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 firstname.lastname@example.org. This series is meant to make visible the “why” and “what” of SDSPS’s mission.
The first photo attached here is one that my mom took in 2016. I’m holding a copy of Pasque Petals opened to the page which had two of my poems. I remember signing up to sit at the table, not really knowing anyone, and enjoying the atmosphere of the Book Festival. The smile on my face truly shows what it meant to me to have my poems in this high-quality collection among other beautiful pieces.
This was actually not my first time being published in Pasque Petals. While in high school, I had a poem published in it – back when it was more of a chapbook-length pamphlet—held together by mere staples. And I couldn’t have been more proud. I brought the book to school with me and showed my English teacher—Look! They published my poem! It felt incredibly validating and inspiring. Local publishers of local work empower writers and create community.
I found myself reflecting on what SDSPS means to me at the SD Book Fest this last weekend. The second photo shows me this year, my first year as a presenting author, presenting the inaugural book published by SDSPS’s Pasque Press. And in the workshop I conducted—Crafting Poems: The Art of Conveying Emotional Truths—one person said that she’s never published anything and said it with her face downturned like that was some sort of prerequisite to coming to the workshop. I said “no one’s born with something published. We all start as unpublished authors.” And that moment clarified for me that it doesn’t feel very long ago that I was unpublished. And when people read my bio, which sounds like oh she’s been published here and there—I know the process behind all of that—the countless rejections and those few bright, shining acceptances. Author bios are incredibly intimidating when we start out, right? Look how accomplished this person is. But through being part of SDSPS and knowing the members and board members, I’ve learned the skills and made the connections to write, publish and promote my work.
Publishing work locally empowers writers. I’ve sent work around the country and even some internationally, but I most value the poems shared with people close to me. Last year, my neighbor across the street who we chat with occasionally was walking on the other side of the road and called over to me “We read your poem in SD Magazine! That was cool!” It’s these kinds of interactions which I find so rich. When I joined the society, I didn’t know many of the other poets published in these pages. Since then I’ve been on the board of directors for several years and now the women poet’s collective, and I flip through an issue of Pasque Petals and know over half the writers. It really feels like a community to me now. Through sharing our poetry with each other, we travel through life together, capturing snapshots and thoughts. The value of local poetry is that I can read a poem about a place I’m familiar with but don’t live like west river. I can read that people close to me proximity-wise are struggling with the same things I’m dealing with. The craft of poetry has helped me process and contend with the difficulties and beauties in life. The power of writing and sharing our work is that we, as Bruce often says, are writing our current moment in history—the things we care about, the struggles we have, the beauty in the everyday.
I’ll leave you with this beautiful quote by Gregory Orr from “The Blessing,” “I was enthralled by the possibility of making my own paths out of language, each word put down like a luminous footstep, the sentence itself extending behind me like a white trail and, ahead of me, the dark unknown urging me to explore it.”
For your copy of Skin Reverberations, which goes toward publishing more full-length collections by SD authors, click here.