Where is Your Next Stop? Launching Poets on The Comet This Sunday, November 1!


Rosa Rode the Bus Too A revolution began on a city bus. Where is your next stop? - Len Lawson

By: Literary Arts Editor and City Poet Laureate Ed Madden

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).

The rolling reading will take place on route 101—so we’re calling it Poetry 101. (Clever, right?) The route, which runs up North Main from the Sumter Street transit station, takes approximately an hour. There will be limited seating, first come, first served. Three sets of poets will read their work for Poetry 101, and thanks to the generosity of One Columbia, all rides on the 101 route will be free all day. For the Poetry 101 rolling reading, meet at the Sumter Street station (1780 Sumter) at 3:30. If you can’t join us on the bus, join us at Tapp’s Art Center for the celebration, with food and drink and readings by more of the poets.

The project is a collaboration One Columbia Arts and History and the Poet Laureate with the Central Midlands Transit Authority. Thanks especially to Lee Snelgrove at One Columbia and Tiffany James at CMTA.

This is my first major project as the city’s poet laureate, and I’m really excited that we have been able to do this. One of my charges as the city laureate is to incorporate the literary arts into the daily life of the city, and to get poetry into public places. The Comet project does that. We have poems on printed CMTA bus schedules (check out some online at: http://catchthecomet.org/routes/), we have poems on the buses themselves, and One Columbia has also published a small book of poems selected for this project—an exciting collection of South Carolina voices, and short poems ranging from the punchy to the political to the poignant. The books will be available at Tapp’s.

Earlier this year, 89 South Carolina writers submitted over 200 poems for Poems on the Comet. Our theme was “The Story of the City,” and poets wrote about favorite places, historical events, daily life in the Midlands, even poems about riding on the bus. We narrowed it down to 51 poems by 45 writers. There are poems by established writers, emerging writers, writers active in the local spoken word and arts communities, musicians, and young writers—seven of them students in Richland and Lexington County middle schools.

At Tapp’s we will also announce the theme for next year’s poetry project.

You can find out more at our Facebook event site: https://www.facebook.com/events/180667522270918/

Learn more about this project and get updates on what I’m doing as laureate at the laureate website: http://www.columbiapoet.org/2015/10/20/cometevent/

Here are a few poems featuring in this year’s project.


Jennifer Bartell

As a turtle suns on the boulders of the river so my soul stretches forth to face the day.

Downtown Grid

Kathleen Nalley

No matter your starting point, here you’re never lost. Each right turn, each left turn leads you to a familiar place. The city itself a compass, its needle, no matter the direction, always points you home.

Small Winds

Jonathan Butler

All morning the wind has collected the incense of fields, the smell of grass like the sweet breath of the dead, the scent of earth pungent with sorrow and hope, the perfume the rain shakes from its long hair.

The wind has collected these things in fields and forests, cities and towns, to bring them to you this morning, small winds carrying chocolate and smoke blown from the black lake of your cup of coffee.

Who Sees The City?

Drew Meetze (age 14)

Who sees the city best? The tourist, the resident, or the outsider? The tourist sees the bronze stars on the capitol, the cramped racks of key chains and postcards. The resident sees little coffee shops on Main Street and hidden alleyways. The outsider understands that everyone they see has their own lives, first loves, or tragedies.


K. LaLima

Time flows like water Eyes of Cofitachequi Watch the Congaree


Under watchful gaze Five Points remains guarded by That naked cowboy

Milltown Saltbox Bedrooms

David Travis Bland

You can dance in the passenger seat— I'll hold the wheel. Five in the morning traffic Between an emaciated bridge And chicken factory steam Blurring the red neon sky. We're vegetarians in a pork town Dancing in milltown saltbox bedrooms On the banks of a river we all cross.

A Poem for Leslie from John Starino

Like so many who make a difference by their humility and presence, Leslie Pierce was just such a person.  Here is a poem dedicated to her which appears in my second book Onion Season Pt. 2.  Because of her I participated twice in Frisson at the Columbia Museum of Art.  In my preparation by talking with her, this poem ensued.  - John M. Starino i come to do homework

frisson prepare cma the light plays a different way inconsequential of the lens

this muse this day setting, tenor articulation

leslie pierce brown hair exhibit brown eyes alive today i peruse even remark how vibrant you are

do you ever wish any one to sit down be at eye level that you do not have to look up to

since in essence i look up to you your difference is so obvious not like mine

and in further essence a difference only in appearance

entreat to enjoin compassionate, intelligent demonstrative, adept

so in this essence of humankind you are the standard that has been raised

astride your chariot every day


Call for Bus Poems!

bus poetry

Columbia. A city, a community, a home. Columbia has been a home to all of us and now it’s time to tell it’s story. What is your story of Columbia?. How would you tell the city's story? What story would you tell? Where did you go? What did you see? What conversation did you hear? What did you taste? What is your Columbia? Who is your Columbia? Columbia’s poet laureate, Ed madden is holding a poetry competition to put poems on Columbia Comet buses All are welcome to submit!

