Poetry Battle Royale Workshops for Teens are happening now!

In collaboration with The Watering Hole Poetry Organization, I will be hosting poetry workshops for teenagers entitled Poetry Battle Royale. These workshops will combine poetry, debate, and public speaking and will occur over the course of the 2023-2024 school year. Poets will have a culminating debate/performance at the Soda City Poetry Festival in June 2024.

The workshops are made possible through Richland Library, The Watering Hole Poetry Organization, One Columbia, the South Carolina Arts Commission, and the Academy of American Poets Poet Laureate Fellowship.

Visit the link to register: https://bit.ly/45LfFsy


When will the workshops be?

Fall 2023 Semester dates are:

November 4, 2023

November 11, 2023

December 2, 2023

December 9, 2023

Spring 2024 dates will be released in December.

All workshops will be from 12 p.m.-2 p.m.

*Poets do not have to attend all of the sessions to continue to participate.

Where will the workshops happen?

Richland Library SANDHILLS, 763 Fashion Drive, Columbia, SC 29223

Who can participate in the workshops?

High school students in any Midlands area high school. Preference will be given to students in RSD1 & RSD2.

What will happen at the workshops?

Poets will be reading/viewing, writing, and performing slam poetry. Some videos and texts will be vetted by the teaching staff of the program. Debate lessons were developed by Ethos Debate and the poetry lessons are developed by me and the teaching staff. We will have guest speakers and experts in slam and performance to help guide the poets throughout the process.

Have additional questions not listed here? Please email me at poetlaureate@onecolumbiasc.com.




Again this year we are putting poems on the Comet, the Midlands regional transit system buses. Our theme: OPENINGS! As our new mayor Daniel Rickenmann took office, he emphasized two priorities. Columbia is open for business, he said, and Columbia is a city with open arms for all.

What do these phrases mean to you—open for business, open arms? How have the last two years changed what these phrases mean to you? Open for business. Opening up. Open arms, and arms wide open. Eyes wide open. The great wide open. Out in the open. Open access. Open books. Open your hymnal. Opening your mail. Opening presents. Open doors. Open house. Open invitation. Open plan. Open range. Open 24/7. Open hearts and open minds. Open to the possibilities. Out in the open. Open secret. Open seating. Open season. Open sesame!

  • Use the subject line POEMS ON THE COMET 2022.
  • Poems should be 10 lines or fewer. (They have to fit the bus cards and be legible.)
  • Include your city of residence. If you are a young writer, please include your school.
  • Submissions opened March 1. Rolling deadline, but we are hoping to have 30 great poems by the end of April.

Submit to poetlaureate@onecolumbiasc.com for consideration.

A Poem a Day Keeps the Blues Away?

As Ed Madden begins his final year as the city’s poet laureate, he has given himself the challenge of writing a short poem every day on the back of a postcard. And then sending that card to someone in the mail! Many are going to people he knows, but many are also going to strangers and random addresses.

Before they go in the mail, he’s posting images on social media. You can find them on Instagram and Facebook (and sometimes Twitter) with the laureate or project hashtags: #columbiapoet and #postpoems2022.

Madden says that after the isolation of the past two years, he wanted to do some kind of poetry project that would emphasize human connection, even if at a distance, even if through the mail. He said also hopes that picking out random postcards and trying to write a tiny poem every morning helps kickstart his own creativity, and he hopes it inspires others—to write, but more than that, to reach out to other people.

PRISMA Emergency Care Guide

Emergency Care can be a disorienting experience. Things may happen very quickly, or you may find yourself waiting and unsure. In an attempt to provide information and reassurance for those who find themselves in Emergency Care, Prisma Health has released a helpful trifold guide. On the back, there is a poem by Ed Madden, the poet laureate of Columbia, South Carolina.

Launched at Prisma Health’s Richland Hospital in Columbia on July 17, the guides are now being distributed in Emergency Care departments in Prisma Health hospitals in Columbia and surrounding areas.

The poem is the first project of a Prisma Health poetry team, an initiative first imagined by Alexandra Toney with assistance from Dawn Hill, an organization development consultant for Prisma Health. Toney was a student in Madden’s fall 2018 Creative Writing and Community class at the University of South Carolina. For that class, she led a group project placing poems of hope in hospital waiting rooms. Impressed with that work, Hill invited her to help with the guide and with an ongoing poetry inititative for the hospital system. Toney invited Madden to write a poem for the guide.

To write the poem, Madden said that he thought about his own experiences with family in hospitals. “You feel very isolated,” he said of emergency care. He said that he wanted to write a short reflection, “a short little prayer-like poem about being in that space and that time.” Instead of isolation, he explained, he was “thinking about everyone in that room as part of one community.” It is “a space within which all these very different people are gathered, but really all for one common goal, which is to heal someone.”

The untitled poem reads:

for the lights, the charts
for hands and hearts

for those who heal
for those who are healed

for the time it takes

for those who listen
and those who watch

for those who care
for those we care for

for all those here

“The overall goal,” Toney added, “is to offer comfort to whoever needs it.”

