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‘Poetry and Prose in Politics’ shines an artistic lens on SC activists and politicians

Song lyrics, plays and poems are part of University Libraries’ South Carolina Political Collections.

“Poetry and Prose in Politics,” on view now at the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collection Library, glimpses into the creative minds of SC activists, politicians and journalists from the 1930s to 1990s. Jill Smith, MLIS, Library Specialist and archival assistant in the South Carolina Political Collections, curated the exhibition.

“I kept coming across snippets of poetry while processing or transcribing items in our collection, and thought it would make an interesting exhibit,” Smith says.

The exhibit features written works found inspirational by key South Carolina groups and individuals, such as the League of Women Voters and Gov. Dick Riley, former U.S. Secretary of Education and two-term governor of S.C. She amusingly recalls stumbling upon country song lyrics in the collection of Riley’s papers, with key words and phrases underlined by Riley in blue ink.

The exhibit showcases politicians and their diplomatic work through three themes – inspiration, performance, and expression -- revealing how leaders in the political arena “engaged with poetry and prose to inspire citizens and enjoy personal expression,” Smith notes.

“Creative writing can provide insight into social issues of a time – through the way people processed and responded to them – just as effectively as the bill drafts, journal and news articles, citizen correspondence and photos that we’re familiar with. And exploring those issues through a more artistic lens could prove to be refreshing for visitors.”

Various forms of writing conventions, from poetry, motivational phrases, speeches and playwriting, are highlighted in the exhibit. The material would be of interest to those keen on “exploring connections between performative writing and public policy,” Smith says. Visitors will find fragile ephemera, scribbled notes and snippets of letters displayed alongside more commonly seen items, such as political buttons, black-and-white photographs and even a pair of vintage Ray Bans.

“Poetry and Prose in Politics” is located in the SCPC gallery in the Hollings Library and is on display through June 29, 2022. Individuals and groups interested in a tour should contact or 803-777-0578.


-- Contributed by Anna Wippold, Web Manager, University Libraries

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