiter commissioned Richland Library Maker Coordinator Jordan Morris to create a 12’ x 12’ x 12’ wooden table at which visual artists would create place-settings inspired by and honoring the historic women. In addition to the 12 visual artists, a dozen artists each from the literary, theatrical arts, and film were also invited to participate. The result is a multidisciplinary arts installation and performance which will premiere in September along with the release of:
  • a book Setting The Supper Table,
  • the premiere of a series of 12 looped 90-second films,
  • a staged oration by 12 women actors based on essays written by 12 literary artists,
  • and, of course, the installation of the table itself, complete with 12 place-settings.
Funded in part by a Connected Communities grant from Central Carolina Community Foundation, The Supper Table premiere begins Friday, Sept. 6 at Trustus Theatre with a celebration, performance, and panel presentation before moving Sunday, Sept. 8 to Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College for another premiere celebration and the installation of The Supper Table, complete with films and a collection of 12 original portraits of the honored women created by Artfields People’s Choice winner Kirkland Smith. After, it will travel to other venues in the state throughout 2020. In addition to the hand-crafted table with artisanal place-settings, the books, looped films, and portraits, the installation will also include three walls comprised of 120 hand-embossed tiles, each celebrating an additional history-making woman from South Carolina, some living and some deceased, called an "Array of Remarkable SC Women." These tiles were hand-painted this past spring by women and girls from the state's Midlands region. The women honored at The Supper Table range from indigo entrepreneur Eliza Lucas Pinckney to college founders Mary McLeod Bethune and Elizabeth Evelyn Wright to ground-breaking law professor Sarah Leverette, who died last August. The honored subjects also include Alice Childress, Septima Clark, Matilda Evans, Althea Gibson, Angeline and Sarah Grimke, Eartha Kitt, Julia Peterkin, and Modjeska Monteith Simkins. Eight of the 12 place-settings are devoted to women of color. Visual artists involved include Michaela Pilar Brown, Mana Hewitt, Eileen Blyth, Laurie Brownell McIntosh, Olga Yukhno, Flavia Lovatelli, Bohumila Augustinova, Lori Isom, Renee Roullier, Tonya Gregg, B. A. Hohman, and Heidi Darr-Hope. Jordan Morris created the actual table and Kathryn Van Aernum is the official photographer. The city of Columbia’s Brenda Oliver assisted with tiles along with Diane Hare. Literary artists include South Carolina Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth, Eva Moore, Claudia Smith Brinson, Carla Damron, Candace Wiley, Christina Xan, Qiana Whitted, Meeghan Kane, Kristine Hartvigsen, and Jennifer Bartell. Boiter is also writing an introductory essay for the book. Film artists include Emmy award-winning filmmaker Betsy Newman, Laura Kissel, Roni Nicole, Faye Riley, Katly Hong, Ebony Wilson, Jordan Mullen, Steffi Brink, Carleen Maur, Lee Ann Kornegay, Lillian Burke, and Tamara Finkbeiner with Josetra Robinson. Kornegay is also creating The Making of the Supper Table, a full-length film that will premiere in spring 2020. Indie Grits Lab’s Mahkia Greene is overseeing the filmmakers. Vicky Saye Henderson is overseeing the casting and directing of the theatrical artists.
For more information about The Supper Table,visit its Kickstarter campaign at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thejasperproject/the-supper-table.

