Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Saturday, May 18: Two panels at the South Carolina Book Festival

Thanks to the University of South Carolina Press for asking me to participate on two panels at this year's South Carolina Book Festival in Columbia. For the first panel, Sheila Morris moderated a session about the anthology Seven Strong: A South Carolina Poetry Book Prize Reader, 2006-2012. Marjory Wentworth, who wrote the foreword for the book, Ed Madden, Ray McManus, and I were on the panel. We each read a poem or two of our own work, plus the work of one of the four poets in the anthology who were not present: Worthy Evans, Delana Dameron, Julia Koets, and Jennifer Pournelle. Here are the books that are in the series:

Keep and Give Away (my collection), 2006
Driving through the Country before You Are Born, 2007, Ray McManus
Signals, 2008, Ed Madden
How God Ends Us, 2009, DeLana R. A. Dameron
Green Revolver, 2010, Worthy Evans
Excavation: A City Cycle, 2011, Jennifer Pournelle
Hold like Owls, 2012, Julia Koets

Seven Strong: A South Carolina Poetry Book Prize Reader, 2006-2012. Edited by Kwame Dawes. Foreword by Marjory Wentworth.


For the second panel, Charlene Spearen moderated. Artist Jonathan Green was the anchor of the panel, talking about his now-famous work of art titled Seeking, commissioned by Mepkin Abbey and the impetus for the anthology. He also explained the inspiration for the painting: his experience as a child wanting to join the church, a child who first was required to spend time alone in the woods as a part of the Gullah tradition's way of being trained to seek the depth of his commitment and the truth of his own life. Again, Marjory, Ed, Ray, and I participated on the panel. We talked about the spiritual connections that the Seeking project brought to us, and we each read our poem in the anthology. Poets Linda Annas Ferguson, Mary Hutchins Harris, and Ellen Hyatt joined us for a signing immediately following the panel session. It's amazing how much richer such an experience is when a whole group of poets is a part of it.

Seeking: Poetry and Prose Inspired by the Art of Jonathan Green. Edited by Kwame Dawes and Marjory Wentworth.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

College of Charleston Advanced Poetry Workshop

Debbie Scott and I enrolled in English 402, the Advanced Poetry Workshop III at the College of Charleston (CofC) this semester, and it was a true immersion for twelve or so weeks. We completed the course yesterday. Professor Emily Rosko, author of Prop Rockery and Raw Goods Inventory, couldn't have been any more teacherly--in a good way!--and focused on being sure that her students grew as poets, readers, critics, and students in general. For the course we read--and discussed and wrote commentary on--seven collections of contemporary poetry. We each led a class discussion of one of the books, and we each twice served as one of two critics for workshopping 5-8 poems of  a classmate. We wrote at least a poem a week, sometimes in collaboration with a partner. And we critiqued the poems written by our collaboration partner. In other words, we were busy learning!

Here are the books we read: Tracy K. Smith's Life on Mars; Kathleen Peirce's Mercy; Beth Bachmann's Temper; Ann Marie Rooney's Spitshine; Shane McCrae's Mule; Mary Ann Samyn's Inside the Yellow Dress; and Wayne Miller's The City, Our City.

The capstone assignment for the course was to put together a chapbook of poems, of about 15-20 pages, and even to design a cover, write an artist's statement, include a table of contents/dedication/etc. I spent a good part of the last few weeks working on that--and a huge chunk of this past Monday and Tuesday trying to figure out how to sequence the pages correctly so that they could be printed out chapbook size in the right order. The process about drove me nuts; but by cutting and pasting a dummy copy, I finally managed to do it.

Thanks to all the bright young poets in our class for welcoming Debbie and me into their poetry lives--and especially to Emly Rosko for orchestrating and teaching such a wonderfully rich, thought-provoking course.

