So sad to hear of Maya Angelou’s passing. When asked by ABC 4 in Charleston, I had this to say, “She came out of this difficult situation and yet her work is so affirming and hopeful”. Read more about what I had to say at ABC4′s site.
The University of South Carolina has started a new book series of poetry. I am honored to sit on its board, along with Kwame Dawes, Terrance Hayes, Charlene Spearen and Ray McManus. Read USC’s announcement on The State’s site about this new series. We are looking for submissions from other South Carolina poets, as well!
Charleston City Paper has a review up for my latest book, New and Selected Works. Elizabeth Pandolfi writes that “New and Selected Poems marks a sort of return to poetry for Wentworth, though she’s never stopped writing verse.” Check out the full review at the Charleston City Paper.
After the rain, outside
the barred windows
of the classroom
tiny black birds
are bathing in puddles
beneath the oak trees.
Dipping into the icy water,
they shake their feathers
with such joy that their song
pulls us from our seats—
out onto the steps
where my students and I
walk into the first sunlight
we’ve felt for days
to watch them dance.
The birds remind me
of the Chinese peasants
I read about in college.
Sitting in the sunshine
on the first day of spring,
after cutting the quilted
clothes they were sewn
into for the long winter,
they gathered outside
to pick fleas from the sour
cotton lining of their jackets
and flick them at each other;
ducking and laughing
in the bright air,
while their children
ran naked into a pond
filled with melting snow.
“Spring” by Marjory Wentworth from New and Selected Poems. © The University of South Carolina Press, 2014. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)
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. www.bluebicyclebooks.com. RSVP 722-266.
Thursday March 27 7:00 p.m. Poets with New Books reading LILA, Write Charleston! Circular Church, 150 Meeting St, Charleston. www.lilaconnects.com.
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, Litchfieldbooks.com.
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. http://cms.montgomerycollege.edu/edu/maps.aspx?id=23554
April 10-13 Block Island Poetry Project, Block Island, RI. Workshops and readings with poet Carol Ann Davis. For further information, see http://www.bipoetryproject.com/ABOUT-BIPP.html.
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. http://www.statelibrary.sc.gov/center-announces-springsummer-2014-speaker-series.
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 http://bluebicyclebooks.com.
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. scbookfestival.org. 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, http://www.malaprops.com/event/poetrio,1-800-441-9829.
November 20-24. Words & Music A Literary Feast in New Orleans, www.wordsandmusic.org.
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) www.artscharleston.org.
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. http://www.thea21campaign.org.
October 11-13, The Southern Festival of Books: A Celebration of the Written Word, Nashville, TN. www.humanitiestennessee.org.
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.
interview on SC Public Radio “Your Day” on Seeking: Poetry and Prose Inspired by the Art of Jonathan Green
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 Green. Video of Gullah artist Jonathan Green.
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.
March 22, 23 2012 Expecting Goodness Short
Film Festival, Judge, David Reid Theatre at
Chapman Cultural Center, Spartanburg, SC
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,
“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.)