National Poetry Month 2018

April is National Poetry Month and this year’s recognition took many forms. While we didn’t pull pranks the same way as last year, we worked hard to get poetry out to as many people in their daily lives as possible. Through partnerships with the Comet, Indie Grits, Main Street District, Enjoy SC and Soda City, we were able to feature poetry in a public setting in a variety of ways.

“A lot of things we’ve been working on all came together this year,” says Madden. “I love that we’re putting poetry into daily life in so many ways, and I’m especially grateful to all the writers who were so generous with their work.”

Poetry on the Comet – In it’s third year, the Poetry on the Comet project brings together 30 different poems by authors from Columbia and South Carolina based on the Indie Grits 2018 theme “Two Cities.” Poetry has been posted prominently on the buses, was shared daily on Ed Madden’s Facebook page and is being published as a chapbook. Select poems were also displayed on screen during the 2018 Indie Grits Festival.

Main Street Banners – Poems by eight South Carolina poets were displayed on banners along Main Street for the month of April. The selections include phrases by James Dickey, Susan Laughter Meyers, Nikky Finney, Ed Madden, Ray McManus, Terrance Hayes, Marjory Wentworth and DeLana R.A. Dameron.

Free & Clear – Similar to the ubiquitous Little Free Libraries that families host in their yards throughout the city, poetry boxes are being hosted in neighborhoods across Columbia and offer free poems about homeownership and community. Passersby are offered the chance to take home a poem of their own.

EnjoySC: Make Poetry at the State House – Hosted by One Columbia for Arts & History and Ed Madden, Columbia’s Poet Laureate, in partnership with the City of Columbia through a Knight Cities Challenge Grant, the Enjoy SC: Make Poetry event featured poets from across South Carolina reading poetry on April 18 and April 21 . Attendees consulted with poets on-site who will type a take-home poem on typewriters.

Poems on the COMET 2018

CALL FOR POEMS

Theme: Two Cities

In fall 2015, poems appeared on Columbia’s buses, telling the stories of the city. In spring 2017, we saw poems about rivers posted on city buses and on movie screens during the Indie Grits Waterlines film festival. This year, we’re looking for poems about how we experience the city, what separates us and what unites us.

We’re thinking about the Indie Grits theme for 2018: “Two Cities.” We all live in the same city, but we work and live in the city in different ways. We experience the city in different ways—its landscapes and streets, its neighborhoods, its social and political spaces.

  • What are the frontiers of your city? What spaces define your experience?
  • What social events, what networks, what communities are your city?
  • How do race or socioeconomic factors define your experiences and interactions within our shared city? What spaces are accessible? How has your world been shaped by gentrification, accessibility (including access to the arts), housing displacement or development? by sidewalks and libraries and green spaces? By churches and community centers? By railroad tracks and speed bumps and traffic lights and bus stops?
  • How do we make our city more open, more inclusive, more welcoming? How do we have difficult conversations? How do we break down barriers, make things more accessible, express and experience empathy?

Because this year’s Indie Grits Labs are focused North Main, we are especially interested in poems by writers from North Main neighborhoods or poems about Main and North Main.

Requirements:

Poems should be 10 lines or fewer & should address the theme. Submit your poems to poetlaureate@onecolumbiasc.com by Feb 15, 2018, for consideration.

On considering the bronze bust of J. Marion Sims at the northwest corner of the South Carolina statehouse grounds, at a reading for the monument’s removal, 7 Sept 2017

This poem was written for MEND: A Poetry Marathon to advance the removal of the J. Marion Sims Monument at the S.C.Statehouse and read aloud at the monument on September 7, 2017.

 

Now   wasn’t there some good?
            – Bettina Judd, “After Memory,” Patient (2014)

“That a historical figure existed at a different time, with different norms, is not irrelevant. But it is only one consideration in the fraught and important question, as to who should loom over us on pedestals, enshrined in metal or stone.”
– Ross Andersen, The Atlantic, 6 Sept 2017

“The first surgeon of the ages in ministry to women, treating alike empress and slave.”
– from the left panel of the Sims monument, SC Statehouse                       grounds

 

Because he was not, in fact, physician to empress and slave alike; because he used the bodies of black women and poor women to launch what would become a lucrative practice among wealthy women; because he would not have been physician to an empress in a mansion if he had not first experimented on enslaved women in a shed behind his house;

Because Anarcha and Lucy and Betsy are named as enslaved women in his autobiography but are never given voice;

