Tickets Go On Sale for Deckle Edge Keynote Address and Nikky Finney Southern Truth Award Celebration

Terrance Hayes

Terrance Hayes

Nikky Finney photo by Forrest Clonts

Nikky Finney photo by Forrest Clonts



In the third year of celebrating South Carolina’s rich literary tradition Deckle Edge Literary Festival 2018 will welcome keynote speaker Terrance Hayes and renowned Southern literary artist Nikky Finney March 3, 2018 for the Deckle Edge 2018 Keynote Address and Southern Truth Award Celebration. Following the 2018 Deckle Edge Literary Festival daytime sessions from 9:30 am until 5 pm at Richland Library on Assembly Street, the Keynote Address and Southern Truth Award Celebration will take place at 7 pm at 701 Whaley Street Market Space. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 day of, and $10 for students. Heavy hors d’oeuvres from Chef Joe Turkaly will be served with music from Cola Jazz’s Amos Hoffman and Sam Edwards, and there will be a cash bar. Tickets are available at Brown Paper Tickets at


Prior to the Keynote Address and Southern Truth Award Celebration a VAP* Champagne Reception will be held from 5:30 until 7 pm, also at 701 Whaley Market Space. (*Very Appreciated Person). The VAP Celebration allows attendees to meet and mingle, as well as raise a champagne toast to, Terrance Hayes, Nikky Finney and other honored participants in this year’s Deckle Edge Literary Festival. The reception will feature free champagne, heavy hors d’oeuvres, and reserved seats for the keynote address and award ceremony to follow, as well as recognition at the event. The reception will also serve as a fund raising opportunity for Deckle Edge Literary Festival. The purchase of VAP tickets will not only help offset festival costs but will serve as a scholarship fund for additional students to attend the evening’s Keynote address.


Winner of MacArthur, Guggenheim, US Artists Zell, and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, Hayes is the author of Lighthead, which was the winner of the 2010 National Book Award, Wind in a Box, Hip Logic, and Muscular Music. How to Be Drawn, his most recent collection of poems, was a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award, the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award, and received the 2016 NAACP Image Award for Poetry. He is the current poetry editor at New York Times Magazine and has two manuscripts forthcoming in 2018.


A South Carolina native, Nikky Finney is the author of Head Off & Split, which won the 2011 National Book Award for poetry, The World Is Round, Rice, Heartwood, and On Wings Made of Gauze. She is the John H. Bennett, Jr. Chair in Creative Writing and Southern Letters at the University of South Carolina.


Over two dozen sessions will make up the Deckle Edge Literary Festival this year with panels and presentations that cover poetry, prose, songwriting, screenwriting, new works from local authors, a live interview for the Pat Conroy Literary Center filmed on-site, writing graphic novels, writing for social justice, a poetry workshop for teens, USC’s Moving Images Resource Center, literary history, and interactive art-making with Columbia-based fiber and installation artist Susan Lenz. Among the authors attending are Chuck Brown, Sanford Greene, Julia Elliott, Scott Gould, Mark Powell, Tim Conroy, Claudia Smith Brinson, Anthony Grooms, Alvin McEwan, Monifa Lemons, Ray McManus, Cassie Premo Steele, Marjorie Spruill, all of SC’s poets laureates – Marjory Wentworth, Marcus Amaker, and Ed Madden, Brock Adams, Isabella Gomez and many more.

The daytime event is free and open to the public and tickets to the keynote celebration are available at

Watch the website at for further details as they are released.


Monifa "When I think about where I was, it was just me, and my daughter, and a hundred flyers," says Monifa Lemons, co-founder and director of The Watering Hole, a South Carolina-based poetry collective dedicated to poets of color. When she moved South Carolina, Lemons felt displaced from the creative scene in her hometown of New York City. Lemons, then a working, single mother of a seven year old, was determined to create the change she wanted to see. She secured an open-mic night venue at the Jamaican restaurant This, That, and the Other in Five Points and Cool Beans Coffee Company. Lemons and her daughter walked down Main Street together, posting flyers for the spoken-word scene she had created. That was 1998.