U.S. poet laureate, Air Force ‘Rhythm in Blue’ Band in Sumter this weekend

This weekend in Sumter, the Sumter County Cultural Commission and Arthenia Millican Literary Foundation partner to present a new two-day multicultural arts event featuring performances, speakers, an art exhibit, and vendors. "Love. Respect. Unity. Festival" (LRU) is seeking to unite diverse people groups through the arts at Sumter's Patriot Hall March 10-11. Event host Cynthia Hardy from "On Point with Cynthia Hardy" will welcome U.S. Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth and Hate Won't Win founder Alanna Simmons as speakers. The headlining performer is the U.S. Air Force Rhythm in Blue Band – a nod to Shaw Air Force Base, which calls Sumter home. “We often get into a routine of existing day to day in silos, without meaningfully engaging with people who are different. We have the rare opportunity to unite people around the Sumter area’s rich culture and the diversity of the arts," Sumter County Cultural Center Executive Director Melanie Colclough said. Other performers are scheduled to appear include a combined ‘unity’ choir consisting of choirs from Morris College, First Baptist Church, and Lakewood High and the Sumter County Civic Chorale; a performance by Charleston’s first poet laureate Marcus Amaker; an art exhibit; and performances by a host of Sumter-area and S.C. talent. The AJBM Foundation was established in 2008 to preserve the legacy and literary works of Dr. Arthenia Jackson Bates Millican and to give back. Dr. Millican (1920-2012) was an internationally known poet, educator, novelist and humanist of rural beginnings who called Sumter home. A focal point of the foundation’s contributions is to promote literary and cultural arts locally, nationally and globally. “Many of the performances are inspired by the works of civil rights icon C. T. Vivian and feature themes of togetherness, cooperation, and unity," Millican Foundation Executive Director Richard (Rick) Jones said. “What I’m most excited and passionate about is the impact the festival and ongoing LRU programming will have [on] bringing our diverse and multicultural community together through the arts." Festival admission is free. Hours are as follows:

  • Saturday: vendors from 1:30-3:30 p.m.; program from 3:30-5:30 p.m.
  • Sunday: program from 3:30-5:30 p.m.
More information is available here: https://www.patriothallsc.org/lru.html  

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 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 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, beginning today. 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. https://youtu.be/--hCcZN6sCM Holy City 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.
https://youtu.be/QnfrzvWsJD4
Black Cloth By Marcus Amaker Racism, 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. My sisters, 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 My brothers, 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. Charleston, 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. South Carolina, 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.

Inaugural Deckle Edge Literary Festival to honor traditions and forge new ground

Note: One Columbia for Arts and History received a South Carolina Arts Commission Quarterly Grant to help support the Deckle Edge Literary Festival. The inaugural Deckle Edge Literary Festival, taking place Feb. 19 – 21 in Columbia, S.C., features readings, book signings, panel presentations, exhibitors, writers’ workshops, activities for children and young adult readers, and a range of other literary events for many interests and all ages. Events take place in or near downtown Columbia, and many events are free. A sample of events: Friday, Feb. 19

  • 1 - 2 p.m.: Top 20 "Outside the Box" Book Marketing Ideas, Shari Stauch, $30 per person, Historic Columbia's Woodrow Wilson Family Home
  • 2 - 3 p.m.: Plotting Strategies for Short Stories, Novels, and Plays, $30 per person, Paula Gail Benson, Historic Columbia's Woodrow Wilson Family Home
  • 7 p.m.: Opening Night Celebration - Concert and Burlesque Show, Columbia Museum of Art, $10
Saturday, Feb. 20
  • 9 - 10 a.m.: S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) Workshop for Kids, free, presented by The Watering Hole Poetry Organization, Tapp's Art Center
  • 11 a.m. - noon: Hub City Press Executive Director Betsy Teter moderates a panel of First Novel Prize winners Matt Matthews, James E. McTeer and Susan Tekulve, Columbia Museum of Art
  • 3:30 - 4:30 p.m.: Conversation with Southern Superstar Mary Alice Monroe, Columbia Museum of Art
Sunday, Feb. 21
  • 9 - 10:15 a.m.: Overcoming Creative Anxiety: 5 Steps to Jumpstart Your Writing & Remain Calm, Cassie Premo-Steele, $30 per person, location TBA
  • 1 - 2:30 p.m.: Writing and Healing with Ed Madden, $30 per person, Historic Columbia's Seibels House
  • 3 - 4 p.m.: IndieSC Launch - Calling all indie authors and aspiring writers in S.C! Presentation of free self-publishing platform by the South Carolina State Library, Columbia Museum of Art
View the full schedule online. Read a Free Times article about the festival. While Deckle Edge has its roots in the storied tradition of South Carolina’s literary life, festival organizers are committed to forging new ground and hope to appeal to regional and national audiences while remaining a community-focused effort. Festival partners make up an extensive network of South Carolina literary and cultural organizations, including Richland Library, the University of South Carolina PressHub City Writers Project, the S.C. Center for Children’s Books & LiteracyEd Madden and the Columbia Office of the Poet LaureateSouth Carolina Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth, the Low Country Initiative for Literary ArtsJasper Magazine, Richland County schools, and others. Deckle Edge is built on the strong foundation of the South Carolina Book Festival, a project of the Humanities CouncilSC , which announced the festival’s dissolution this past summer. The Humanities CouncilSC is now actively pursuing a variety of year-round statewide literary initiatives and has been supportive of the plans for Deckle Edge as a new literary event to be hosted in Columbia. “The S.C. Book Festival was a tremendous gift to readers and writers in the South, and we’re grateful to the Humanities CouncilSC for sharing their expertise with us as we create something new,” said Deckle Edge co-chair Darien Cavanaugh. “We would not have been able to move so quickly on launching Deckle Edge without their guidance and good will.” In addition to local talent, the festival will highlight a handful of New York Times bestselling authors from the Carolinas, beloved favorites from past S.C. Book Festivals, and many voices not previously heard from at South Carolina literary events. “This is Columbia’s literary festival,” said Deckle Edge co-chair Annie Boiter-Jolley, “but it’s also joining the larger conversation about literature of and in the South. We look forward to sharing our vision with writers and readers, and to hearing from them as to what Deckle Edge might become in future years.” Via: Deckle Edge Literary Festival

