Richland Two teacher spreading her talents throughout Columbia as poet laureate for the City of Columbia

January 19, 2023

Writing down the many stories that her grandmother would tell helped prepare Jennifer Bartell Boykin to become the new poet laureate for the City of Columbia.

“I took great pride in writing down the stories my grandmother, Irene Harvin McCray, told over the years because I knew she wanted me to remember them. She is an essential piece in developing my talents as a poet and writer,” said Bartell Boykin. “Poetry is for everyone, and I am excited to facilitate bringing more of it to every corner of the City of Columbia and potentially shaping the next generation of poets,” she said.

Bartell Boykin, a public school educator for 15 years, is in her eighth year at Spring Valley High School in Richland School District Two. One Columbia for the Arts and Culture and the City of Columbia selected her as only the second poet to hold this honorable position. Bartell Boykin plans to spread poetry throughout the city while promoting the appreciation and knowledge of poetry among residents.

During her four-year term as poet laureate, she plans to bring a poetry festival to the city and create an event remembering people who have died by gun violence and promoting nonviolence. Bartell Boykin plans to continue some of the projects started by her predecessor, Ed Madden, including Poems on the Comet which puts poetry on city buses, and Rain Poetry, poetry that is spray painted on sidewalks, stays invisible on dry concrete, and becomes visible when wet.

At Spring Valley, Bartell Boykin teaches Creative Writing, Advanced Writer’s Workshop, and English 101 and Dual Enrollment through Midlands Technical College. She is also the sponsor of Spring Valley’s poetry club, W.O.R.D. that stands for Write. Organize. Read. Dream.

Bartell Boykin holds a Bachelor of Arts from Agnes Scott College in Decatur, GA, a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and a Graduate Certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies from the University of South Carolina. Bartell Boykin is currently pursuing a Master of Library and Information Science degree from the University of South Carolina. She is married to Lester Boykin and they have two children named Mariela and Loman.