Marjory Wentworth expected to read a poem Wednesday at her fourth gubernatorial inaugural, but South Carolina’s poet laureate has been silenced.
Gov. Nikki Haley's inaugural committee turned down Wentworth’s words, saying there wasn’t time enough to read a poem during the inaugural. Wentworth was told she did not have a spot at the State House ceremony before her poem was finished and submitted to the governor’s office.
“While we appreciate Ms. Wentworth's long service to South Carolina, the inaugural committee told her the 96th S.C. inaugural program — which, in part, celebrates our state's rich culture — has been full for weeks,” Haley spokeswoman Chaney Adams said. “Scheduling constraints simply wouldn't allow a poem to be read.”
Wentworth said she did not think the decision to cut her from the ceremony was personal. But, she added, she thought her historical-themed poem needed to be heard.
Haley, a Lexington Republican, has been criticized for trying to cut state money for arts during her first term. The governor has said tax money should not pay for the arts.
Wentworth has been the state’s poet laureate since Republican Gov. Mark Sanford’s administration. In 2011, she wrote and read “The Weight it Takes,” a poem about the weight of leadership on Haley, the nation’s youngest governor.
Her planned inaugural poem on Wednesday, “One River, One Boat,” is a stream of images. Some are politically neutral — “children stepping off the school bus” and a “jonboat drifts down the river.” Others refer to the state’s history of racial conflict — including slavery, a 14-year-old African-American wrongly executed in the 1940s and the Confederate flag.
“Here, where the Confederate flag still flies beside the State House, haunted by our past, conflicted about the future; at the heart of it, we are at war with ourselves,” Wentworth’s poem reads.
Wentworth said the poem is “a thought-provoking way to think about things moving forward” and the “unhealed wound that keeps us from moving forward in certain ways.”