Saluda High teacher helps her writers discover world beyond small town

From The State Column by Salley McInerney, photos by Tracy Glantz
[caption id="attachment_19141" align="alignright" width="298"]Saluda High School Kelly Minick teaches English at Saluda High School. Each year a number of her students have been finalists in the South Carolina High School Writing Contest. Here, Minick works with students Breanna Boatwright, left, and Caitlyn Sanford in AP Literature.[/caption] SALUDA COUNTY, SC — On the town square of Saluda, the double doors leading into Rexall DRUGS are covered over in brown paper. It’s just as dark, peering through the front door of the SALUDA movie theater where a sign on the glass boasts “ARTIC AIRE” – a tiny penguin poised between the two words. To the casual observer, it’s tempting to regard this small burgh some 40 miles west of Columbia as merely a quiet place to pass through. On the outskirts of town, cows graze in bucolic pastures. Tractors are parked in tin sheds. No, you simply wouldn’t think much was brewing in Saluda on a mild morning in March. And you would be wrong. Inside English teacher Kelly Minick’s classroom at Saluda High School, a pitch-perfect storm of expression has cut loose; a literary landslide has begun. Eight of the 29 finalists in the prestigious South Carolina High School Writing Contest – set to conclude this Saturday in Columbia – have emerged from this place. “Somehow in this classroom we have developed a sense of camaraderie and I don’t know the reason why,” Minick said. “I just stand up and do what I do. The only thing I can think of is that I have given my students an opportunity to be creative. To see things from a different point of view. And, I have pushed them.” Indeed, the class on this recent morning is a rapid-fire discussion of characterization. Words like “verisimilitude” (having the appearance of truth) are used. Phrases like “All roads lead to tone and theme” are not uncommon. A little Latin gets thrown in – en medias res – in the middle of things. Names of novels get bandied about. William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying.” And some of literature’s most vivid characters too. Captain Ahab, from “Moby-Dick.” All the while, Minick never stops moving. She charges to the blackboard. Writes down something a student has said. She perches on a desk, listens to a student. She points to another student. “I want some people who haven’t talked to me,” she said. She goes back to the blackboard. She perches. She smiles. She cajoles. She pushes. “Ms. Minick is a teacher in the truest sense of the word,” said student Alex Lybrand. “Throwing knowledge at a kid is one thing. Ms. Minick opens our minds to all these ideas. She is allowing us to use our potential. She allows us to put down our ideas in ways that we would never have thought of. She makes me see things that I did not notice before. I don’t feel like there are any wrong answers in here. We don’t make mistakes in this class. We just have different interpretations.” Student Lori Able describes the magic of Minick’s teaching this way: “This class changes your view of the world, especially coming from Saluda.” Which, ironically enough, is precisely where the 35-year-old teacher is from. “I was born and raised in the house I live right across from now.” Minick graduated from Saluda High in 1997 and then Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina with a degree in English. “The last thing I wanted to do was be a teacher. I didn’t want to deal with the bureaucracy of it.” But, Minick said, in 2001, “My mom ran into someone who worked at the grocery store who said, ‘Do you know they are looking for an English teacher at the high school? ’ ” The rest is English, if you will. Minick applied and was offered the position. Did she know anything about teaching? “Absolutely not. Noboby taught me how to teach, but I did know my content. So, I taught what made sense to me. I want my students to be able to read, interpret their literature, form opinions based upon the text and then figure out how it is relevant to their lives.” And how does she describe her students? “Besides brilliant? They are from Saluda County. They come from all kinds of homes and all kinds of backgrounds.” And this Saturday, eight of them will undoubtedly shine in the big city, where they will be given 40 minutes to write on a subject disclosed just before work begins. The contest is sponsored by the South Carolina Honors College and the University of South Carolina Press. Novelist Pat Conroy and South Carolina Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth will judge the students’ work. And what will Minick’s parting advice be to the students who hail from a small town where a store’s windows are covered in brown paper but where she has opened wide a world beyond Saluda County borders? “I’ll tell them, ‘Just do what you do. Just do what you know how to do. ’ ”

