Week Three’s poet-in-residence Marjorie Maddox gives poet’s view of crisis with Brown Bag lecture

Poet Marjorie Maddox is interested in how people cope during times of crisis and calm, particularly when it comes to writing.

Maddox is Week Three’s poet-in-residence at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center. Her Brown Bag, “Confronting this World One Poem at a Time” will be at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday on the front porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.

Maddox is the author of 11 collections of poetry and teaches at Lock Haven University. She said her Brown Bag was inspired by Week Three’s theme, “A Crisis of Faith?” Maddox said it prompted some questions of her own.

“What I’m really looking at, to tie in with the overall theme of the week, is how do we write in moments of calm and in moments of crisis in the world today?” Maddox said. “On a spiritual, social, or political level, how can writing help us process both the joys of this world and the struggles, especially as we see more and more crises?”

Maddox said she thinks it’s important to write in moments of crisis and calm because they offer different ways of finding perspective. Part of that perspective is deciding how long one needs before they can write.

“Sometimes you have to step back a little bit and let yourself process what you’ve gone through before you’re able to write about it,” Maddox said. “But sometimes you’re able to write about it right away.”

Maddox said the news offers constant reminders of crisis.

“I really think that all news is local news in a way,” Maddox said. “It helps you empathize with people who may be like or not like you. It’s a way to discover things that you think, but it also offers an opportunity for precision and perspective — to look at the world from other points of view.”

She found this to be true when she was writing one of her poetry collections, Local News from Someplace Else. Maddox said it started out as a collection themed around parenting, but the tone shifted after Sept. 11, 2001.

“It turned to talking about raising kids in an unsafe world,” Maddox said. “So it has moments of joy with kids and family and friends, but also my dealing with what’s happening in the news and questioning how you balance those things.”

Maddox said she’ll use examples from her own work and other poets to help illuminate her Brown Bag topic. She said she’d love for people to bring the other ideas they’re hearing about in Week Three to the discussion.

“I think that’s what Chautauqua is all about — to be able to go to all of these different events and continue that conversation all week long,” Maddox said.

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The author Ryan Pait

Ryan Pait gets a different haircut every summer to keep the people of Chautauqua guessing. This is his fourth summer at The Chautauquan Daily, so if you’re tired of him, that’s OK. He recently graduated with his master’s degree in literature from Western Kentucky University. Don’t ask him about what he’s doing after this summer, but do ask him about the Nicole Kidman renaissance, the return of “Game of Thrones” and what he’s reading.