Madden originally had the idea because in major cities poetry is printed on lots of the major transits. He thought it would be cool to bring that to Columbia and show what a vibrant city Columbia is, with all its culture and art. Madden explains what he is looking for in the poems, “I love quirky and sonically dense poetry. Hoping for a diversity of voices. Poems that help us think about who we are and who we might be.” Madden really believes in the togetherness of Columbia. He’s looking for poems that really capture the voice of the city. Stories about places or overheard conversations. “I really want specificity, and I want poems that give me a very particular portrait of he city. Like what is your take on the city? What I want are honest, accurate, sensory descriptions of who we are and where we are”.

Madden became the Poet Laureate of Columbia this year and was excited to take on the role. He was selected in January 2015 by the City of Columbia. He is to serve for four years and is tor promote and and strengthen the arts of the city. A Laureate is expected to write poetry for different events and represent their particular area. It is a rather prestigious title. He says he doesn’t rely purely on inspiration though. He believes that poetry is work and comes about when you put something into it. He is hoping that the poetry submitted really gets to the heart of what Columbia is.

Poems can be a maximum of 10 lines and must fit the theme “The Story of Columbia”. Longer poems may be considered for a related book that will be published by OneColumbia. All poems must be submitted to poetlaureate@onecolumbiasc.com by July 15th.

by Grace Fennell

Jasper Literary Editor Ed Madden Reviewed in The State, Salon on Thursday, April 10 @ 7 pm

NEST Join Jasper Magazine - The Word on Columbia Arts on April 10 to hear Columbia poet and Jasper literary arts editor Ed Madden read from his new book of poetry, Nest, just published this spring by Salmon Poetry of Ireland. This will be Ed's first reading from the new book in South Carolina, which was recently reviewed in The State newspaper. Celebrate National Poetry Month with Jasper by joining us for this debut reading!

Join us for drinks at 7 with a reading starting at 7:30 followed by a Q & A with the author. Free.

Nest Snip

In Jasper No. 3, Vol. 3: Artists + Poets Collaborate in Columbia Broadside Project

"'Getting 30 people to work together is a bit of a logistical nightmare,' laughs Darien Cavanaugh, coordinator for the Columbia Broadside Project, an ambitious venture pairing South Carolina writers and artists in collaborative projects. But if all goes as planned, the Columbia Broadside Project show will open at Tapp's Art Center on January 17, with an impressive range of original and collaborative writing and art--a type of collaboration, Cavanaugh says, that we haven't seen before. ..." - Ed Madden For the full article, artwork, and centerfold, view the magazine here:

One Book, One Poem finalists II: Rieppe Moore

Yesterday we published poems by Lauren Allen and Dianne Turgeon Richardson, finalists in the One Book, One Poem contest, which Jasper sponsored in conjunction with the second annual One Book, One Columbia program.  

As we noted yesterday, we invited poets from the greater Columbia area to submit poems inspired by Ron Rash’s novel Saints at the River, and Rash himself judged the contest.  The winning poems, by Will Garland and Debra Daniel, will be published in the new issue of Jasper, to be released Thursday, Nov. 15.


But we’re publishing the finalists in advance right here on the Jasper blog!


Again, congratulations to Lauren Allen, Rieppe Moore, and Dianne Turgeon Richardson, who were all finalists in the contest.


Rieppe Moore actually had two poems among the finalists, “Three Things One Moment Before Summer” and “Waters Remember (Keowee No. 1).”  Moore is a southern poet who lives in Columbia, South Carolina with his wife, Cherith. He graduated from Columbia International University with a BA in Humanities. He is the author of Windows Behind the Veil and Letters to Ethiopia.  While in his first year teaching high school English, he began writing his third chapbook to be published in 2013.  He and his wife are the proud owners of a locally renowned Pogs collection.


