POETRY ‌ Rhyme and Reason 

During National Poetry Month, local poets stand up for their art

Poetic Evening Series
Tuesdays in April, 7 p.m.
Main Library Auditorium
68 Calhoun St.
Poetry Extravaganza
Sat. April 22, 1-3 p.m.
Barnes & Noble Mt. Pleasant

"To what purpose, April, do you return again?"

Edna St. Vincent Millay

April is the time for saying things that rhyme. Purposely so, for the last decade, ever since the Academy of American Poets established National Poetry Month as an annual celebration of the art of poetry.

For Marjory Wentworth, poet laureate of South Carolina, and fellow literati on the board of directors for the Lowcountry Initiative for the Literary Arts (LILA), it's an annual golden opportunity to showcase verse in public forums.

"It is a real community-based celebration," she says. "The opportunity is there for those who may have never heard a poem read aloud before to join in with those who attend poetry readings on a regular basis."

In a collaboration with the Charleston County Public Library, LILA is presenting a series of Tuesday-night readings throughout April featuring area poets Harold Singletary, Carol Ann Davis, Paul Allen, Richard Garcia, Katherine Williams, Susan Meyers, and Linda Annas Ferguson. "We tried to program the series so there would be something for everybody," Wentworth says. The readings take place in the main library auditorium, with food on hand from East Bay Coffee House.

"Several things are happening in the local area to further poetry and the literary arts right now," Wentworth adds. She credits long-running events such as the Monday Night Blues series hosted by Ellie Davis with sustaining a large part of the energy behind this expansion of all things literary. "You know that every Monday night you can go to East Bay Coffee House and hear something wonderful, whether it's open mic readings or a featured poet. It keeps the momentum going."

Organizations and venues contributing to Poetry Month include the Poetry Society of South Carolina, College of Charleston Visiting Writers Series, Barnes and Noble in Mt. Pleasant, and the Poetic Jazz Society. Poet Ryan Van Cleave will read at Second Presbyterian Church for the Poetry Society of South Carolina on April 14 at 7 p.m. and a poetry reading by DeNatalie Phillips will be held at the Avery Research Center in the McKinley Washington Auditorium on April 20 at 7 p.m.

"If you're looking for an event with a mix of everything, try the Barnes & Noble Poetry Extravaganza," Wentworth adds. "This was hugely successful last year. We'll have a tent outside the store in Mt. Pleasant Towne Centre. High school and college students will be reading, along with performance poets and established poets. We're going to do a big round-robin open mic to give it flavor."

"All kinds of people stopped and listened at the event last year. People came up to me after and said, 'I've never heard anyone read a poem before.' To me, that's what National Poetry Month is all about."

Having major American poets such as Susan Meyers, who is now head of the Poetry Society, and Carol Ann Davis, editor of Crazyhorse at College of Charleston, in the local area serves as a catalyst for an expanding literary calendar of events.

"Somehow, in our culture, poetry often becomes unavailable to us," Wentworth says. "We forget how a poem can be a moment of stillness, how we can pick up a book and think, 'This person knows what I'm feeling.'"

"A poem is a short thing," she says. "You can get a lot of meaning out of something that is so distilled."


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