South Carolina

In 1934, South Carolina established a state poet laureate position, which is currently held by Marjory Heath Wentworth. Wentworth is the author of four books of poetry, including her New and Selected Poems (University of South Carolina Press, 2014).

In 2016, Marcus Amaker was named the first poet laureate of Charleston, South Carolina.

In 2015, Ed Madden was appointed poet laureate of Columbia, South Carolina. He will serve an eight-year term.

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At the Public Market Museum: Charleston, South Carolina

A volunteer, a Daughter of the Confederacy,
receives my admission and points the way.
Here are gray jackets with holes in them,
red sashes with individual flourishes,
things soft as flesh. Someone sewed
the gold silk cord onto that gray sleeve
as if embellishments
could keep a man alive.

I have been reading War and Peace,
and so the particulars of combat
are on my mind—the shouts and groans
of men and boys, and the horses' cries
as they fall, astonished at what
has happened to them.
                         Blood on leaves,
blood on grass, on snow; extravagant
beauty of red. Smoke, dust of disturbed
earth; parch and burn.

Who would choose this for himself?
And yet the terrible machinery
waited in place. With psalters
in their breast pockets, and gloves
knitted by their sisters and sweethearts,
the men in gray hurled themselves
out of the trenches, and rushed against
blue. It was what both sides
agreed to do.

In the Congaree

I’m home. I’m not home. I’m on the road or
Off it, briefly. I’ve been out of place. I’ve been

Taking familiar walks. I like the boardwalk. I like
The swamp. I feel ill at ease. I feel fine.

As August ends, I’m thick and cold. As I circle
Above a tide of cypress knees, of webs,

Fallen trunks and leaves, I gather out
The mud a mossy repose. A violent mist.

A green allure. I have spoken into
A dead and standing pool of air, where,

In its center, a spider hangs. I can hear myself
Moving, notes taken on paper, on

My feet, I stop and that makes a sound.
I look out into what feels ancient. It

Doesn’t seem old. My voice is spun.
I’m rolling out myself last rung by rung.

I pinned my eye to the base of a loblolly pine,
And rose, much higher than I would

Suppose. I know everything already. I have to
Ask people questions. All of my relatives

Are famous. There are so many people dead.
Look at these trees. They’re shattered in pieces.

They’re tall and full. I look forward, steadily,
At the moss grown high as the flood.