Of his poems, Moore says, “Since reading Saints at the River, I've found Rash's concept of the ‘thing past’ haunting my lines.  In Rash's fiction the past overflows with ghosts—failures, disappointments, urgings, and trials that his characters experience.  During a recent photo shoot, I revisited a vacant farm in Blythewood , but when I arrived the farm had been harvested—only a few embarrassing wall frames and roofs remained.  When I raised my SLR to shoot the rural wreckage I couldn't even remember what I had initially seen there.  I had lost the vision and the mind's eye; I couldn't find the right angles; I strove to position myself.”


Below are Moore’s poems.


* * *


Three Things One Moment Before Summer


The dogwoods are just gathering

clusters of innocence in their fists


as evidence that they got a

dull name. Redbud, jessamine


also answer to the viscid moisture

in air that is a stagnant spirit


summoning a god whose only

power is making beauty by calling


buds to open with the subtlety of

an alligator’s eyes that don’t surprise


as much as marvel vision at the door


of the coming season, when trees

will throw their petals to


the ground like constellations

loosed from gravity.


These spent garlands will mingle

with indiscriminate trashes


of brown paper bags and plastic

glasses (surviving the streets)


a throng of wastes, wasted of

similarities like many family generations


in a room all at once with dissonant

voices or like a stream always


speaking of every section of itself.



* * *


Waters Remember

(Keowee No. 1)



Pearling clouds swoon

over lambent, lapidary


waters for a moment.


August thunderstorms

on Keowee don’t soothe


the lake’s eager thirst


but pass along with a chill

of frisson.


Don’t count

raindrops that wrinkle


shuddersinged giggles

from the Spring. Here


breeze speaks of that

inundated town since,


absconded from trees –

black graveyard fields.


Here trout drink want


for waste of currents in

mass waters remember.



* * *

Congratulations again to our finalists—Lauren Allen, Rieppe Moore, and Dianne Turgeon Richardson.  And congratulations, as well, to our winners: Debbie Daniel and Will Garland.  Be sure to pick up the new Jasper (released on Nov. 15) to read the winning poems!



One Book, One Poem Finalists: Lauren Allen and Dianne Turgeon Richardson

Last spring, Jasper sponsored the One Book, One Poem contest in conjunction with the second annual One Book, One Columbia program, sponsored by Richland County Public Library, which featured Ron Rash’s Saints at the River. We invited poets from the greater Columbia area to submit poems inspired by Rash’s novel, and Rash himself agreed to judge the contest. A poet as well as a novelist, Rash said he had a hard time picking the winner, and in the end, he decided it was a tie. The winning poems, by Will Garland and Debra Daniel, will be published in the new issue of Jasper, to be released Thursday, Nov. 15.

But before then, we’re publishing the finalists here on the Jasper blog!

Congratulations to Lauren Allen, Rieppe Moore, and Dianne Turgeon Richardson, who were all finalists in the contest. Their fine poems were among those that made Rash’s judging so difficult. Today we publish Allen and Richardson’s work, tomorrow Moore’s.

* * *

Dianne Turgeon Richardson is from Columbia, SC, and holds degrees from both the College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina. She currently lives with her husband and two mutts in Orlando, FL, where she is pursuing an MFA from the University of Central Florida and is the managing editor of The Florida Review.

Of her poem, “Elegy,” Richardson said, “It's hard to think on Saints At the River without giving some consideration to death by drowning. I have often heard people say that drowning would be one of the worst ways to die, but is it? I was writing a lot about landscape at the time I wrote this poem, and I felt that if I must ‘return to the dust’ as they say, the South Carolina Blue Ridge would be one of the most beautiful places to do so. I wanted to present death, even sudden death, as peaceful instead of fearful.”


This is how you’ll end: water to water, womb to womb, whippoorwill for a dirge, pine trees for pallbearers. You go – wrapped in river satin – go and cross over. Every molecule of wayfaring water vibrates with your memory, your name echoes down the escarpment, the weathered arms of Appalachia cradle you in sleep, whisper lullabies as old as Earth. This is a good way to go.

* * *

Lauren Allen is a professional horse trainer in Camden, South Carolina and is earning her MFA degree in Creative Nonfiction at the University of South Carolina. She says, “I was interested in the undercurrents in Rash's Saints at the River. The ideas about wilderness, stewardship and ownership resonated with me, and as someone who moved across the country to Los Angeles and then eventually returned to my rural roots, I recognized the conflict between love of a place and the need to escape.”

