“The times they are a changin’” sang Bob Dylan, and South Dakota State Poetry Society (SDSPS) has managed to change and survive with the times for nearly 90 years.
SDSPS was founded in 1927 by Dr. James C. Lindberg and Northern State College, and the inaugural issue of Pasque Petals was published the same year. Vol. 1, Issue 1 addressed the question, “Why a South Dakota poetry magazine?” with a hearty answer that begins, “A territory comparing favorably in size with major countries in Europe, and settled by a people selected for emigration because of their vision, resourcefulness and courage, ought to be able to produce a worthwhile literature.”
Other state poetry societies began forming about the same time, and in 1959, the Louisiana State Poetry Society hosted the first gathering of state societies in Baton Rouge. The following statement was read during the proceedings:
We are gathered together today for a most high and serious purpose, namely, the formation of a federation of state poetry societies, that they shall serve to unite poets in bonds of fellowship and understanding.
During the first gathering, the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (NFSPS) formed, and the group adopted a constitution the following June in Philadelphia. The society’s purpose statement, adopted as part of Article XII, included the following
We are aware of the national and international problems arising from inability of persons and groups to adequately communicate with each other, and of a self-imposed duty to lead the way. . . . We recognize that poets, wherever they may be, work for the understanding by offering linguistic contexts that appeal to the mind and spirit of man.
SDSPS has changed quite a bit throughout the years; for example, in the past, Poet Laureates served for life, but, we now recommend a new Poet Laureate to the Governor every four years. We have also updated our web presence and now only accept online submissions to Pasque Petals and our poetry contests.
Still, we recognize our indebtedness to those poetry pioneers of the past, and we value those members who sustained SDSPS for so many years. We are equally proud that Pasque Petals, a magazine with humble beginnings, is now the nation’s oldest NFSPS’s magazine in continuous publication. That’s perseverance!
Past issues of Pasque Petals have been digitized and are available online to the public through the South Dakota Digital Collection. Browse the collection and, if you have any of the missing issues in your possession, please consider donating them to the SDSPS Archives at SDSU’s Briggs Library.
We would also be interested in archiving and possibly digitizing other SDSPS materials you may have in your keepsakes, including letters, minutes, photos or related memorabilia. Finally, we recognize that we lose irreplaceable SDSPS oral history as our older members pass away. If you are one of those members with stories to tell about SDSPS, or if you know of people we should contact, please reach out to us. We would like to preserve these stories and as much tangible SDSPS history as possible as we move into the future.