New and Selected Poems just out from USC Press


One Sheet New and Selected


Schedule of Events for Spring-Fall 2014:

Sunday March 23 4:00 p.m. Book launch/Reading with Lisa Starr, Blue Bicycle Books, 420 King St., Charleston, SC.  RSVP 722-266.

Thursday March 27 7:00 p.m. Poets with New Books reading LILA, Write Charleston!   Circular Church, 150 Meeting St, Charleston.

Friday April 4, 2014   Litchfield Books Moveable Feast Book and Author Lunch.  Seaview Inn, 11:00 a.m. In store Signing at 2:00 p.m. 11421 Ocean Hwy, Fresh Market Commons, Pawleys Island, South Carolina 29585.  Tel: 843.237.8138,

Monday April 7. 7:00 p.m. The Word Works Cafe Muse. Poetry Reading with Barbara Hagerty, author of Twinzilla.  Friendship Heights Village Center is a five-minute walk from the Friendship Heights Metro Rail Stop at 4433 South Park Avenue, Chevy Chase, Maryland. For further information call: 301 656-2797.

Tuesday April 8th Montgomery College Reading, Germantown campus – library. Guest speaker at Writer’s Coffee House, which will run from 6-7:30. You will read for about 20-25 minutes at the beginning of that time period. For more information contact Katherine Smith (301) 807-6930.

April 10-13 Block Island Poetry Project, Block Island, RI. Workshops and readings with poet Carol Ann Davis.  For further information, see

Friday April 18, 2014   Speaker @ the Center: South Carolina State Library Center for the Book. Noon-1:00 p.m. South Carolina State Library at 1500 Senate St. Columbia, SC. Admission is Free. Bring your lunch.

Friday April 25th  Author Luncheon with Barbara Hagerty, author of Twinzilla. Blue Bicycle Books Book and Author Series, Halls Chophouse, 434 King Street, Charleston, SC. To order tickets or for further information see

Saturday May 10 3:00 -4:00 p.m. Greenville Public Library (Hughes Main Library), Reading and Book signing. 25 Heritage Green Place, Greenville, SC.  864-527-9293.

May 16 – 18,2014 SC Book Festival, The Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, Columbia, SC. 803-771-2477.

August 3-13 L.E.A.P. for Ghana

October 5 3:00 p.m. Poetrio Series at Malaprops Bookstore and Café, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, NC 28801,,1-800-441-9829.

November 20-24. Words & Music A Literary Feast in New Orleans,





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Schedule of Events Fall 2013

Fall 2013 Schedule of Events:

Sunday Sept. 8 2013 OPEN Arts Expo. Literary Arts Garden at The College of Charleston, The Cistern Yard , St. Philip Street, Charleston, SC Noon-4.  (Charleston Regional Arts Alliance for the Arts)

Wednesday Sept, 11 2013 Remembering 9/11.9:00 a.m. Reading and tribute. The Art Institute of Charleston, 24 North Market St. Charleston, SC

September 12-14, The Lowcountry Rice Culture Forum, Charleston, SC. www.Lowcountry

Thursday, September 19th at 7:00. The A21 Campaign – U.S. East Coast Office’s 2nd annual Be Their Freedom benefit to fight human trafficking. It will be held at Founders Hall at Charles Towne Landing.

October 11-13, The Southern Festival of Books:  A Celebration of the Written Word, Nashville, TN.

December 12, Poetry Society of SC and Library Society of Charleston will host a reading for Seeking, Poetry and Prose Inspired by the Art of Jonathan Green at the Library Society, 146 King Street, Charleston, SC 7:00-8:30 p.m. Tickets $15.00.


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interview on SC Public Radio “Your Day” on Seeking: Poetry and Prose Inspired by the Art of Jonathan Green

Week of June 17, 2013


Art inspired poetry (Listen to the segment)
Clemson University creative writing professor Jillian Weise speaks with South Carolina’s Poet Laureate Marjory Wentworth about a new book,Seeking: Poetry and Prose Inspired by the Art of Jonathan GreenVideo of Gullah artist Jonathan Green.