Here’s Lauren’s poem, “corduroy road.”

corduroy road clay the colors of sunset only a witness tree witnesses me trespassing

who owns this land I know the secrets of these woods the hiding places the crumbled cornerstones of foundations

traces of the old road eye-closing scent of crabapple the rise and fall deer trails where ruts disgorge

sandstone eggs hatch Indian paint try to ignore the yipping coyote came from somewhere else

traps are everywhere I used to think I too would chew my leg off to escape

* * *

Check back tomorrow for poems by Rieppe Moore, who had two poems among the finalists. And be sure to pick up the new Jasper (released on Nov. 15) to read the winning poems.

One Book, Two Poems: One Poem contest winners and finalists announced!

Poet and novelist Ron Rash had a hard time picking the winner of the One Book, One Poem contest, and in the end, he decided it was a tie. Will Garland and Debra Daniels are the winners of the contest, for their poems “Swimming Out by the Dam” and “Inside the Silvered Breath.” Both poems will be published in Jasper later this year. Five additional poems were named finalists: “corduroy road” by Lauren Allen, “Muddied Bottoms” by Will Garland (author of one of the winning poems as well), “Waters Remember (Keowee No. 1)” and “Three Things One Moment Before Summer” by Rieppe Moore, and “Elegy” by Dianne Turgeon Richardson.

Of the two winning poems, Rash wrote, “These two poems remind us that the best poetry is written for the ear as much as the eye. I am gratified to have had the opportunity to experience them.”

Jasper sponsored the One Book, One Poem contest in conjunction with the second annual One Book, One Columbia program. The book chosen for 2012 was Ron Rash’s Saints at the River, and a number of events tied to the book were scheduled in January and February, including a packed presentation by Rash at the Bostick Auditorium in Richland County Public Library.

Rash also agreed to judge Jasper’s One Book, One Poem contest, which invited poets from the greater Columbia area to submit poems inspired by Rash’s novel. Not only will the two winning poems will be published in Jasper later this year, but the authors will also receive a literary arts prize package. The finalists will be published later this year right here on the Jasper blog.

Jasper congratulates Will Garland and Debra Daniels, this year’s winners, and the finalists, Lauren Allen, Rieppe Moore, and Dianne Turgeon Richardson. Jasper also thanks all the participants who entered, and who made the judging so difficult because of the range and beauty of the work submitted.

The One Book, One Columbia program hopes to create a sense of community through a shared reading experience, encouraging residents of the greater Columbia area to read the same book at the same time. For more information on the One Book, One Columbia program, see http://www.myrcpl.com/onebook.

Jasper Presents Wet Ink Poetry Series with Kendal Turner

A message from your host ...

I believe that art all comes from the same place. Somewhere between the backs of your eyes and the spot where the stars touch the moon. A safe atmosphere full of inspiration, know how, and elbow grease. I want to create a space where all artists can commune with one another. Where a poet can write along to the sound of violins being played while an artist illustrates the way a dancers feet whisper across the floor. This is the environment Jasper wants to establish with its new poetry series, Wet Ink.

When a poet reads a poem for the first time they call it "wet ink." Brand new work never before heard. Art not shared is lonely. When we present our gifts, that's when the seed is planted. Because not only do you share your soul with others but you influence others to do the same. That small seed will germinate in many hearts and you will see a garden of creativity blossom from the influence.

Wet Ink will rotate throughout various art spaces in Columbia the 4th Sunday of every month. This will allow participants to see and feel a different visual atmosphere every time they attend. We encourage all to come and participate. No judgement, no competition, no rules. Just by showing up you have already succeeded.

I want established artists to mentor the new voices emerging in our community and I want everyone to walk away feeling that their body of work has grown, even if only by a single stroke. Join Jasper this Sunday, the 22nd, at the Tapp's Art Center from 7-9 pm as we premier an event like no other.

Without limitations... how far can you soar?

-- Kendal Turner

Visit the Wet Ink Facebook page by clicking this magic spot.



Sometimes it's all I think about, too.

Jasper is hosting the upstairs performance space in the Olympia Room at this year's What's Love evening of art and performance on Feb 14 at 701 Whaley.  We've got Shane Silman, Andrew Quattlebaum, and Alex Smith recreating the Beat poets, NiA Theatre Company offering a little teaser of a play, some poets and slammers, some short films, a freaky cool little installation of altered dolls by Susan Lenz, and Dr. Sketchy.

