Jennifer Bartell Boykin

The nonprofit Pat Conroy Literary Center will host an evening with Columbia City Poet Laureate Jennifer Bartell Boykin, author of the debut poetry collection Travelling Mercy, on Saturday, March 23, at 5:00 p.m., at the Conroy Center (601 Bladen St., Beaufort). Free and open to the public. Books will be available for sale and signing. Seating is limited. Please call to reserve in advance: 843-379-7025.

Bartell Boykin will also be teaching a writing workshop, Foodways in Poetry, earlier that same afternoon, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., limited to 15 participants, $40 each. This workshop will explore connections between food, sensory and emotional memories, and the creative act of poetry. Writers are invited to bring favorite dishes for inspiration and to share. To learn more and register for the workshop, please visit



Traveling Mercy navigates the journeys of a Black woman from rural South Carolina. Her travels transcend time as she encounters history, nature, and grief. She sits with the eldest residents before her birth, with the first ancestor who came to these shores, with her parents through their marriage, and through her own loneliness in the wake of their deaths. Planting as she harvests, this book is a lament and a love story to survival.

“After reading a single magnificent poem in Traveling Mercy, “the sapling in your chest floods with too much water and light.” Read a handful of poems, and find yourself on the poet’s ferry crossing the river “between thens and tomorrows.” Every magical, existential line is an iteration of Jennifer Bartell’s dexterous poetics. This accomplished debut elegizes human loss while celebrating the resilience that persists through witness and language. Traveling Mercy is a dazzling first book.”National Book Award-Winning Poet Terrance Hayes

“Bartell’s Traveling Mercy is such an intimate history of a Black girl raised by Black women, raised by church fans and magnolia memories, dream-hymns of Black people pushing through mud and disease and held together by traditions. This rich collection of poems, by a Black girl who knows how and why to style okra seeds in her hair, spills with fat oysters and a community’s petrified pounded grace. Bartell assures she will never give us one chance to hold our breath, as we jump into this never-ending deep end of blazing life, therefore, prepare to be drenched.”National Book Award-Winning Poet Nikky Finney.

Poet Laureate of Columbia, South Carolina, and a 2023 Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow, Jennifer Bartell Boykin is the author of Traveling Mercy (from Finishing Line Press). Her poetry has appeared in Obsidian, Callaloo, the Raleigh Review, kinfolks: a journal of black expression, the museum of americana: a literary review, and Scalawag. Bartell Boykin is the recipient of fellowships from Callaloo and The Watering Hole. She teaches creative writing and English dual-enrollment courses at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina, where she was named the 2019–20 Teacher of the Year. She is also an American Library Association Spectrum Scholar and an Augusta Baker Scholar at the University of South Carolina’s School of Information Science, where she is pursuing her master of library and information science degree. Bartell Boykin was born and raised in Bluefield, a Black community in Johnsonville, South Carolina.

To learn more about the nonprofit Pat Conroy Literary Center, please visit