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2013 Schedule of Events

Events Schedule 2013

Feb.-May Engaging Creative Minds Poet Residencies: Angel Oak Elementary School, John’s Island, SC; Ladson Elementary School; Ashley River School of the Creative Arts; and Jennie Moore Elementary School, Mt. Pleasant, SC

Expressions of Healing, Roper St. Francis Care Alliance, A Visual Arts Program for Cancer Patients, Survivors and Loved Ones. Begins Tuesday Feb. 26 at 6:00 p.m. call 843/402-CARE

 “Tongues Aflame Poetry Series”, response to Lesley Dill’s Poetic Visions, From Shimmer to Sister Gertrude Morgan, The Halsey Gallery, The College of Charleston, Charleston, SC Feb. 7, 2013. Poetry Reading with Richard Garcia, Kit Loney, Susan Stevens and Katherine Williams


The 19th Annual Robinson Jeffers Association Conference

February 15-17, 2013, School of the Arts / Academic Magnet High School, Charleston, SC

“Integrity is Wholeness: The Moral, Social and Aesthetic Implications of Jeffers’ Worldview

Feb. 15 7:30 PM: “An Evening with Nikky Finney and Friends,” Rose Maree Myers Theater for the Performing Arts

The 2011 National Book Award Winner and South Carolina native will be joined by South Carolina Poet Laureate, Marjory Wentworth; Charleston poet Brian Penberthy

Feb 16 “The Poet’s Inevitable Place” with Bryan Penberthy, John Lane and Marjory Wentworth, 11:15

March 15,  Book and author lunch for Seeking, Poetry and Prose inspired by Jonathan Green, Edited By Marjory Wentworth and Kwame Dawes

 March 18 at 8:00 a.m. Poetry ReadingMonday Night Blues

East Bay Meeting House, 160 East Bay St.

Charleston, SC


March 22, 23 2012 Expecting Goodness Short

Film Festival, Judge, David Reid Theatre at

Chapman Cultural Center, Spartanburg, SC















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Christmas poem

photo of my grandmother’s Christmas apron

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Carol Ann Davis, Poet of Exactitude and Beauty

My friend, poet Carol Ann Davis, has two poems in The American Poetry Review this month: “After a Painting by Ruth Gutmannova” and “Safety,” as well as gorgeous review of her first book Psalm in “The Art of Losing, Four Contemporary American Women Poets and Grief” by Jacqueline Kilosov. I decided to post my review of her book Psalm, first published in October 2007 in The Post & Courier.  Carol Ann now teaches at Fairfield University in CT.

Carol Ann Davis, Poet of Exactitude and Beauty

 I have waited a long time to read the first book of poems by College of Charleston Associate Professor of English Carol Ann Davis.  Ms. Davis was runner-up for the esteemed Dorset Prize offered by Tupelo Press, and her book Psalm was just released by this well known literary publisher.  It is, without a doubt, the best first collection of poems I have ever read.  Each poem is its own exquisite reliquary, and the poems require the kind of reverence one associates with a reliquary.  It is a book called Psalm, after all.  It is also a beautifully designed book.  The cover is edged with a bit of the painting St. Agnes, by Domenchino. Like the poems in the book, the cover is dipped into a painting that expresses faith.   Art, photography and music are the cultural well that Ms. Davis draws from to process the intense emotions contained in her poetry.  She makes associations with a number of visual artists, and in the process she connects us with the culture that ultimately defines us.  Part of art’s function is to express the inexplicable, and in this way it enables human beings to survive and make sense of all experience. The poems, paintings, and music that ultimately endure are the ones that teach us how to cope and find joy in places we did not expect to find it.  Our faith serves the same the function.  Psalm is filled with poems accomplishing all of these things.


It is no surprise to learn that Psalm is actually the third book of poems written by Ms. Davis.  She attributes the successful publication of this manuscript to the inherent narrative arc of the book, which moves between the death of her father and the birth of her first child Willem.  It’s as if the poems bridge the gap between the two extremes. None of us are exempt from loss and grief, and we all experience the wonder of birth whether directly or indirectly. Sometimes it happens all at once.