And one of the really cool things that Jasper Magazine is doing for this year's will be a little chapbook of sexy, quirky poems about love, sex, and technology.  The theme of this year's event is "input/output," so we invited poems and fiction writers to submit poetry and flash fiction that addressed love and sex and especially the ways that technology has changed our emotional and sexual relationships.  We got about 130 submissions from 40 SC writers.  There were text message poems, Skype poems, poems about voicemail and sexting, telephones and digital cams and iphones, a faux blog by a teenage girl, and story written in Facebook posts.  Girl crushes, long-distance calls, a Grindr post, lights left on all night--oh, and a lurker.  And we narrowed it down to 17 powerful, punchy little pieces.

Poets included are:  Ray McManus, Betsy Breen, Eric Kocher, Carol Peters, Worthy Evans, Nicola Waldron, Julie Bloemeke, Dustin Brookshire, Daniel Nathan Terry, Kristine Hartvigsen, Kendal Turner, Lauren Wiggins, Libby Swope Wiersema, Ed Madden, and Barbara G S Hagerty, as well as a poignant little bit of flash fiction by Carl Jenkinson.

The book is published thanks to Jasper and to Hip-Wa-Zee.




Jasper is looking for a few good poets, writers, spoken word artists to be part of Jasper's literary salon at the What's Love evening of arts and performance in Columbia, to be held 7-12p.m., Feb 14, at 701 Whaley.  Jasper is hosting an upstairs salon, which will include poetry and spoken word, and film.
THEME - The 2012 theme for What's Love is technology and how it affects our relationships, sex, and love lives.  What's Love - Input/Out.  Along with the use of technology by artists, attendees will participate in exhibits through social media and by using their cell phones at the event.
HISTORY - What started as an alternative for singles and couples who didn’t want the traditional Valentine’s night out has become a major annual event that merges visual and performing arts, with themes that challenge ideas about sex, romance, intimacy and love.  What’s Love attracts one thousand attendees and receives extensive media coverage.   With over 20 participating artists, including visual, performance, literary, media, and music, What's Love has become one of the city’s most talked about parties, but foremost, a major exhibition opportunity for South Carolina artists.
WHAT JASPER IS LOOKING FOR - Jasper wants to host two short sets of poetry—erotic, romantic, straight, gay, good writing, words that can move us, words that make us laugh or make us think (or make us hot).  Jasper is also planning to produce a small, limited-edition, chapbook of poems, to be sold/distributed that evening.  (You do not have to be a reader to be in the chapbook; you do not have to be in the chapbook to be one of our performers.)  We need:
•                4-10 writers to read/perform
•                poems (or short short flash fiction) for a small Jasper chapbook of good writing (approx 12-20 pages)
•                writing should address the themes of the show
Send your writing and a short (2-3 sentence) bio to:  emadden@jaspercolumbia.com.

Jasper Pint and Poem Walk Registration is OPEN!


The time has finally come to register for one of the

25 limited spaces

in the

Jasper Magazine First Annual Fall Pint and Poem Walk.

Join us on Wednesday, October 26th as we

Poetically Parade to 4 of Columbia's most Perfect Pubs where we will Passionately Partake of Precious Pints of the most Palatable Potation (i. e., beer) while Pigging out on Pretzels, Popcorn, and Peanuts.


Meet the Jasper Crew at a pre-designated spot in Columbia’s Vista where you will park your car and be shuttled to Main Street.

Start your evening of tippling with a tasting of up to a half dozen rare beers at the Jasper Magazine studio in the Tapp’s Arts Center.

Follow Professors Ed Madden & Ray McManus

—your pint and poetry guides—

as they, along with the Jasper Crew, guide you on a

walking, drinking and reciting tour of

4 of Columbia’s most venerable locally-owned pubs.

Registration is limited to 25 participants so register today at www.jaspercolumbia.net

Jasper asks, Do you remember what it was like to discover love and sex and who you are?

Jasper is working with Trustus Theatre to present:

The Spring Awakening Poetry Contest

Trustus Theatre announces, in conjunction with this December’s production of the Tony award-winning Broadway hit musical Spring Awakening, The Spring Awakening Poetry Contest. Share your own experiences, your own version of the coming of age experience through poetry. The winning poems will be published and winners will receive tickets to Trustus Theatre’s production of this award-winning play.