April 26-28: SC Academy of Authors Induction Ceremony & weekend

Once again Debbie Scott and I hit the road, this time to go to Columbia for a weekend of events sponsored by the South Carolina Academy of Authors (SCAA). Friday afternoon was a superb reading by poet Terrance Hayes. I can't say enough glowing things about his work and the reading. He's a poet I met a few years ago when he taught a public workshop-in-the-round  in Columbia that I was lucky enough to be in, back in 2004 or so. It was a South Carolina Poetry Initiative event. I was also honored that Terrance Hayes selected my book Keep and Give Away for the inaugural SC Poetry Book Prize. So it's no wonder that I feel a special affection for him and his poetry. His latest two books are Wind in a Box and Lighthead.

On Saturday night there was a lovely reception at the Thomas Cooper Library, followed by the Induction Ceremony. Jack Bass, Nikky Finney, Terrance Hayes, and Eugene Robinson were all inducted into the SC Literary Hall of Fame. Unfortunately Eugene Robinson couldn't be there; but the others gave meaningful, inspired responses to their inductions.

On Sunday morning there was a brunch at The Big Apple, a beautiful building for such an event. Fiction writer Thomas McConnell, of Spartanburg, and I read as winners of the fiction and poetry fellowships, respectively. I'm still up in the clouds over winning this year's Carrie McCray Nickens Poetry Fellowship. I knew and loved Carrie, so it means all the more to me. Thank you SC Academy--and thank you, Carrie!

Sunday, April 21: Brookgreen Gardens Poetry Series

On April 21 Debbie Scott, Frances Pearce, and I drove up to Litchfield, SC, for an early lunch with Sherby McGrath at Quigleys; then we all spent the afternoon at Brookgreen Gardens. Libby Bernardin and I were pleased to be a part of this April's Poetry Series there, facilitated by Cliff Saunders. The setting for the reading was in the Poetry Garden at Brookgreen, which used to be the Dogwood Garden years ago, and it was lovely. The only hindrance was what felt like a gale-force wind (I think it might have been almost that), which played havoc with any papers that weren't weighted down, with hair in the eyes, and with a microphone that had to be stabilized by a big chunk of a concrete block. So it was poetry in the wind, but we weren't complaining. Thanks to Brookgreen for having us!

Afterward, Debbie, Frances, and I enjoyed the naturalized part of Brookgreen that is woods with a trail and lots of animals. Our favorite part was the aviary with its black-crowned night herons, ibis, and similar birds. A busy place late in the afternoon!

April 6: A Gathering of Poets

Two Lowcountry poet friends and I went to Winston-Salem, NC, on the weekend of April 6 to attend A Gathering of Poets, a day-long program of workshops and readings sponsored by Press 53 and Jacar Press. What fun it was to travel with Libby Bernardin and Debbie Scott for this poetry adventure! I signed up for workshops by Alan Michael Parker, Fred Chappell, Joseph Bathanti, and Kathryn Kirkpatrick--and they were all topnotch.

I'm delighted that I've been asked to be on the faculty for next spring, so I'm excited about that.

March 25 anthology reading at Monday Night Blues

On March 25, Richard Krawiec came to town to head up a reading from his press's latest anthology of poems. He, Terri McCord (of Greenville), and I read from the anthology and love, published by Jacar Press. Richard lives in Durham, NC, and is a leader in the arts community there and in the region. We had a great time taking turns reading one poem of our own, then poems by others in the anthology. Among others, I read ones by Ron Rash, Lola Haskins, Fred Chappell, Michael McFee, and Shelby Stephenson. So many good poems!

March poetry reading at Bishop Gadsden

On March 13, three of us poets from The Poetry Society of SC had the pleasure of going to Bishop Gadsden Retirement Community, on James Island, to read poetry. Debbie Scott, Katherine Williams, and I met with some of the residents in The Cloisters, the healthcare center, and enjoyed spending an hour or so sharing some of our poems, as well as those by poets we admire. We decided to take turns reading in a round-robin fashion, and one person in the audience even volunteered to read a favorite poem of her own. We hope that other poets in The Poetry Society will have a chance to read there, too.