Lowcountry literary group offers new programs for writers and prisoners

Lowcountry Initiative for the Literary Arts partners with the South Carolina Arts Commission to produce the Region Three Poetry Out Loud finals. From the Charleston City Paper:
When poets Marjory Wentworth and Carol Ann Davis founded the Lowcountry Initiative for the Literary Arts (LILA) 10 years ago, they wanted to do more than just host book signings and poetry readings. They wanted to create an organization that would nurture Charleston's literary culture in every sense — supporting writers, reaching out to readers, and sharing the written word with Charleston's larger community. Initially, Wentworth and Davis envisioned doing that by setting up a community writing center with workshops and literary events for the general public and quiet writing space for working poets and writers. Although the writing center never materialized, LILA has had a broad influence on the local artistic and educational community. The group sends poets into local schools to work with students, hosts workshops with experienced writers, and, of course, presents plenty of book signings and poetry readings. They've even worked with local authors to offer literary tours in Europe. This year, however, things are a little different. For one thing, LILA has hired its first executive director, Deborah Bernard, who is also the group's first paid employee (albeit part-time for now). "I am thrilled about our new executive director," Wentworth says. "She is a lifesaver, and she's already moving the organization in new directions." Bernard is a former writing and history teacher who moved to Charleston in early 2013. "After we moved, I began to look for ways to serve the community," Bernard says. "[Author and LILA board member] Mary Ann Henry introduced me to LILA. I joined the board, but we then saw that I could serve them better as executive director." Bernard officially took her post as leader of the organization in July and is working on tightening the nuts and bolts of the group, with the goal of expanding LILA's fundraising capacity. "Right now we're working on doing some strategic planning and applying for 501(c)3 status," she says. "We have some great vision priorities in place. We're looking at financial resources, and as we continue to establish our goals, we'll be in a better place to know what kind of fundraising we want." At the same time, Bernard remains deeply committed to LILA's programming. Starting in September, the organization launched two new programs that are reaching into different communities. The first is a series of writing groups for local writers covering all genres, from sci-fi and romance to non-fiction and journalism. Held monthly beginning in September, the groups are open to all writers, novice and professional, who want to connect with other wordsmiths and are looking for constructive feedback on their work. The second is an educational initiative at the Leeds Avenue Pre-Release Center, a state Department of Corrections facility that helps prisoners prepare for re-integration into society through work training, rehabilitation, and education. LILA is hosting two separate writing classes, one on nonfiction called "Writing Your Own Life Story" and another on poetry. LILA has offered poetry classes at the Pre-Release Center before, so there was already something of a working relationship between the two entities. That first poetry program was instituted several years ago by LILA co-founder Davis (Davis, who taught at the College of Charleston, moved to Connecticut in 2012). These classes, however, were organized by Henry, who's relatively new to the LILA board — she's only been a member since March. She wanted to find a way to expand LILA's reach into an underserved community. "The idea of starting another program for inmates seemed natural," she says. She got in touch with the center's warden, Mildred Hudson, who was enthusiastic about the program and put Henry in touch with her volunteer coordinator, Doris Edwards. Over the next couple of months, Edwards and Henry worked to put the classes in place, tapping journalist (and longtime City Paper columnist) Will Moredock and poet Richard Garcia as teachers. Moredock, who's known for his writing on politics, poverty, and race, has some experience with the prison system — he has corresponded with an inmate on death row since 1984. Since then, he's worked with the inmate, John, on his writing skills. Moredock also used to teach at the College of Charleston, so between the two experiences, he says, he felt comfortable agreeing to teach the class. The first session took place Sept. 16 with six students. "These are not hardened criminals," Moredock says. "I don't know what they're in for, but most of them — maybe all of them — work jobs during the day and report back to the Pre-Release Center and spend the night." His goal for the class is pretty simple: help his students deal with whatever issues they might have rattling around in their heads. "We all have our demons and our burdens, and some people drink, some people go to church, some people go to shrinks, and some people write," Moredock says. "If this is going to help them, they will have spent their time well and so will I." Henry, as the program organizer, sees things from a broader standpoint. "As a writing teacher, I know what can happen when an emerging writer first discovers his or her voice. They connect with something authentic within themselves," she says. "Once a writer makes that connection, no amount of poverty or legal or cultural issues can take it away ... Writing can be restorative. It's not for everyone. But if you're essentially wired to connect to the world — to interpret the world — through written expression, small miracles can happen," she says. Henry hopes that at least some of the students will continue to write once they leave the class and prison behind and remain involved with LILA as civilian men and women. It's that kind of hope which reveals an integral element of LILA's belief system: the literary arts belong to everyone, from the scholar to the casual reader to the disenfranchised. Davis and Wentworth always envisioned LILA as offering writing programs related to social justice, Wentworth says, and Henry feels similarly. "I think that each of us has a responsibility to take whatever talent we have and share it with the world in some way," she says. "I believe it's part of what we're supposed to be doing, you know, rather than just taking up oxygen."