Winner of 8 Tony awards, including Best Musical, Spring Awakening celebrates the unforgettable journey from youth to adulthood with power, poignancy, and passion. Although our own experiences are individual, the coming of age theme resonates with all of us. Whether it was tragic or transformative, the loss of innocence or the power of self-discovery, we all experience coming of age as a kind of awakening. What did you learn (or not learn), and what can we learn from you? What does it mean to you to come of age, to awaken, to discover who you are, to become an adult?

The Spring Awakening Poetry Contest will have 3 winners, one each in Adult and High School categories, and a third winner to be chosen as a Fan Favorite on Facebook. The top 10 finalists will be posted on the Trustus Facebook page and the Fan Favorite selected through Facebook feedback.

Each winner will receive 2 tickets to Spring Awakening at Trustus and will have their poems published in the shows program as well as being published in the January edition of JASPER Magazine! Besides Fan Favorite the winners will be chosen by Ed Madden, poetry editor for JASPER.

Effective IMMEDIATELY the entries are to be submitted online to thegallerytrustus@gmail.com as a Word document ATTACHMENT with the subject POETRY CONTEST. The deadline for entries is November 18 at 5 p.m. On Monday November 21 the Top 10 submissions will be posted on the Trustus Facebook page where voting will open for Fan Favorite. Voting will end at midnight on November 26. The winners will be announced online on Wednesday November 30.

Submission Guidelines: Work can be any form or style of poetry, but the poem should focus on the Spring Awakening coming of age theme. Poems should not have been previously published in print or online, including personal blogs and internet web pages. Only one entry per person.

Just What the Doctor Ordered

Hmmm. What to write. You stare at the keyboard. Gaze out the window. Contemplate a snack. Pet the dog at your feet. Finally, you tap out a few words, pause, then backspace over them. Repeat. And … repeat.


I can’t say I’ve experienced serious writer’s block, but I’ve certainly had my share of what I would call creative slumping. These are times when I feel like nothing original or of good quality issues from my cluttered brain. Nothing flows. It’s all crap.

When this happens, I’ve found one of the best remedies is to shut down the computer and head out to a local poetry reading. The Columbia area is full of great talent. There are so many diverse, creative voices here, and fortunately not everyone is slumping at the same time. In fact, many are bursting at the seams with good stuff, and it makes you hopeful that you may be able to write well again. If you pay attention, ideas, themes, and images seem to magically come to mind. It could be a poet’s well-crafted turn of phrase that launches a particular creative thought process for you. I suppose you could call it harvesting − carrying with you the energy that is coming out of that microphone and the people at the reading.

I was in such a slump a few years back when I attended an open mike reading on Café Strudel’s back porch. One of the readers, a regular at the time on the local poetry circuit, would bring his work scribbled on all sorts of crumpled bits of parchment thrown into a repurposed plastic Wonder Bread bag. That alone sparked intrigue in me, and it led to the following poem, which ended up as a SC Poetry Initiative Single Poem Contest Finalist this year:



appalachian poet carries his insides around in a plastic polka-dotted bread bag an elegy whispered through lips moistened by fiddlesong he scribbles on napkins, receipts any medium can become a gum wrapper haiku tall hunching wordsmith the smell of woodsmoke in his hair shuffles feet, shuffles papers reads without accompaniment simple flapjacks on the griddle plucks what he can to season the iron


This turned out to be one of my favorite poems, an unexpected joy. I hope you like it. And don’t forget that a local poetry reading may be just what the doctor ordered if your brain is feeling a bit anemic.

-- KH

Get your groove back via Cassie Premo Steele

It happens to all of us, whether we're artists or artisans (two decidedly different classifications) or amateurs. Sometimes we just get stale. We can't find our groove. The juices aren't flowing. We freeze up. For those of us who build with words, we call it writers' block -- and it is the scariest, most frustrating sensation in the world. Other times we're plodding along just fine. Cranking it out. Meeting our deadlines. Getting the job done. And our work is fine. Just fine. Nothing special, nothing innovative, nothing earth-shattering. It's fine.

If you're a writer and you ever find yourself in either of these two situations, it's important to keep your head about you. Your world probably isn't coming to an end. But you may, in fact, need something of a tune up. Luckily there's someone in town who has perfected the art of stimulating creativity -- poet, author, academician, and creativity coach, Cassie Premo Steele.

