POET LAUREATE OF EDGEFIELD:
On Monday, March 2, 2015, the Town Council of Edgefield, South Carolina, voted to create the position of Poet Laureate of Edgefield, an honorary post lasting a renewable two years. I was proud to be appointed the first occupant of this new post. In October, 2017, Dr. Drew Lanham, professor of wildlife at Clemson University, was named Poet Laureate of Edgefield for the term 2017-2019, which has been renewed for a second term. Dr. Lanham holds an endowed chair as an Alumni Distinguished Professor and was named an Alumni Master Teacher in 2012. His research focuses on songbird ecology, as well as the African-American role in natural-resources conservation. A native of Edgefield County, Dr. Lanham is also the author of The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man's Love Affair with Nature
, published in 2016.
The first project of the Laureateship in 2015, undertaken with Town Archivist Tricia Glenn
, was to place poetry posters in the Town Square's store front windows. Appropriate excerpts from the anthology Lovely Village of the Hills
were used as text.
Here is an example:
The installation ceremony for the inaugural Poet Laureateship was held in the parlor of The Discovery Center in Edgefield on April 23, 2015, Shakespeare's birthday. The charming ceremony included readings by the winners of the student Spring Into Poetry contest, held by District elementary, middle and high schools for the occasion. Shakespeare himself made a surprise appearance. Friends of the Library provided refreshments on the porch.
A sandwich Poem Board, built by local craftsman, Max Shanks, was installed outside the Edgefield County Public Library. A new Poem was regularly posted on the Poem Board. The first poem on the Board was a poem written by the Poet Laureate for the occasion of the installation ceremony, called "Edgefield is Another Name for Home."
A poem with short commentary was published regularly in the Edgefield Advertiser
, the oldest continuously published newspaper in South Carolina.
A Youth Poet Laureate
was selected each year (2015-16 and 2016-17) from among the junior or senior student population of Edgefield County to honor and encourage student writing potential. The YPL participated in poetry projects in libraries and schools in the County, and worked with the Poet Laureate, Laurel Blossom, to promote poetry throughout the region and beyond.
On September 11, 2015 a seedling grown from an acorn from a swamp oak planted at the September 11 Memorial Park in New York, was planted in a ceremony at the newly expanded and beautiful National Wild Turkey Federation headquarters in Edgefield. The following poem, written by Poet Laureate Laurel Blossom, was read by the author on the occasion of the planting.
My friend picked up an acorn from the 9/11 tree;
My friend picked up an acorn and she gave that seed to me;
It's little now but when it grows it will be tall and wide,
A tree in which we each can take a summer's worth of pride.
It loves full sun, the way that people love democracy;
And it can grow in any soil, the same as liberty.
In fall its leaves turn yellow, to make the summer seem
As long and bright and brave and strong as our American dream.
Once again thanks to Max Shanks, and with the assistance of the YPLs and artist Pamela Urban-Moore, the Poet Laureateship entered a float in the Edgefield Christmas Parades in both 2015 and 2016. Painted pea-green, the 2015 float flew a banner reading "Poetry floats my boat" and bore on the sides of the boat the inscription "The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea/In a beautiful pea-green boat." Middle school students representing the two characters rode on the float, appropriately costumed.
The 2015 Poet Laureateship float won First Prize in its category. A very large trophy was placed in the window of the Edgefield County Public Library, where it may still be seen today.
The 2016 Poet Laureateship float, which (along with everything else nearly floated away in the rain that afternoon), complete with fireplace and mouse, and thanks again to the same expert crew, bore the inscription, "'Twas the night before Christmas" on one side and the inscription "Not a creature was stirring" on the other.
Pottery is one of Edgefield's most famous legacies. One of our master potters, a literate slave named Dave, even sometimes wrote and inscribed couplets on the shoulders of his pots. Building on Dave's work, students and adults were invited to submit couplets to a contest in Spring 2016 and 2017. The winner of the couplets contest was presented with a modern Edgefield pot created and contributed by contemporary Edgefield potter, Justin Guy. Each pot was inscribed with the winning poem, glazed and fired in Edgefield’s groundhog kiln, and presented to the winner at a second ceremony later in the spring, giving the festival, pottery and poetry another promotional opportunity.