Ed Madden’s newest collection explores growing up queer in the fundamentalist South.
Selected by Timothy Liu for the Hilary Tham Capital Collection. Madden's mastery of the American lyric combines intellect, heart, and courage as he explores growing up queer in the rural fundamentalist South. The poems anatomize a society of shaming and shunning under the guise of love, fighting free to the theme of finding where we belong. The poems work deep into the linguistic textures of his subjects, from queer love to the loss of a parent. The figure of the pooka (or puca) haunts the pages, embodying both good and bad luck, sorrow and hope.
Poetry. Family & Relationships. LGBTQ+ Studies.
"This book redeems the curse of where and what we are born into by conjuring spells. Bestial. Animistic. The poet strutting around like a mythic centaur, or if you like, a domestic ass. This book flies in the face of making the rough places plain and the crooked straight. You won’t have to have grown up queer in the deep rural South to be touched by the lyrical antics that go on here, this alternative gospel spreading its haunches till every knee bow, every tongue confess, this chorus of Hallelujah inflected/infected by its own down and dirty twang." —Timothy Liu
"Pooka, wolf, coyote: what if we’re the monster our parents warn us against? Madden’s poems about growing up queer in the rural fundamentalist South anatomize a society of shaming and shunning under the guise of love. Drawing on Irish folklore, on fairy tales, on Bible stories, Madden evokes an inner landscape at once real and surreal, loving and diminishing. His poems indict that community— 'you did not remember what big teeth they had, / what claws' —and gesture toward the fascination of the forbidden. Within this closed rural world, heteronormativity sours to self-disgust, and desire terrifies: 'some of us were made to be ridden, riddled, riven.' Yet in tracing the 'practices' of a certain sort of situated fundamentalism, Madden redefines the supposedly 'monstrous': 'I am not handsome. I am not wholesome. I am not holy. I am not coming home.' These poems shine, bite, bristle and ripple and chuckle and spur. They turn shame aside to offer instead 'the man I will meet,' 'the brush of his mouth,' 'the hot water bottle of him.' Oh yes, they satisfy." —Nathalie Anderson
"This book is a hymn to anyone who has been orphaned; anyone who knows the pain of family estrangement; anyone who finds themselves looking back and asking How? What if? Why? A sensual and intelligent collection, A pooka in Arkansas sits with the ghosts of fathers, brothers, sons. It clears a space for hope, and for reclamation of the self as good enough, as proud, as loved. I was moved to tears by this hymn for a boy cast out who became a man finding his way back to himself again. Gift this exquisite writing to the part of yourself that needs it most." —Annemarie Ní Churreáin
Ed Madden is the author of five books and four chapbooks of poetry, including Ark (Sibling Rivalry press, 2016), a book about his father's last months in hospice care, and So they can sing (Seven Kitchens Press, 2017), which won the 2016 Robin Becker Chapbook Prize. He is a professor of English and the former director of Women's and Gender Studies at the University of South Carolina, where he teaches Irish literature, queer studies, and creative writing. Ed served as the poet laureate for the City of Columbia, SC, 2015-2022. He is recipient of an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship and artist residencies at the Hambidge Center in Georgia and the Instituto Sacatar in Itaparica, Brazil.
Author City: COLUMBIA, SC USA