Interstate Prayer

Created as part of the annual ArtLinc chalk art festival in the Lincoln Street Tunnel with my husband Bert Easter. Full text below photo.

Interstate Prayer

Every day the same, here along
the road, the cups and bottles people toss
away, the things we shed, evidence
of our careless lives. The wind does
what it can, the vines that hide our trash
with green–still there. May we turn to see
what we have done. May we better care
for what we’re given, here beside the rivers.

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.

Window and Wall

for Mayor Steve Benjamin’s State of the City address, 30 Jan 2018

“Cities have awakened….”
Harlan Kelsey and Irvin Guild, The Improvement of Columbia, South Carolina (1905)

It took nine months of work.

Painting the wall, he carved out a tunnel, hung the sun in front of us.

Nine white overhead lights lead us through the tunnel to the other side.

We did not deem it desirable, at this time, said Kelsey & Guild in 1905, to place too much emphasis upon detail, because, in doing so, the main objects sought might easily be lost sight of.

The details of the mural trick the eye, the real stone merging with the fake, the real metal barriers beside the painted traffic signs.

The things that seem to block the way are the things that make you see.

The real windows on the wall look fake, become part of the painting: the vision of what’s beyond is the point.

Cities have awakened, wrote Kelsey and Guild, to the urgent need for a systematic plan for [the] future.

In 1976, People magazine called the image “a brilliant orange sunset.” The State newspaper later called it “a descending sun.”

A comprehensive plan for development, said Kelsey & Guild, should consider well the tendencies of growth, and the physical features that … govern such growth.

Two white arrows show both lanes going forward, no one is headed back.

It is not clear, really, if the sun is rising or setting.

My first few weeks in Columbia, a friend drove me over to see it, early evening, the moment the tunnel seems most real, as if you could drive into it.

The sun is the same size as a yellow traffic sign that warns of a right turn ahead, the road curving away and out of sight. Forty years ago, he warned us of a hard swerve to the right, something we couldn’t yet see.

It is quite possible, Kelsey & Guild admitted, that this report will be more useful in its suggestions that in the plan outlined.

Blue Sky told People magazine, I wanted to reach through that wall, touch something larger than life.

Rumor is a kid once drove right into the mural.

The South Carolina Encyclopedia reminds us that Kelsey and Guild’s proposals were too ambitious to receive serious consideration, but they set a precedent for comprehensive planning.

The things that block the way must be
the things that help you see.

The wall was a way out.

The windows are dark,
the sun is shining in front of us.

 

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.]

Did you get a parking ticket??

A big happy National Poetry Month to you! …..And, happy April Fools!

Maybe you walked out to your car today and found a “parking ticket” under your windshield wiper. Were you shocked? Were you upset? But then you were met with the realization that a poet had pranked you while giving you a lovely little poem to take on your way. Be sure to share your experience on social media by using the hashtags #columbiapoet and #parkingpoems! Here’s a gallery of all six poems, provided by South Carolina poets Brian Slusher, Vera Gomez, Dale Bailes, Kathleen Nalley, Barbara Hagerty and Tim Conroy.

This project, coordinated as part of the activities of Columbia’s Poet Laureate, was the kick off to a celebration here in Columbia of National Poetry Month. You’ll see a few more activities around the city that are being coordinated including an updated set of poems on the COMET, poems on screen during this year’s Indie Grits festival and maybe some surprises you’ll only see when it rains (more details to come).

Celebrate poetry. And, I hope you enjoyed the fun joke.

River Poems

City Poet Laureate Puts Poems on Coffee
“River Poems” project brings poetry to the people during the month of April

COLUMBIA SC April 8, 2016 – The City of Columbia Poet Laureate Ed Madden is pleased to announce a new project in conjunction with National Poetry Month. Poems from eight Columbia-based poets about the rivers have been stamped on coffee sleeves to be distributed at area coffee shops, Drip (locations on Main and in Five Points) and Wired Goat (locations in The Vista and Chapin).

The Columbia-based poets that have provided poems for the project include Jennifer Bartell, Betsy Breen, Jonathan Butler, Bugsy Calhoun, Monifa Lemons Jackson, Len Lawson and Ray McManus as well as Ed Madden.

“As a project for the poet laureate, last year and this year both, we put poems on the buses. We had already decided the theme this year would be the river, because it is the theme for Indie Grits, but I think the flood added additional urgency to the theme,” says Madden. Along with the bus project, the second project this year was to put the poems on coffee sleeves. “We’ve been trying to think of ways to promote poetry in unexpected places, so coffee sleeves felt like a really obvious place to put poetry,” says Madden. “You can drink your morning cup and read a poem about where you live.”

April is National Poetry Month and over the past 20 years has become “the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture.”

The owner of Drip, Sean McCrossin explains why they participated, saying “I feel that one of the roles of a coffee shop is to offer a platform from which people can express themselves. That is why I was very excited when Lee from one Columbia asked us to be part of this project! Everyone in Columbia was effected by the flood (or knows someone that was) and to read what some of our great South Carolina poets had to write about it and have a good cup of coffee hopefully reminds us that art can express things that we sometimes are unable to express ourselves.”

from "I Told the Storm" by Bugsy Calhoun
from “I Told the Storm” by Bugsy Calhoun

Wired Goat owner, Jessamine Stone agreed to participate for a similar reason, saying “We got involved in the project to connect with our community and to raise awareness about the fantastic literary talent we have right here in South Carolina.”

The poets have come together to stamp the poems on over 10,000 coffee sleeves and the project will run through the full month at four different coffee shop locations.

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!