The Emergency Care guide is the first project approved by the system’s new Patient and Family Advisory Council, which works to ensure that patient and family perspectives are included.

See this video for insight into both Toney’s healthcare poetry project and Madden’s poem.

COMPOSED: a hospital poetry project

Call for poems from South Carolina poets!

Many of us have taken a moment to collect ourselves before visiting someone in the hospital. We stop and wash our faces, look in the mirror. compose ourselves. Using this moment as the inspiration for our next Prisma Health poetry project, we are looking for poems that fit that moment. We want to use local voices about health, healing, comfort, and courage in spaces where they can make a difference.

Poems must be short (no longer than 12 lines).

The deadline for submissions is Monday, Sept. 16.
Send poems to poetlaureate@onecolumbiasc.com.

Red, White, Black, or Before the Eclipse

Originally posted to The Good Men Project on August 21, 2017. 

Red, White, Black, or Before the Eclipse

14 Aug 2017

The darkness drops again – W. B. Yeats

Odd to see it there in the old temple this summer, the sign
of wellbeing—a bent cross turning, a swastika, the sun—
so odd to see it in stone, even though we know it means

it meant something different. Was that the same temple where they
said Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims prayed together, bathed
together in holy water, until they no longer did? The place

was holy; we wore the red sarongs required to enter.
That seems so long ago. Back home we see flags the color
of blood, that bent cross, stark, in black and white. At Tirta

Empul’s holy springs we didn’t bathe, despite an offer
of lockers and green robes. Bert said it felt wrong
to step into someone else’s sacred ritual. We watched

wet tourists standing waist-deep in the pool smile
for selfies, flash peace signs. It didn’t feel holy. Still,
there among grinning tourists and Hindu faithful, we’d filled

a water bottle, not knowing what for. Tanah Lot
felt different, the sky white with rain, the sun a bright spot
out on the face of the sea. Our guide said our offerings

would help with renovations, so we fell in line, leaned over
the pool to wash our faces. Priests daubed foreheads with water
and rice, tucked frangipani behind our ears, the tide

coming in
the beach a babble
of scattered voices,

a book
of useless phrases
in my pocket.


The Balinese wrap trees and statues in sarongs of checkered black
and white like men at worship, the harmony important, balance.
Guardian figures flank a temple door. Our guide explained a mace

against the left shoulder means evil, mace against the right,
good. Otherwise they look the same. You must have both,
he said, but you have to see the difference. Everywhere

we saw small offerings at doorsteps, bright flowers and rice
cupped in leaves woven with prayer. The air was incense and kites,
everywhere the empty black chair of the god of gods, outside

every home, in every field, at the bend of every road,
at the bookshop where we bought incense blessed
by a priest and bound together with braided thread, red,

white, and black. Temple signs still forbid entrance
to menstruating women. A woman at the coffee market
asked why travelers don’t like Trump. We talked difference

and fear. You are you, she pointed at Bert. I am me.
We accept. The only lingams we found were gaudy
bottle-openers in souvenir stalls. Our last day in Bali,

we found a small bird shuddering on our front step—
small sounds and then it was still. Bert scooped it up
gently, left it in the flowers. It felt something like a sign.

One day, when I told Wayan I’m a teacher, he pulled over
for a large statue of Saraswati, so I could see her better,
her book and lute, her beads, her swan, her jar of water.

One night, as he drove us back, we saw men in white
shirts and dark sarongs walking along the road, the night
quiet. Wayan drove slow. They’re going to temple, he said,

The thin line of men and boys, torches lifted, thickened
into a crowded procession, women with baskets, children,
and then at the end, like a grinning apparition

from the dark, the barong—more giant dog than lion,
more muppet than rough beast, great shaggy guardian
of the good, and then it was gone,

and we drove on,
and darkness

took back
the road.


Coming back, jet lag was hard, our bodies on a different clock,
the news one long banner of anger, hard to watch,
men in white shirts lifting torches on a college lawn,

and then the air was tear gas and mace, banners
wielded as weapons, that old sun sign back on flags
and armbands the way we know it now, in white and black.

A card tucked with the incense said to wear the braided
thread around the right wrist for protection, red,
white, and black. I’ve placed Saraswati on my desk,

the bracelet on my wrist. Soon, a wave of darkness will pass
over us, the sun gone, the air cold. We’ll wear the glasses
that let us look into the dark without going blind. Our last

day there in Bali, we avoided news from home.
We ate breakfast at a French bakery, watched a woman
bless the ATMs across the parking lot. At the museum,

we picked our favorites. Bert stood at the fountain
of Ida Sang Hyang Widhi Waça, radiant and one,
god of all gods, beams of light like spikes shining from

his body, like forks at each joint, his genitals a curling
trident of light. For me it was the painting of Rahu swallowing
the sun, light shining between his teeth, the sun emerging

from his severed throat. Everywhere,
that last day there, I remembered,
tried to remember

to say thank you
in their tongue—

That evening,
when we returned
to our rooms,

Bert washed the step
with the bottle
of holy water.