In  the  poem “Listening to Willem Squeal while a Selmer Guitar Reminds Me of the Existence of All Things”  Ms. Davis begins with a description of the psalms and ends with the lines “….our world quickly made/of stones and river water/and grief transmuted into fire.”   Willem, named for Willem de Kooning, is Carol Ann Davis and Garret Doherty’s oldest son.  This poem, which is so grounded in the things of the physical world – a baby squealing while music is playing in the background…the water and the stones of the earth, ending with the emotional state literally “transmuted into fire”, is a literal description of the aesthetic approach taken by Ms. Davis. Her work, which springs from the personal and emotional details of her own life, is lifted into the rarified aesthetic realm of a poem. John Donne’s description of “spiritual things, of a more rarified nature than knowledge” could be an epigraph for this collection.

Many of these poems are elegiac in nature.  Three, entitled “Grief Daybook I” “Grief Daybook II.”, and “Grief Daybook III” are placed at intervals in the book and hold the other poems down like ropes through a sail.  “Grief Daybook I” begins with a meditation on the things that preoccupy the poet in her daily life – “orange juice, on the table/papers still heavy/with requests.” Then comes the longing that comes with grief -


This morning I want to drive the six hours home

just to touch the stone


over my father’s heart,

his name chiseled into vowels


and consonants. I want to camp there,

to sleep there


where other mourners

come looking for someone else


and cross over us.  What is the heart

but a request?  What is it


to be long dead, dead a week,


a year?


“Grief Daybook II” refers to a Walker Evans Photograph taken in Ms. Davis’s home state ofFloridain 1934. This is home, the place her father is buried.  The third poem in this trilogy ends -


Where you’ve gone, there will be a night sky of psalms –

a cello’s goose neck. Fingers waiting

above a stalled note.

Oh, ear of my ear,

there’s hardly anything

left of you now.


The poem on the page facing “Grief Daybook III” is entitled “An Understanding Between Living and Dead.” It could be kind of subtitle for Psalm, which ends with the poem “Corn Maze Afternoon.”  This poem, inspired by a visit to a corn maze with her family, is a hopeful vision of our capacity absorb grief and experience ordinary and extraordinary joy.  “Nothing but grass and the three of us/ adrift in the orchard. Much as we will be……”


(Sections of poems reprinted with permission of the author, taken from Psalm, Poems by Carol Ann Davis, published by Tupelo Press in 2007.)

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The Loss of Jim Rigney, author Robert Jordan

My son just told me that there is going to be a conference early in 2013 at The College of Charleston about the work of our friend the late Jim Rigney, author of The Wheel of Time Series and the subject of a documentary film that my son is working on called “The Wit of the Staircase.”  In celebration of his life and work I wanted to post the piece I wrote for the newspaper here the week that Jim passed away.


The Loss of Jim Rigney

My youngest son Taylor put it best:  “All over the world people are mourning for Robert Jordan, but here in Charleston we grieve for the loss of Jim Rigney.”  In this small city of great writers, we lost a giant not only as one of the greatest writers of fantasy fiction – but also a giant of a human being.

On a personal and professional level it seems appropriate and necessary to honor this brilliant man whose generous spirit never ceased to inspire me.  Jim’s inclusion in the community of Lowcountry writers brought considerable legitimacy to the city’s current literary renaissance.  Although Jim was often quite private, he embraced and supported writers – especially this writer. I used to tease him and say that he was more excited about my appointment as South Carolina Poet Laureate than I was!  This isn’t true, of course, but the sense of it is true.  At readings and celebrations, Jim was always there cheering me on.  When a writer of his caliber and reputation encourages you it means so very much.

Great author photo of the late Jim Rigney

Jim loved poetry and could recite a verse appropriate to the occasion.  This may have been expected when his beloved wife Harriet was a former President of the Poetry Society of South Carolina and a poet herself.   Jim attended and participated in many poetry events.  During National Poetry Month a few years ago, Jim and Harriet came to a Poetry Extravaganza at Barnes & Noble in Mt.Pleasant and each read a favorite poem.  Other well known Charleston writers participated – Dottie Frank and Jo Humphreys come to mind… But when Jim recited the poem by A. E. Houseman that he had had taped inside of his hooch when he was a young soldier during the Vietnam War, the audience reaction was unforgettable.

Both Jim and Harriet served on the Board of LILA, the Lowcountry Initiative of the Literary Arts. They embraced this fledgling organization designed to promote and connect writers and readers throughout the state, in ways that embody their generosity and sense of humor – creating an actual character named Lila – who was a young woman with various amusing attributes.  This kind of commitment to writers and community has created a supportive environment that encourages and nurtures the young more inexperienced writers.