Jasper Magazine and partners launch new literary journal

Jasper Magazine, in partnership with Richland Library, USC Press and One Columbia, will release the inaugural issue of a new annual literary journal, Fall Lines – a literary convergence, on Sunday, June 8 at 4 p.m., at a free reception at Richland Library. A panel of judges selected 30 works of poetry and prose from nearly 500 submissions, and other writers were invited to submit works, including S.C. Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth (sponsored by the Roe Young State Farm Agency), Christopher Dickey, Josephine Humphreys and Ray McManus. In addition, Fall Lines will publish the South Carolina Academy of Authors 2014 fellowship winners in fiction and poetry, Nancy Brock of Columbia, and Jo Angela Edwins of Florence, respectively. Two new literary arts prizes, sponsored by Friends of the Richland Library, will be presented.  The Saluda River Prize for Poetry will be awarded to Mary Hutchins Harris of Daniel Island, and the Broad River Prize for Prose will be awarded to Nicola Waldron of Columbia. A certificate and check for $250 will accompany each prize. “Richland Library is not only interested in offering the best in literature to our community, we also value writers and want to support their work and success,” says Tony Tallent, director of literary and learning at Richland Library. “Partnering with Jasper to make Fall Lines a reality allows a new opportunity to explore the library's role in supporting writers and unleashing their creations to our community and the world.” A 98-page perfect-bound book with cover art by W. Heyward Sims, Fall Lines is published by Muddy Ford Press in lieu of the summer issue of Jasper Magazine and was edited by 2014 Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Award recipient and Jasper editor-in-chief Cindi Boiter with poetry editor Ed Madden. Fall Lines will be distributed in several locations in Columbia, including all branches of the Richland Library, USC Press offices on Senate Street, the One Columbia office on Taylor Street, Gallery West, Ed’s Editions, Trustus Theatre, If Art, Tapps Arts Center, City Art, 701 Whaley CCA, the S.C. Arts Commission, and the Jasper Studio in the historic Arcade at 1332 Main Street. Fall Lines will also be available as an E-book via Richland Library and for purchase from Amazon.com, BandN.com, and MuddyFordPress.com.

