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The position of South Carolina Poet Laureate was established in 1934 by a Joint Resolution of the General Assembly. The laureate is appointed by the governor.
South Carolina's current Poet Laureate is Marjory Heath Wentworth, appointed by Governor Mark Sanford in 2003.
Wentworth was born Marjory Heath on June 3, 1958, in Lynn, Massachusetts and raised in nearby Swampscott. Her parents were John and Mary (Tully)
Heath. As a child, she spent many years in and out of hospitals to correct some congenital organ anomalies. Adding further hardship was the fact that
her father, John, a purchasing agent for Parker Brothers, died of leukemia when she was just 14 years old.
She graduated from Mount Holyoke College (where she majored in anthropology, political science, and dance) and went on to receive her M.A. in Writing from New York University. While at NYU, she studied under Galway Kinnell, Phil Levine, Joseph Brodsky, and Carolyn Forche. After Mount Holyoke, she did some studies at Oxford University.
While still a graduate student at New York University, Wentworth worked in refugee resettlement with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. She went on after graduating to work as a book publicist with Readers International, a branch of Amnesty International, interviewing with Brodsky for the job.
After moving to South Carolina with her husband in 1989, Wentworth began teaching both children and adults in the area. In 1993, she started teaching as an adjunct instructor at Trident Technical College in North Charleston, South Carolina. For many years she has conducted the "Expressions of Healing" class at Roper Hospital in Charleston. The class focuses on those affected by cancer. She also teaches at the Charleston County School of the Arts and the creative writing class at The Art Institute of Charleston. She is also president of the Lowcountry Initiative for the Literary Arts.
Wentworth and her husband Peter run Wentworth PR which manages public relations for publishers and authors such as Dottie Frank, Mary Alice Monroe, and Gary Smith.
Wentworth read the inaugural poem at Mark Sanford's first inauguration as Governor of South Carolina. Shortly thereafter, in 2003, he appointed her as the sixth South Carolina Poet Laureate. Usually given a small honorarium ($1,200) as poet laureate, this honorarium was cut by Sanford in 2003 when Wentworth agreed to serve without the pay. As poet laureate, Wentworth is on the board of directors of The Poetry Society of South Carolina
Bennie Lee Sinclair (Mrs. Don Lewis), Greenville County native writer and poet whose subjects are the people and places of the countryside she has known all her life, has been appointed to serve as South Carolina's Poet Laureate for life by Governor Richard W. Riley in 1986 , under authority of Joint Resolution No. 736 of 1934. She is the state's fifth poet laureate; the first was Archibald Rutledge, who served from 1934 to 1973. She is the author of two volumes of poetry, Little Chicago Suite , and The Arrowhead Scholar.
For much of her career, Ms. Sinclair has taught poetry "from kindergarten to 80" through South Carolina. Arts Commission programs and the Governor's School for the Arts. She has published four books of poetry: Little Chicago Suite, The Arrowhead Scholar, Lord of Springs and The Endangered. She has published short stories, been included in Best American Short Stories and published a novel, The Lynching, based on South Carolina's last lynching, in 1947.
Mrs. Sinclair has edited two volumes: Taproots: A Study in Cultural Exploration and The Fine Arts Story; a textbook, A Creative Guide to Writing; and was co-author of International Greenville: A Guide. She is in the final stages of preparing her first novel for publication. Sinclair's writing awards include a Stephen Vincent Benet Narrative Poem Award, a "Best American Short Stories" Citation, a South Carolina Writers' Award and special recognition from the South Carolina Society of Professional Journalists. She has taught writing at Furman University and workshops at Notre Dame, Western Carolina University and Brevard College. Since 1972 she has worked with the South Carolina Arts Commission's Artists-in-the-Schools program and is writer-in residence at the South Carolina Governor's School.
The Coastal Carolina University Alma Mater was written in 1994 by Bennie Lee Sinclair, Poet Laureate of South Carolina, to commemorate the first year of the institution's status as a university.