What SDSPS Means to Me by Dana Yost

The “What SDSPS Means to Me” series of blogs will document how SDSPS impacts its members. If you are an SDSPS member, we’d love to read a blog post of what the poetry society means to you. Please email your blog submission to jodilynmandrews@gmail.com. This series is meant to make visible the “why” and “what” of SDSPS’s mission. 

When I moved to South Dakota, I was looking for ways to connect to a writing community and to find camaraderie in general. It didn’t take me long to find both in the South Dakota State Poetry Society and, eventually, in joining its board.

The Society forms a terrific community of poetry writers who are committed to the craft, to the art, of writing poetry. Members share their works in progress, talk about many aspects of poetry and, ultimately, share their finished work through the publications the Society produces throughout the year. All of that has been important to me as I’ve made adjustments to my new home.

I’ve liked the board meetings, where we settle society business but also talk about the latest works some of us are producing. But I’ve really liked meeting board members in person, and swapping poetry-writing methods and ideas, with Society members by e-mail or Messenger. All of that has helped me feel as if I am not alone in being a writer in South Dakota: there are many poets in the state and region, and membership in the Society brings me closer to them.

I had a good exchange with Society member Todd Williams over the writing of poetry. Wildly, he is in the Middle East and I am in Sioux Falls. Yet, via Messenger, we were able to communicate in real time about our poetry — how we approach it, what works, what doesn’t. How hard it can be to do, and how satisfying it can be to get close to finishing a piece. Todd was the winner of the 2021 SDSPS chapbook contest, while I won the 2020 contest, so that was another point we had in common, another reason to have an exchange of ideas.

It’s also been important for me to see Society members in person. I’ve done that at readings and talks by former Poet Laureate Christine Stewart-Nunez, board member Jodi Andrews, Society member Patrick Hicks, and Sara Henning, who judged one of our chapbook contests. At these readings and talks, I’ve gotten to know Society members better and had good conversations about poetry or life in general. It also helped me to see many members — more than half the board, in fact! — in person at the annual South Dakota Festival of Books. There, we talked more about poetry, about our lives, and listened to wonderful readings and presentations.

The long and short of it is, being a member of the Society has strongly helped me feel part of a writing community — that I’m not alone in doing this — and given me support as I have adjusted to a new state, a new home. There are others like me, doing what I am doing. That’s a good feeling to have.

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