USC Press brings back Palmetto Poetry Series

From The State:

 Nearly three years after poet Kwame Dawes left the University of South Carolina for the University of Nebraska, one of his publishing projects is getting a second life. The current rendition of the Palmetto Poetry Series just released its first book — “New and Selected Poems,” by South Carolina Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth — under its new editor, Nikky Finney. The selection process for future publications is under way, guided by Finney and a five-member board: Dawes, Wentworth, Terrance Hayes, Charlene Spearen and Ray McManus. “It seems to me that South Carolina is particularly known for fiction writers,” said Wentworth. “We have many who are New York Times best-sellers. But we have poets. To have Nikky Finney and Terrance Hayes win the National Book Award back-to-back says something about the quality of those poets.” Jonathan Haupt, director of the University of South Carolina Press, agrees. He’s credited with reviving the series. “I believe that a state that boasts the oldest poetry society in the nation and two recent National Book Award winners in poetry deserves this kind of opportunity for its current and future poets,” he said. “I chose the board in consultation with Nikky. We wanted a group of diverse talents with a likeminded commitment to supporting the accomplishments of South Carolina’s established poets while also discovering new voices as-of-yet unheard. This is that group. There’s no question about it.” Among the criteria for publication in the series is a tie to South Carolina. “You might have been born and raised here,” said Wentworth. “Nikky Finney is definitely a South Carolina poet, though she’s lived in Kentucky. Terrance Hayes is rooted here.” Another criterion is excellence. Haupt describes Finney’s participation as a key indicator of the series’ ambitions. In a press release, he noted: “As with last year’s announcement that Pat Conroy was joining us as editor of our fiction imprint, Story River Books, Nikky Finney’s appointment as editor of the Palmetto Poetry Series solidifies USC Press’s commitment to finding and fostering exceptional literary talents here in our home state. “Nikky’s monumental skills and unparalleled instincts as a poet make her an ideal choice for reinvigorating our poetry series. Moreover, she brings to the Palmetto Poetry Series undeniable evidence of the power and responsibility of poets to reshape lives, both at home and elsewhere.” Wentworth says that Finney exemplifies the goals of the series. “Her work is grounded in this place and in history and social justice. Though we don’t necessarily associate those themes with experimental form, her last book in particular is incredibly innovative. “That’s such a perfect fit for what we’re trying to do: looking at history in new ways, looking at experience in new ways. In many ways, that’s the type of work we hope to publish. Nikky’s personality and warmth will attract a lot of people in. You make an immediate connection with her. Poetry series can seem elitist or skewed a certain way—Nikky is the last person you’d see that way.” Wentworth also explores themes with a broad reach, as her “New and Selected Poems” shows. Along with pieces from her collections “Noticing Eden,” “Despite Gravity,” and “The Endless Repetition of an Ordinary Miracle,” the book contains 28 new poems. For her book launch at the State Library on April 18, she read a variety, among them “Newlyweds,” which has become a popular choice for weddings and was turned into a choral piece by composer Nathan Jones. She also read a few works based on short newspaper stories that caught her eye—such as “Runaway Cow Tracked Down in Germany,” which begins:
A cow named Yvonne, whose escape kept a corner of Bavaria on tender hooks, has turned herself in after three months on the run.
“I shape them, put a form on them, and whatnot,” she said. “They’re either very funny or very dark.” What makes poetry the art perhaps most relevant to daily life, said Wentworth, is the way “it shapes our collective experiences. Everyone is struggling with making sense of things. Reading poems is a great way to discover meaning. There’s a redemptive quality to finding your own experiences, whether love or profound loss, reflected in someone else’s words. You don’t feel so alone when you find a poem that articulates what you’re feeling.”
Via: The State