Because he says of Betsy that “she willingly consented”;

Because he invented 71 instruments to aid in childbirth, yes, but because he started with a pewter spoon and a cobbler’s awl; because an awl is a long spike used for piercing leather; because this monument remembers the Sims position and the Sims speculum, but it does not remember the shoemaker’s tool that he used to pry the bones of a newborn African infants’ skulls into proper alignment; because the fatality rate for those operations was 100 percent;

Because he did not use anesthesia on black women; because he was sure they could endure the pain; because they thought blacks had a higher tolerance for pain; because the pain was so great, he asked other men to hold them down;

Because he asked his students to pull the buttocks apart so that he might see better;

Because he whitewashed his woodcuts of black women’s bodies when he moved to New York, so his patrons and students there would not know that he experimented on the bodies of enslaved women;

Because this monument was erected in May 1929 by the Women’s Auxilliary of the South Carolina Medical Association; because the most popular radio show in American in 1929 was Amos ‘n’ Andy; because Martin Luther King Jr. was born four months before in Georgia;

Because the elegant cement curve of the steps of the Sims monument, and the wall broken by the bust of J. Marion Sims so ironically echo the elegant curve of the African American History Monument across the South Carolina Statehouse grounds, a wall of images broken by the historical fissure of the Emancipation Proclamation;

Because the bronze bust of J. Marion Sims, his disembodied head and chest, suggests that this is a monument to reason and affection and not to the body, the disappeared and disappearing body, the disappeared, disavowed, but not disowned bodies of enslaved women;

Because the black women’s bodies erased by this monument are described in great detail in Sims’ biography as loathsome and disgusting;

Because he tells the story with such ease, because he stopped at the store and bought a spoon and then he stopped at his office and called out to his students, “Come, boys, go to the hospital with me,” because he then asked them to lay hold of her buttocks and pull them open; because he says Betsy “willingly consented”; because a jaunty “Come, boys, go with me” is the story of the invention of the speculum;

Because he performed clitoridectomies on women, because hysteria and improper sexual behavior were pathologized as gynecological illnesses;

Because consent no longer means the consent of your owner;

Because consent no longer means the consent of your husband;

Because the elliptical arch around this disembodied head suggests a cartouche, suggests the hieroglyphic oval enclosing a royal name; because the elliptical arch around this bronze bust suggests the halo arching over an image of a saint; because it suggests the clitoris under the hood;

Because when you stand in front of the bust of J. Marion Sims, he looks down on you, on us, looks down on this mixed crowd; because when you stand in front of the bust of J. Marion Sims, he can’t quite look you in the eye;

Because getting rid of a monument is not the same thing as erasing history; because the installation of a monument is not an accurate representation of history but an elevation of a particular representation, a particular representative, a particular reduction of history;

Because we should continue to teach the history of J. Marion Sims, his 71 instruments, his bent spoon, his shoemaker’s awl; because we should teach the names of Betsy, and Lucy, and Anarcha; because we should say the names;

Because even though some say the history of J. Marion Sims may be nuanced and complex, this monument is not.

 

 

[A note on the form: I had in mind the series of “because” clauses that often structure a formal resolution. This does not end, however, with “be it resolved,” since there is not yet resolution.]

Where is Your Next Stop? Launching Poets on The Comet This Sunday, November 1!

On Sunday, November 1, One Columbia and The Comet will host the launch of our city’s first major poetry as a public art program—poems on city buses—with a rolling poetry reading on a downtown bus route followed by a celebration and reading at Tapp’s Art Center (1644 Main).

Repost from The Jasper Blog. 

Poetry on the COMET Announcement and Event

I’m pleased to announce that the poems collected for the project with The COMET have been posted up on the advertising area of the inside of the buses! Here are a few photos of some of the cards:

To celebrate this project, there will be an event titled “Poetry 101” held on November 1. A number of poets will be reading on COMET Route 101 North Main, rotating at select stops. After the rolling reading, the event will proceed at the Tapp’s Arts Center (1644 Main), where there will be light refreshments, and a poetry reading. Anyone who would like to ride along with the poets should report at the Sumter Street Transit Center (1780 Sumter) at 3:30pm. Limited seating, first come, first served.

One Columbia has also collected poems into a chapbook which will be free and available at the event on November 1 or at the One Columbia office (1219 Taylor Street).

As an added bonus, all rides on Route 101 North Main will be free to any riders all day on November 1!