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Marking Words

Marking Words
October 2017

Free Verse Festival hails poetry all month long

PHOTO: Marcus Amaker (left) and Quentin E. Baxter perform with others in Poetry and Jazz on October 4.

Purple plumes of sweetgrass, mounds of pumpkins, a few crisping leaves: these sights define October in the Lowcountry. But have you noticed the newest harbinger? Charleston is alight with poetry—on napkins, buildings, bicycles, and tees.

As part of the first-ever Free Verse Festival, the city’s Poet Laureate, Marcus Amaker, and Office of Cultural Affairs have created a visual anthology of verses, sourcing poems from elementary-schoolers who have attended Amaker’s classroom workshops. They write zingers, like “I wish there was a God of ketchup who had red hands.”

Besides the public installations, 29 live events run through October 31 at venues around town. Highlights include a Poet Laureates show on October 6 with Amaker, Marjory Wentworth, and Ed Madden; the mixed-media Blank Page Poetry on the 14th, and Rainbow Rowed with Benjamin Starr of Very Hypnotic Soul Band on the 15th.

The schedule, available at, also offers open-mic nights; Typewriter Poetry in Marion Square; and free youth workshops led by Pushcart Prize nominee Matthew Foley, poetry slam artist Kimberly Simms, and more.

“For kids, I want to dispel the ‘starving artist‘ myth associated with writers,” Amaker notes. In fact, locals of all ages may find themselves enlightened by the wealth of ”free verse” in this city.


Photographs by (Amaker & Baxter) Jennifer Smith