The Top 18 Poets From South Carolina

Written by Dan

Last updated

Welcome to your deep dive into the world of great poets from South Carolina! Whether you are a novice or an expert in poetry, this blog post aims to provide teachers with quick and easy-to-follow guidance on how to bring the best 18 poets from South Carolina alive in their classrooms.

Through our comprehensive ranking list below, you can get up close with some of the defining voices that helped shape America’s culture today—from those living nearby who have yet to be discovered by a large audience down south right up until established authors whose work is widely known nationwide.

So prepare for exciting educational journeys leading your classes deeper in exploring some of South Carolina’s greatest poets!

Related: For more, check out our article on Poems About North Carolina here.

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1. Archibald Rutledge (1883–1973)

Archibald Rutledge, born in McClellanville, South Carolina, was a prolific writer and poet who favored writing about nature and rural life. His poetry is colored by his deep love for the South Carolina Lowcountry and its unique culture and ecology.

One of his most famous poems is “The Marshes of Glynn”, which vividly captures the beauty of the coastal marshlands. Rutledge drew inspiration from the natural beauty surrounding him, his experiences growing up in the rural South, and his strong sense of ethics and spirituality.

2. Ron Rash

Ron Rash, a contemporary poet, short story writer, and novelist, hails from Chester, South Carolina. He is well-known for his evocative depictions of the Appalachian region. His poem “Burning Bright” portrays the struggles and resilience of the people living in this rugged mountainous region.

Rash’s poetry is often characterized by tight, vivid imagery, and a deep connection to place and history.

3. Marjory Heath Wentworth

Marjory Heath Wentworth is a modern poet who served as the South Carolina Poet Laureate from 2003 to 2020.

She is known in Charleston for engaging with social issues, particularly racial justice. Her famous poem “One River, One Boat” is a call for unity and understanding in the face of racial division.

Wentworth’s poetry often combines personal narrative with larger social justice and community themes.

4. Nikky Finney

Born in Conway, South Carolina, Nikky Finney is a contemporary poet who has been lauded for her incisive exploration of race, gender, and history. Her poetry collection “Head Off & Split” won the National Book Award for Poetry in 2011.

Finney’s work is deeply influenced by her experiences as an African American woman and her commitment to social justice.

5. Helen von Kolnitz Hyer (1896–1983)

Helen von Kolnitz Hyer, originally from Charleston, South Carolina, was a poet known for her lyrical verse filled with vivid imagery and emotional depth. One of her notable poems, “The Wind in the Marsh Grass,” beautifully captures the landscapes of the South Carolina Lowcountry.

Hyer’s poetry was inspired by the natural beauty of her home state and the rich cultural heritage of the South.

6. James Dickey (1923–1997)

James Dickey, born in Atlanta, Georgia, was one of the most influential poets and novelists of the 20th century. Dickey, who lived for many years in South Carolina, is best known for his novel “Deliverance” and his poem “The Leap.”

His work, often characterized by intense imagery and exploration of the human psyche, was inspired by his experiences in World War II and the Korean War.

7. Marcus Amaker

Marcus Amaker, Charleston’s first poet laureate, is a contemporary poet known for his innovative use of multimedia and performance. His poetry, such as the powerful “Black Cloth,” often explores identity, community, and social justice themes.

Amaker draws inspiration from his experiences as an African-American man, his love of music, and his engagement with the vibrant culture of Charleston.

8. DuBose Heyward (1885–1940)

DuBose Heyward, a native of Charleston, South Carolina, was a poet and novelist best known for his novel “Porgy,” which later became the basis for the famous opera “Porgy and Bess.

His poetry, like his novel, often depicted the lives of African Americans in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Heyward’s work was deeply influenced by the Gullah culture and his experiences growing up in the post-Reconstruction South.

9. Henry Timrod (1828–1867)

Henry Timrod, often referred to as the ‘Poet Laureate of the Confederacy,’ was a poet from Charleston, South Carolina.

His most famous poem, “Ode: Sung on the Occasion of Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead at Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston,” reflects the sentiments of the South during the Civil War. Timrod’s poetry often addressed war, loss, and Southern identity themes.

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10. Caroline Howard Gilman (1794–1888)

Caroline Howard Gilman, born in Boston, Massachusetts, was one of the most popular women writers of the nineteenth century. Despite her northern origins, her loyalties gradually shifted towards the South.

She had a writing career that spanned 70 years, encompassing poems, novels, and essays. Orphaned at ten, Caroline was raised by various relatives across Massachusetts. Her experiences provided rich material for her writings, including her well-known work “Recollections of a Southern Matron.”

11. Cathy Smith Bowers

Cathy Smith Bowers is a contemporary poet hailing from the Southern United States. Her work often explores themes of identity, memory, and the complexities of human relationships.

Although information about specific influences or famous works wasn’t readily available, it is clear that Bowers’ approach to poetry is deeply personal and introspective.

12. G. F. Zaimis

Unfortunately, there is not much public information available on G. F. Zaimis. It appears that this poet may be lesser-known or emerging, and thus their biography and notable works are not widely documented.

13. Grace Beacham Freeman (1916–2002)

Grace Beacham Freeman was a poet and short story writer known for her lyrical and poignant depictions of Southern life. Her work often explored themes of family, tradition, and the passage of time, drawing on her experiences growing up in the South.

14. Ray McManus

Ray McManus is a contemporary poet whose work often grapples with themes of place, identity, and the complexities of modern existence.

Its vivid imagery and emotional depth characterizes his poetry. The details about his inspirations or specific poems weren’t readily available, but his work consistently reflects a deep engagement with the world around him.

15. Washington Allston (1779–1843)

Washington Allston was a poet and painter from Charleston, South Carolina, whose work was deeply influenced by Romanticism. His poetry often focused on themes of beauty, nature, and the human spirit.

One of his famous works is “The Sylphs of the Seasons,” a collection of poems that showcases his unique blend of visual and literary artistry. Its vivid imagery and emotional depth characterizes his poetry

16. Ed Madden

Ed Madden is a contemporary poet and activist whose work often explores themes of identity, sexuality, and social justice. His poetry is known for its powerful imagery and emotional resonance.

Specific details about his inspirations or famous works weren’t readily available, but his work consistently demonstrates a strong commitment to exploring personal and societal issues through the lens of poetry.

17. Bryan Penberthy

Bryan Penberthy is a contemporary poet whose work is characterized by its innovative use of language and form. Information about his inspirations or notable poems was not readily available.

However, his work consistently reflects a deep engagement with the craft of poetry and a willingness to push boundaries in his exploration of themes and forms.

18. J. Gordon Coogler (1865–1901)

J. Gordon Coogler was a poet from South Carolina known for his heartfelt and often humorous depictions of life in the South. Despite receiving little formal education, Coogler composed hundreds of poems during his lifetime. His work often touched on themes of love, loss, and the simple joys of rural life.

And there you have it – our curated list of the top 18 poets from South Carolina. We’ve journeyed through time and space, from the whispers of the past to the vibrant voices of the present; we’ve explored a rich tapestry of themes, from identity and memory to love, loss, and the complexities of human relationships.

Through their words, these poets offer us a glimpse into the heart and soul of South Carolina and America itself. They challenge, inspire, and invite us to see the world from a different perspective.

As educators, we can bring these voices alive in our classrooms, sparking curiosity, fostering empathy, and cultivating a deep appreciation for the art of poetry. So why not start today?

Dive into the works of these remarkable poets, and let the magic of their words transform your teaching and inspire your students. After all, as the saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Happy reading!

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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