Today, Lemons directs The Watering Hole (TWH). Started as a Facebook group with just eighteen people, TWH now serves as a safe space to over 500 members. In 2016, TWH was invited to present at James Madison University's Furious Flower Poetry Center, the first center in the nation to be dedicated to African American poetry. This poetry conference only occurs every ten years. Furious Flower has honored nationally revered poets such as Maya Angelou, Amiri Baraka, and in 2016, Rita Dove. TWH also offers an annual Winter Retreat, where they offer expert education to Southern poets at economical prices. "I don't create it if I can't buy it," explains Lemons.

Lemons has also has recently been published. Her work has been chosen for an anthology of Southern poetry entitled Home is Where, edited by Emmy award winning poet Kwame Dawes. Lemons's poetry, like herself, is incredibly dynamic. In the beginning, she was strictly a spoken word poet. Also an accomplished actress, Lemons would jot down poems between scenes, drawing inspiration from 90s-era hip-hop. Presently, however, she has focused her poetry to reflect the many facets of herself. She writes about motherhood, specifically what it is like to be a single, black mother. She also writes about womanism (a form of feminism that emphasizes women's natural contribution to society, used by some in distinction to the term feminism and its association with white women) and injustice. Her spoken word poetry is ever-changing. She reworks one piece in particular, "For Brown, for Rice, for Garner," every time she performs, putting her poetry in a perpetual state of metamorphosis. In "Black Girls," (below) she talks about her daughters praying over cereal and hoping for decorated pencils. In "B's and H's", she provides a cutting condemnation of misogyny in the music industry. Lemons is a poet who can do it all, and do it all well.

When ask if her poetry is confessional, Lemons responds, "it is confessional, but it speaks for a sect of people who are not represented well." Lemons has dedicated much of her time and craft to bringing to light what much of the poetry world ignores. Lemons is continuing the adroit work of her inspirations, Nikky Finney, Patricia Smith, and Roger Bonair-Agard. Though Lemons is a New York native, she also has a bracing Southern perspective in her work. In her youth, she spent her summers raising hogs and feeding chickens at her grandmother's farm in Camden, South Carolina. "I've always been a kindred spirit to South Carolina ... when opportunities came up to move back to New York, I never would," she says. With Lemons's recent publication, she is adding to the rich literary legacy of South Carolina, while also providing her own idiosyncratic commentary on motherhood, hip-hop, and injustice.

Two Poems by Monifa Lemons


Black Girls    

I know Black Girls

Black girls running around in panties.

Black girls praying. Even over cereal.

Black girls bouncing. or sitting on stairs.

Black girls lit at the gift of notebooks and decorated pencils.

I know black girls

Black girls who hug with the wholeness of their arms

Fast black girls. Free.

Black girls who smile at no one.




I know black girls who pass mirrors and do their own hair.

Black girls showing off.

Black girls screaming.

I know black girls who silence when grandmothers speak.

I know them.


Black girls.


I know black girls who arch backs to drum beats and sax who make it truth because they say so they told them on the way here to us black girls who believe in their sisters hood who don’t ask for black dolls they expect them black girls who strut through your space and whip their hips passed newsstands they know they know they know they know black girls who blow and hush and hum and rhythm and concoct and draw and spell and conjure up you and you and you and you. i know them. I know them black girls and they comin’ for you.



You look good. You. Look good. Yeah Good. Looking good. What are you doing? Now what are you doing? You

Look good. What have you been doing? What. What have you not been doing? What were you not doing? When did you care? When did you care about looking good? When you do that, you look good. Look. Look, you are good. You are good. Now. You care now. You now care. Care has been taken. Now. What were you doing? What have you done? You care. Now. We'll care now look at you. We care to look at you. You look good. Now.