Jasper has had the pleasure of both attending Cassie's creativity workshops and hosting them, so we're taking this opportunity to spread the word that another series of workshops will be taking place soon. It's nice to take a moment now and then and just tend to one's creative core. It's sort of like tidying up your desk -- it needs to be done anyway and, in all likelihood, it'll help you work better. Jasper recommends it.

We're bold-faced copying and pasting info about Cassie's upcoming creative writing class below, as well as one of her lovely poems below that. If you decide to sign up for one of her classes, please tell her Jasper sent you, and let us know how it worked out. We'd really like to know.

Here's the spiel in Cassie's own words --

In October, I will be offering a lunchtime Creative Writing Class on Tuesdays from 12:00-1:00 at The Co-Creating Studio in the Forest Acres area of Columbia.

We will cover the fundamentals of poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction, and the primary focus will be to help you generate new material and stretch yourself to write with greater emotional depth and clarity. Also covered will be the fundamentals of revision and how to... submit your writing for publication.

The cost is $100 per month to be paid at the first class of the month or $30/ per class.

Class size will be limited so everyone can get individual attention, and spaces are already filling, so if you are interested, feel free to email me at cassiepremosteele@gmail.com or call or text 803 420 1400.

All best wishes, Cassie Premo Steele

For those who don't know me, I am the author of eight books, a Pushcart nominated poet, and a writing & creativity coach with two decades of university and community teaching experience. You can visit my website at www.cassiepremosteele.com for more.


And here's one of Jasper's favorite Cassie poems --


Sometimes at night I dream I am pregnant again*

Sometimes at night I dream I am pregnant again but with a book,

not a baby, and my stomach extends not roundly but with four

corners, sharp edges and the fear of splinters, cuts and wood.


When I wait in the rain before dawn for the rest of the world

to awaken, I imagine the eggs still within me are pearls.

What I hold is a jewel of beginning again, something softer


than scarves and more precious than music playing in the dark.

Sometimes I rise and go to the window and make myself take

a look.  The baby is there, and the book, looking down from the moon.


They sing me a lullaby.  Their words say there is always enough time,

enough space, more than enough room.  I fall back asleep in this world, dreaming of what is

beginning in me to the sound of this tune.


(*A certain member of Jasper's clan has been dreaming lately that she, too, is pregnant, though she is far too old for another child. We're wondering if the dreams will subside after Jasper debuts in print form on Thursday night?)




My father, dying

In this month’s Poetry magazine, a poem by Kevin Young, one of my favorite poets, caught me by surprise. Sometimes that happens, that twist, that leap, that chill of meaning that is both of the work and not of the work. I’m not sure how to write about this.

You can read the poem, “Pietà” by Kevin Young online here where a blogger has posted the poem. (Note: The poem is not centered in the published version. Subject for another day: centered poetry, pet peeve.)

Who is this “I” in the poem, and who is this “him”? I wondered. The title, Pietà—pity—suggests all those images of Mary cradling the body of her dead son. Whoever the sought-for “him” is, he can’t be found in heaven (“too uppity” and “not enough // music, or dark dirt”), nor in the earth. Death appears in the poem, a boy bounces a ball, and the speaker notices the delay of sound reaching him. Then Young ends: “Father, // find me when / you want. I’ll wait.” Prayer? Elegy? Father or father or both?

Last spring as my father was dying of cancer, I was reading poems, writing poems, drawn to poetry as a form of understanding, a way to process my conflicts and my grief. Poems I’d always loved and taught, from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “In Memoriam” (his long elegiac sequence about the death of his dear friend) to Li-Young Lee’s stunning first book Rose, had new resonance for me. New pain, new forms of consolation.

Yes, sometimes this is what art does: offers consolation.

I’m not sure how to write about this. It feels, maybe, too personal.

I know I’m seeing dead fathers everywhere. My own keeps showing up in my dreams. I picked up a thin collection of new Scottish poetry when I was in Dublin in July, Intimate Expanses, and the first poem was Alastair Reid’s “My Father, Dying.” “The whole household is pending,” he writes. “I am not ready.” (I remember when the hospice nurse told us my father was on “the imminent list.”) The end of his father’s life, writes Reid, seems the beginning of something else: a “hesitant conversation / going on and on and on.”

In the July/August issue of Poetry, a poem by another favorite poet, Spencer Reece, “The Manhattan Project," a poem that ends, stunningly: “The quietness inside my father was building and would come to define him. I was wrong to judge it. Speak, Father, and I will listen. And if you do not speak, then I will listen to that.”

