SC ENCYCLOPEDIA:  Marjory Wentworth, poet laureate

Wentworth, left, with Charleston Poet Laureate Marcus Amaker in 2016. (Image by Lisa Livingston)

Editor’s Note:  For the last five weeks, we’ve profiled South Carolina’s past poet laureates.  Here is a look at our current poet laureate, who also is a contributing editor to Charleston Currents. Wentworth curates a monthly South Carolina-related poem in our Palmetto Poem section.

S.C. Encyclopedia  | Born in Lynn, Massachusetts, on June 3, 1958, Marjory Heath Wentworth is the daughter of John Heath and Mary Tully. She received a bachelor’s degree from Mount Holyoke College in anthropology and political science in 1980 and an M.A. in literature and creative writing from New York University in 1984. On June 27, 1981, she married the filmmaker Peter Wentworth. They have three sons.


Wentworth went to work as a book and film publicist soon after graduate school and has been involved in publicity and marketing ever since. In 1989 the Wentworth family moved to Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina. In 1992 Wentworth began teaching creative writing at an arts center in the Charleston area, and a year later she became an adjunct instructor of English at Trident Technical College. Since then, she has taught creative writing to children and adults in a variety of set- tings across the state, including the Art Institute of Charleston, the Roper St. Francis Cancer Center “Expressions of Healing” program, and the Poets in the Schools program sponsored by the Lowcountry Initiative for the Library Arts (LILA).

Wentworth conducts creative writing workshops and presents readings of her own work throughout the United States. She has performed with poets Coleman Barks and Lisa Starr and with the Paul Winter Consort. Her poems have been displayed at the National Science Foundation and the Duke University Museum of Art, and she collaborates extensively with visual artists and composers. Her poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize five times, and her work has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies. Her work is included in the South Carolina Poetry Archives housed at Furman University.

Her books of poetry include Noticing Eden (2003), Despite Gravity (2007), and The Endless Repetition of an Ordinary Miracle (2012). Her children’s story, Shackles (2009), is set in Sullivan’s Island. She is the coauthor, with artist Mary Edna Fraser, of What the Water Gives Me (2002); and she and human rights activist Juan E Mendez are the authors of Taking a Stand: The Evolution of Human Rights (2011).

Wentworth read her poem “Rivers of Wind” at the inauguration of Governor Mark Sanford in January 2003. She was named South Carolina’s poet laureate later the same year. As poet laureate, she has initiated projects designed to bring the enjoyment and writing of poetry into the lives of South Carolinians.

Addendum: Following the murders of nine people at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church, Wentworth co-authored We are Charleston with historian Bernard Powers and writer Herb Frazier.  It shares the stories of those who were slain and highlights the example that they and their families provide.

Excerpted from an entry by Julia Arrants.   To read more about this or 2,000 other entries about South Carolina, check out The South Carolina Encyclopedia, published in 2006 by USC Press. (Information used by permission.)


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