Review -- A Woman with Keys: Nikky Finney’s Rice by Jonathan Butler


Nikky Finney’s Rice, originally published in 1995 but available in a new edition from TriQuarterly Books, is literature performing  the functions of oral culture: the transmission of stories, legends, warnings, and a sense of history and community. Finney’s topics are the lives and experiences of Black folks in coastal South Carolina, and Rice presents us with speakers from different eras, consistently giving a sense of a living voice, often speaking out of the past, but always with the urgency of the present. Some things are remembered for inspiration and strength, and others as cautions, as with the tale of a white doctor who drunkenly births a child with disastrous results in “The Afterbirth, 1931”:

And because he came with his papers in his pocket

so convincing

so soon

after his Ivy graduation

asking us hadn’t we heard

telling us times had changed

and the midwife wasn’t safe anymore

even though we had all been caught

by tried and true Black grannies

who lay ax blade sharp side up

and placed the water pan underneath the bed

The poem’s ache is especially poignant because of the promise, represented by the doctor’s race and education, that this birth would be a step forward for the family, a hope that turns out to be naive: too much faith a white stranger’s accreditations, not enough trust in their own practices and perceptions:

We should’ve let Grandpop

loose on him from the start

and he would’ve held him up

higheye to the sun

and looked straight through him

just like he held us up

and then he would have known first

like he always knew first

and brought to us

the very map of his heart

then we would have known

just what his intentions were

with our Carlene

It’s a hard-earned lesson, like much of what is contained in Rice, and Finney is determined to see that it isn’t forgotten. That poem and others in the book emphasize the combined knowledge of its characters, keenly aware of the role a community plays in sustaining its members. Establishing such a community is one function Finney finds for poetry in Rice, and this feature of the book goes hand in hand with her skill in crafting language that feels authentic and spoken.  Poetry must serve this function, Finney’s book suggests, because Hollywood is unwilling or unable to:

Why can’t a story sell

less somebody kill molest mutilate me

or make my BabyDarling buffoon fall through a roof

she asks in “Pluck,” a poem that takes aim at narratives that present Black characters either as one-dimensional buffoons, or that reduce the horrors of slavery to melodrama and tawdry romance:

Slavery was no opera

soaped or staged

was no historical moment

when African women conceived children

out of love for white men

The desire for representations of Blacks is strong, Finney acknowledges, but cautions against accepting portrayals that deny people their dignity, complexity, intelligence, or anger:

Sometimes when they know we are starving

they will throw stale bread

but don’t eat right then

hold out     turn away

refuse and reach for your heart   your liver   your lungs

This is the bad bread that Rice is offered as nourishing alternative to, the title crop coming to stand for the knowledge and skill of those that produced it. As a counter to popular media’s oversights, Rice offers accounts of real people, like FX Walker II, a mapmaker whose craft suggests a parallel to the poet’s, or Finney’s own grandfather, Ernest A. Finney Jr., first Black chief justice of the state of South Carolina, characterized in “He Never Had It Made” by his faith in hard work and the law:

He is the Justice Man

and from waiting tables as a young lawyer

for the white and the privileged

to this day here   he has always believed

back then as a boy with only a road

up here as a man who never looks back


The law works Girl

While Rice is a deeply personal book, as the family photographs accompanying the poems make clear, it also situates the personal within a larger history, reminding us that personal history is already social, and that history is personal. If no one will testify to the sufferings and triumphs of real people, then those experience and their lessons may be erased. “Daguerre of Negras” speaks explicitly to these concerns, noting that “They will ask for your evidence / Might you have a photo?”:

They will tell you it never happened

Cause proof must be in a tin plate

And where pray tell is yours

In these poems, bodies themselves are stamped with history. “Making Foots,” which documents the mutilation of Black feet by fire, blunt force, blades, and disregard, concludes:

If your Black foot

ever wakes you up

in the night

wanting to talk about something

aching there

under the cover

out loud

for no apparent



There is reason

But while it’s a reminder of past injustices, and an acknowledgement that they continue in different forms, Rice is also a celebration of the community it evokes. What must be remembered are not only the indignities suffered in the past, but the dignity of those who suffered them. In his foreword, Kwame Dawes writes “What a poet like yourself does is to reinstate the concept of the poet as a griot—as priest, not void of subjectivity and a private self but able to contain the voices of the community—virtually empowered with the gift to develop a soul for the people” (x). Here, the many voices in Finney’s poems insist, I will tell my own story. And each voice is like the one in “A Woman with Keys”:

I am a woman with keys

Unlocking all the buildings

That now belong

To me

Finney has unlocked history for her speakers. Now they occupy history’s rooms, ready for their stories to be heard


-- Jonathan Butler

First Lines -- an invitation from Jasper

"As she sat stunned in her car on Charleston's rickety old John P. Grace Memorial Bridge, trapped precariously 150 feet above the swift-moving waters of the Cooper River, ..."


"When you're a boy growing up in rural South Carolina, and you want to be a poet, you should first learn to fight."


"It was a Tuesday night in the spring of 1988 and I decided to head down to Pug's in Five Points for the weekly jam session."


"This essay is not an act of revenge."


"Bastille Day 2001, personal date of independence."


"It's a particularly hot summer day, even for Columbia, when I parallel park my car on Washington Street and notice a tall, lanky gentleman as he moves stiffly to reposition an over-sized canvas by the curb."


"It began with a gift."

 Ahh, first lines.

Every literary adventure you've ever been on began with one.

Please join the Jasper and Muddy Ford Press family today as we celebrate the first lines above and more than a dozen more when we launch our newest book,

The Limelight – A Compendium of Contemporary Columbia Artists,

volume 1,

with a launch party from 5 – 8 pm at Tapp’s Arts Center on Main Street in Columbia.

The $15 admission to the event includes a copy of The Limelight ($18 after 2/24/13), music, food, and the opportunity to gather signatures from authors and artists in attendance at the launch. For couples wishing to share a book, admission is $25.

There will be a cash bar.

The Limelight, published by Muddy Ford Press, LLC, is the first volume in a serialized collection of 18 first-person, narrative essays written by professional Columbia authors and artists about professional Columbia authors and artists. It is the sixth book to be published by Muddy Ford Press since February 2012.

Edited by Jasper Magazine founder and editor Cynthia Boiter, The Limelight – A Compendium of Contemporary Columbia Artists, Volume 1 is a serialized collection of first person narrative essays written by Columbia, SC writers and artists about Columbia, SC writers and artists. As the Southeast’s newest arts destination, Columbia is bursting with visual, literary, and performing artists whose work has caught the attention of the greater arts world at large, and these essays tell the stories of how the influence of these artists has spread. New York Times best-selling author Janna McMahan, for example, writes about spending a day touring Beaufort, SC, the hometown of literary giant Pat Conroy, with the writer himself. Poet Ed Madden writes about the disconcerting words of advice he received from dying poet and professor James Dickey when Madden took over teaching the last academic course of Dickey’s career. Music writers Michael Miller and Kyle Petersen share insights on saxophone great Chris Potter and contemporary singer-songwriter Danielle Howle, respectively, and poet Cassie Premo Steele writes about the inspiration stemming from her friendship with nationally-known visual artist Philip Mullen.

These 18 essays include works by and about poets Nikky Finney, Terrance Hayes, Marjory Wentworth, Ray McManus, Cassie Premo Steele, Kristine Hartvigsen, Colena Corbett, and Ed Madden; visual artists Philip Mullen, Gilmer Petroff, Blue Sky, James Busby, Stephen Chesley, and Susan Lenz; musicians Chris Potter and Danielle Howle; dancers Stacey Calvert and Bonnie Boiter-Jolley; actors and directors Robert Richmond, Greg Leevy, Chad Henderson, Vicky Saye Henderson, Jim and Kay Thigpen, and Alex Smith; and writers and editors James Dickey, Pat Conroy, Janna McMahan, Aida Rogers, Michael Miller, Jeffrey Day, Kyle Petersen, Robbie Robertson, Don McCallister, Robert Lamb, August Krickel, and Cynthia Boiter.

For more information or to order online please go to