You can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat children and young people, and Jim was especially generous in that way. His famous writing studio behind the house was a kind of museum – filled with weapons collected from all over the world and artifacts that fascinated my sons. All of these things were references for the objects Jim created and described in his fiction, of course, but he would explain each item in great detail to my sons and treat their questions with enormous respect.  Kids are funny – they know when someone genuinely cares about them. They know when someone is really listening. And when they really like an adult, they will call the adult by their first name in the same they would call a friend by his or her first name. From the beginning the Rigneys were Jim and Harriet. In some circles this might be considered disrespectful, but the Rigneys were flattered and encouraged it.

I am overflowing with stories and memories – the week before Christmas when I discovered a box of signed Robert Jordan books beside the front door of our house – a gift for one of my high school creative writing students who was suffering from pneumonia and happened to be a huge Robert Jordan fan……. The round-trip shared limo ride (courtesy of Jim’s publisher) to a book event in Winston-Salem, and the subsequent discovery that a limousine can’t fit through the drive-through lane at Burger King….. a ceremony with guests, and hors d’oeuvres, to release my son’s turtles, which had outgrown our fish tank, released  into the pond in Jim and Harriet’s backyard  …..the courage he showed in the face of devastating illness and always the humor – referring to the nurses who drew his blood as vampires and ….the way Jim looked at Harriet……..

This week we mourn his tenderness and genius.  He will live forever in the hearts of those who knew him and the collective imagination of millions of readers whose lives were touched by his words.

 originally published in The Post & Courier September 2007


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Children and Poetry

Children and Poetry

I am constantly asked about poetry for children. What is there besides Shel Silverstein? My child loves to write poems, but where can he or she learn more about it? I am not a librarian, but I am more than happy to share a little of what I know is out there.

Let me begin by stating that children understand the essential elements of poetry much more than we realize. Babies learn to speak by repeating sounds, and they love to hear rhyme. Most children’s first words are repeated over and over again, they love listening to repetitive sounds. It also seems to delight their listening parents. Children quite literally play with sound.  Even the most accomplished poets are doing the same thing in a more sophisticated way.

Have you ever taken a toddler by the hand and tried to walk a few blocks?  They notice everything – the sound of every passing car or insect, the smell of Jessamine blooming on the neighbor’s fence, a coin shining on the sidewalk. Children’s senses inform them as the move through the world. This is exactly how poets experience the world too; which is why, when you read a poem, you can picture the images described or repeat a line over and over in your head, just to hear the sheer beauty of the sounds that the words make.  These words, when strung together in a particular way, bring you joy.  In some ways, it is that simple. Poetry must be enjoyed at this primal level. Children know and understand this without being told. Obviously, I am not talking about the subject or meaning of the poem.  Adults need to understand that children must maintain this joyful feeling about language, if we want them to succeed as writers and readers in school and beyond. Poetry is a pretty easy way to maintain an essential appreciation of words and their meaning.


part of this entry was published in The Post & Courier in April 2011.  

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Mourning Jack Gilbert

I was so sad to hear of Jack Gilbert’s recent death. What a truly great poet he was. I am posting a review of his book Refusing Heaven that was published in The Post and Courier in March 2005.

REFUSING HEAVEN Poems by Jack Gilbert, Knopf. 92 pages. $25.00

Many years ago, poet Rainier Maria Rilke wrote a famous piece called FOR THE SAKE OF A  SINGLE POEM, in which he describes the value of living your life to its fullest and waiting for the wisdom that time brings before you seriously attempt to write poetry.  “You ought to wait and gather sense and sweetness for a whole lifetime”, he instructs, ”and a long one if possible, and then, and only then, at the very end, you might perhaps be able to write ten good lines.” It’s as if Jack Gilbert has lived his life, according to Rilke’s teachings .  Gilbert’s latest  book, REFUSING HEAVEN, is full of poems that could only have been written by  someone who has lived his life intensely and honestly and then had the courage to report back all the suffering and joy that this rich life has brought.  Luminous and profoundly moving, Gilbert has written  the kind of poems that you copy on a little piece of paper, put in your pocket  and carry around with you just in case you need to remember what it is you’re doing here in the first place.