So I'm thinking about my father, I’m writing about my father. Here’s a draft:

Last Night

Last night, bright moon, dark trees lining each horizon,

armadillo digging up the flowerbed. The yucca’s last buds glow white.

Last night, a nightmare, lame as nightmares come, but

for all that, I woke up calling out for my father’s help. My mother

woke, her soft feet at the door.

Last night, she says, she heard voices, in the house, outside the window,

someone calling her name. It’s like that now.

Last night my dad asked how I got there,

sitting beside his bed, his head against the rail,

his soft focus stare. He says something else

I can’t quite hear, his quiet voice receding, as if

he’s elsewhere, another room. My mom says sometimes he waves

at someone, but no one’s there.

So I’m writing about and to my father. Not pleased with many of them, but writing. Maybe it’s a way to keep that “hesitant conversation” going. I am thinking about all the conversations I never had with him. I am listening to the silence. As I sit here at my desk, the dark shadow of a large hawk keeps crossing the backyard.


For those of you who are writing or have written about illness, USC Sumter is hosting a writing contest (essay and poetry). Download the information here. Deadline is September 16.

Shame On You

I’ve been thinking a lot about shame lately. If this blog had a soundtrack it would be Evelyn Champagne King, 1978, “Shame.” (Yeah, I'm listening to it again while I write. Listen along!)

You can see him, can’t you? That skinny gay kid with bad Barry Manilow hair, dancing in front of his mirror to the eight-track tape….

Maybe I’m thinking about shame because I spent some time in my childhood home earlier this year, sleeping in that bedroom. (The mirror and the eight-track player and the Barry Manilow hairdo are gone now.  It gets better.)

Maybe it’s also because this is Gay Pride week in Columbia—rainbow banners on every street.  Pride is supposed to be the opposite of shame, a way of reclaiming as good an identity that has been, in the past, pathologized, demonized, stigmatized. (I do love those rainbow banners. I remember how excited we were, when I was on the Pride planning committee years ago, and that first gay pride street banner went up. We kept driving by it, smiling.) Pride is shame turned inside out. (A list of Pride events can be found here.)

Mostly, though, it’s because I’ve been working with the Sebastian art show, which I wrote about in an earlier blog. The beauty of the vilified.

Shame is a fundamental emotion of our childhoods—I think that it is amplified for some gay and lesbian kids. Therapists like to draw a distinction between shame and guilt: guilt is what we feel for something we’ve done or haven’t done, but shame is what we feel for who we are. It’s connected to our identities.

Shame can’t be erased or excised or purged. Nope, the residue of it sticks to us, no matter how much we try to wash it away, pretend it's not there. All we can do is transfigure it in some way, use it, understand it, recognize it, learn from it.

And write about it.

So in my poems about Sebastian, I was thinking about how and why we learn from shame, from the ways we’re shamed and the feelings of shame and the ongoing effects of shame. I don’t have answers; I was thinking of my poems as gestures, provocations, explorations, attempts. I was thinking about Sebastian and John O'Hara and Pinhead and Debussy and archery books and ampallangs and the Cowardly Lion. (Dorothy yells at him, “Shame on you,” before he breaks into his song: “It’s sad believe me, missy, when you’re born to be a sissy….”)

I wrote a series of poems or prayers for Sebastian. Here’s the last one of the series:

For Saint Sebastian

Arms, be bound. Legs bound, rope wound.

The rope that binds is shame. The arrow is shame, the bow.

Shame is a wound, shame is a caul. That we may learn the eloquence of shame.

That we may learn that the arrows do not kill you.

The tree stiffens the spine. The arrows do not kill us.


I’m still listening to Evelyn Champagne King. I know she’s singing about something else, but still, those lyrics sing for me. “Gonna love you just the same. Mama just don’t understand….”

- Ed Madden


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A poem by Ed Madden

Dream fathers

By Ed Madden

We drive across the bridge, late at night, a hundred feet or so of clattering boards—

no rail, no rim, just jagged planks, and river flowing slow and brown below. The bridge

collapsed last year. I cross it every night in sleep—sometimes alone, sometimes with him—

but always away from home. The bridge's end may veer; each night I go someplace else,

dark cypress swamp on either side. One night my father is the driver and the car.

He opens up the door of his side, and I climb in. I cross the bridge again,

riding in the body of my father.



Dream fathers and more of Ed’s poetry can be found in his most recent book of poetry, Prodigal: Variations, 2011. Ed is the poetry editor for Jasper Magazine.