The Litchfield Tea & Poetry Series keeps flowing along as smoothly as the poetic rhythms composed by the many poets it has featured. Beginning in January 2020, the series will enter its fourteenth year at the Waccamaw Library, located at 41 St. Paul Place, Pawleys Island. The lineup of poets who will read in the venerable series this year is notable, mixing strong local talent while pulling in “name” poets from outside the state. The series runs from January through April and is held on the third Thursday of each month at 10:00 a.m. The program is sponsored by the Friends of the Waccamaw Library, and is free and open to all. Light refreshments, including a selection of good teas, are offered.
The first installment of the 2020 series will take place on Thursday, January 16, and will feature three accomplished poetic voices: Ray McManus, Adrian Rice, and Molly Rice. A native South Carolinian, McManus has established himself as one of the strong, emerging voices of “rough South” literature. His poems often speak to the darker side of experience in the semi-rural and sometimes repressive South: hard work, hard love, hard drinking. Yet this darkness is often broken with humor or quirky turns. And images of rough Southern life are entwined with the haunting presence of Ireland in McManus’s verse, drawn from his family history. This Irish fire also burns bright through Adrian Rice’s work. Originally from Belfast, Adrian Rice is now living in the highlands of North Carolina, where is completing his doctorate at Appalachian State University. He has established himself as a poet on both sides of the Atlantic. His latest book is The Strange Estate: New & Selected Poems (Press 53). Molly Rice, Adrian’s spouse, is also a poet as well as an award-winning theater educator and director. Her first chapbook, Mill Hill, was published by Finishing Line Press, with recommendations from Ron Rash and Kathryn Stripling Byer, and her first full poetry collection is forthcoming from Press 53.
On Thursday, February 20 at 10:00 a.m., Al Black and Gary Jackson will be the featured poets. Both poets draw attention to matters of racial inequity and struggle through their work. An Indiana native, Black has published two poetry collections, I Only Left For Tea (2014) and Man With Two Shadows (2018); co-edited Hand in Hand, Poets Respond to Race (2017); and is published in anthologies, journals, and periodicals. He hosts arts events, co-founded Poets Respond to Race Initiative and was Jasper Magazine’s 2017 Literary Artist of the Year. Gary Jackson is the author of the poetry collection Missing You, Metropolis, which received the 2009 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in Callaloo, Tin House, Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere. He teaches in the MFA program at the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina.
On Thursday, March 19 at 10:00 a.m., the Waccamaw Library will welcome Shelby Stephenson, who served as Poet Laureate of North Carolina from 2015 to 2018. His recent books include Paul’s Hill: Homage to Whitman, Our World, and Nin’s Poem. He was editor of Pembroke Magazine from 1978 to 2010, when he retired from University of North Carolina at Pembroke. He lives ten miles northwest of Benson, NC, where he was born. During his tenure as Poet Laureate, Stephenson pursued three projects: holding writing workshops in assisted living and retirement communities, raising awareness of local archives and family histories, and promoting writings about farming and farm life in North Carolina. He also sings and plays guitar in classic country music style. Following Stephenson’s reading, there will be an open mic session. All who attend are invited to read one of their own poems. Participants are asked to please keep their reading to a single poem no longer than a page.
On Thursday, April 16 at 10:00 a.m., the 2020 Litchfield Tea & Poetry Series will come to an exciting conclusion with a couple of acclaimed female poets: Carolyn Elkins and Diana Pinckney. Both Elkins and Pinckney are well-known figures on the poetry circuit with prolific publications and honors. Elkins is the author of three books of poetry: Angel Pays a Visit (Emrys), Daedalus Rising (Emrys), and Coriolis Forces (Palanquin). Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and six of her poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Carolyn is Associate Editor of Tar River Poetry and a Contributing and Advisory Editor of Poetry South. For her part, Pinckney is the winner of the Ekphrasis Prize, Atlanta Review’s International Poetry Prize and Prime Number Magazine’s 2018 Poetry Prize. Published in RHINO, Cave Wall, Green Mountains Review, Tar River Poetry, The Pedestal Magazine, Still Point Arts Quarterly, and Connotation Press as well as other journals and anthologies, Pinckney has five books of poetry, including The Beast and The Innocent (2015). What better way to celebrate April as National Poetry Month than to catch these two skilled poets in person at the Library!