The poems in REFUSING HEAVEN are wise and spiritual.  The message of the title weaves the poems together.  Nowhere is this message clearer than in the first poem “A Brief For The Defense,” which begins with the honest reminder Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If  babies / are not starving someplace, they are starving / somewhere else….and moves toward the conclusion that  We must risk delight,  and accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world  knowing that  there will be music despite everything.”   This kind of  affirmation is the reason we read the greatest poets and the wisest prophets.  We are all broken.  We are all hurt.

Sometimes we need someone like Jack Gilbert to remind us that despite everything the world can be a beautiful place and that love in all of its manifestations is still the very best thing about being  alive.   We are lucky that Jack Gilbert is among us.  Who else would remind us:  We are given the  trees so we can know/ what God looks like.  And rivers/ so we might understand Him.    

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Suggestion Makes You Dream

Suggestion Makes You Dream…

Many people are scared of poetry.  They say that they can’t understand it and don’t know how to read it, and some simply choose to avoid reading poems entirely.  How does this happen? When did poetry become something intimidating and inaccessible?  It is particularly disturbing to consider this phenomenon when you realize that many of the essential joys of poetry are the first ones we experience with language.  Small children delight in the sounds they make and hear. They repeat these sounds and words that they enjoy. The first words that children speak emerge like a repetitive chant.  In that way, a child’s first words are like a first poem.  It is that natural and easy.  Small children love to rhyme, and many children’s first books are rhymed books.  (Think Dr. Seuss).  Rhyming is fun.  Words are fun.

In elementary school, a playful approach to language is maintained, but it doesn’t last for long.  The celebration of creativity is apparent when you enter most lower schools.  Student art decorates the hallways.  Illustrated stories and poems are stapled onto bulletin boards outside classrooms.   You rarely see student art and stories decorating middle school hallways; however, and it is virtually non-existent in high schools.  I’m not saying that the arts don’t exist in middle and upper schools, but their visibility is generally diminished.  This shift in priorities happens in curriculum also.  Hours dedicated to studying the arts are decreased in the face of preparing for standardized tests, and in today’s underfunded schools, arts programs are generally the first to go. There are rare and wonderful exceptions to this rule, of course, like Charleston County School of the Arts and the Ashley River School for the Creative Arts, but not for the most part arts curriculum in upper schools is minimal.

Two other factors contribute to the difficulty with poetry.  One has to do with the poems that are often contained in textbooks.  Generally speaking, they were written hundreds of years ago in language that is considered archaic by today’s standards.  I love the English Romantic poets, and Shakespeare’s sonnets are exquisite,  but with so much brilliant poetry being written by contemporary poets in familiar American vernacular, why not expose students to poetry that they can relate to and feel is part of their personal experience? Can you imagine a science or social studies textbook that only contained material dating back to the 1800s?  It is absurd to consider such a possibility.

The approach to teaching poems exacerbates the problem.  Students are asked to discern the meaning of the poem and analyze the structure and meter pattern, when they should first be asked to describe how the poem makes them feel.  What does it make them think about?  A poem should work a bit like a dream.  Part of it may be very intense and resonate deeply within you.  Other parts may not hold as much meaning. That’s okay.  The great French lyric poet Stephane Mallarme wrote that suggestion makes you dream.  A good poem has the same quality.  It should evoke a memory or connect to an emotion or experience.  It should articulate something that is difficult to describe in one sentence.  A reader’s immediate associations with a poem are immensely important and need to be emphasized.  Every poem should be read with this in mind.

When I was in graduate school at New York University, I studied with the Nobel Prize winning poet Joseph Brodsky.  My husband and I went to hear him read his poetry in Russian.  We did not understand a word of it, but we experienced the essence of each poem – heartbreak, love, injustice, joy. It was moving and entertaining, and now that Joseph Brodsky has passed away, it is an experience we remember and cherish.  This poetry reading embodies what I am trying to describe. Try to think about poetry the way you think about art or music.  Aren’t their songs that you love to listen to repeatedly even if you don’t understand the lyrics?  Haven’t you seen an abstract painting that you responded to intensely, even though you couldn’t explain why? The next time you encounter a poem, read it aloud to yourself. Enjoy the sounds, and the let the language take you some place new.  Let yourself fall into the dream created by a handful of words.

(This article was previously published in The Post and Courier in July 2006)  

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