Featuring Marjorie Maddox

ANNOUNCEMENT: The Word of the Month word for August is SPARKLE. Thank you to Robin Harrison Williams for the suggestion.

Hi everyone,

Today I have the pleasure of featuring professor of English and creative writing at Lock Haven University Marjorie Maddox and her two latest books of poems. As we all know, it’s hard enough to get one poetry book to print, much less two.

Greetings, Marjorie, and thank you for joining me on Connecting the Dots. I’ve posted your bio at the foot of today’s feature so let’s open by getting straight to the heart of the matter: you have not one but two new books out in 2020: INSIDE OUT: POEMS ON WRITING AND READING POEMS WITH INSIDER EXERCISES (Kelsay Books, March 31) and I’M FEELING BLUE, TOO! (Resource Publications, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers, August 1).

Taking the March release first, I notice how you fill the opening pages with poems about how to see, hear, taste, smell, touch, and befriend a poem. Quite an ambitious undertaking. And once you’ve set the stage by introducing examples, tools, and terminology, you entice young poets by poetically showing how they can write poems of their own. An intriguing format. So here’s my question. What is the back story here? What journey did you take from original idea to finished book?

I love writing series of connected poems, partly because once you start, you no longer have to stare at that blank screen.  It’s also a way to delve deeply into a particular subject and learn a lot. I have a series of poems on baseball— Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems—inspired by reading definitions of baseball terminology. I’ve written a series of poems called “Body Parts,” inspired by reading cover-to-cover the both scientific and surprisingly metaphoric Grey’s Anatomy one summer after my father’s unsuccessful heart transplant. In that series, I poetically examine kidneys, spleens, hearts, lungs, toes—over 25 “body parts.” In writing these two series, I learned a lot about baseball and a lot about human anatomy. Why not, I thought, use this same fun and effective strategy to encourage young adults to step “inside the poem” and learn more about the art of writing poetry. It also has proven a great way to teach young writers, by way of modeling, such poetic terms and techniques as onomatopoeia, puns, caesura, personification, and such fixed forms as sonnets, villanelles, sestinas, triolets, and clerihews.

Here’s an example from the opening section of your book.

How to Taste a Poem

The table’s well set, but please
come as you are. No need for white gloves
or black tuxedos. Pass the appetizer plate
to your left and try a lightly fried haiku
or lemon-peppered limerick. Nibble away
as you would a jumbo shrimp stuffed with oxymorons.
For an entrée, may we suggest a well-done ode
or an Italian sonnet smothered with marinara sauce?
Now, sit back and savor the syllables
until your taste buds plump with flavor,
but leave room for dessert—
aged alliteration topped with assonance and consonance:
a sugary smorgasbord of simply scrumptious sounds.

Here’s an example of how you reach out to young poets with helpful encouragement.

Getting Ready with Iambic

Iambic likes to clack unstressed, then stressed.
He taps it like a drum when he gets dressed.
He chomps it when he eats his toast and jam,
then struts to class like he’s a marching band.
To walk with him you need to keep his beat.
Five times unstressed, then stressed equals five feet.
Get ready for a marching, metered day—
Pentameter’s his favorite game to play.

Marjorie, if you don’t mind my saying it, this sounds like you might have a little experience in this field. (Me smiling.)

INSIDE OUT: POEMS ON WRITING AND READING POEMS WITH INSIDER EXERCISES is based on my 30+ years of teaching poetry at the primary, secondary, community, and university levels, encouraging writers to step inside the poem to better experience the process of reading and writing. The book also includes nine Insider Exercises that stem from exercises I’ve used over the years with audiences of various ages.

Okay, now I want to talk about your book that’s just now being released, today in fact: I’M FEELING BLUE, TOO! I’ve never thought about writing an entire book about a single color. Here are two examples and a question. First the examples:

To help readers appreciate the poem, I’m typing it here although my blog restrictions don’t allow for anything fancier than margin flush left.

Hey, you,
got those summer-time slumps,
bad-news blues?

Time to get up
and shake up
the woulda-coulda-shoulda’s.
Time to get the “can’t-do-nothin'” out of blue.

Time to zap the sad
with some kaleidoscope clues.
Come on, whistle for Blue
and get moving!

Get ready. Get set. Guess blue!

take precision,
takes patience,
takes weighing
the wood —
and the could-be’s.

takes wondering
“How high?”
and “What color?”
and “What would be better —
this one
or the other?”

makes block
after block
of a dream
and dreams
create castles
from whatever we see

when we first
use precision
to weigh
and decide
what to make
from a block
or a stone
or a life.

And now, Marjorie, the question. Where in the world did this idea come from?

This book has a long history. Illustrator Philip Huber, with whom I collaborated for our book A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry, approached me a number of years ago about his book I’m Feeling Blue, Too! He had begun the book, which focused on a young boy’s exploration of the color blue, when he was in college. He has now just retired from Lock Haven University, where I also am a professor.

Over the years, Philip revised and expanded his pictorial narrative, but he wanted help with the written story. He came to me. And so, I arrived relatively late in the creation of the book, with the illustrations already completed. However, what a delightful ekphrastic challenge. With Philip’s images as a guide, I was able to discover for myself and then put into a series of poems, a young boy’s search in the world for the color blue. It also gave me an opportunity to talk about the importance of creativity through all the arts: writing, painting, storytelling, building, etc. I find this book to be particularly appropriate in the age of COVID-19, a way to turn the “can’t do nothin’” blues into an exciting exploration of both our inside and outside worlds.

I’m looking at a picture showing samples from your collected works and I’m impressed. I know you are always thinking about and at work on your next book so I thank you for being with me today and wish you luck on whatever you have in store for us next. Thank you again, Marjorie. And now for your list of recent publications and impressive bio.

New since December!
Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems (December 2019, reprint)
A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry (December 2019, reprint)
Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises (Kelsay Books, April 2020)
I’m Feeling Blue, Too! (illustrated by Philip Huber, Wipf and Stock, 2020)
Begin with a Question (poems, Paraclete Press, 2021)
For information and reviews, please see http://www.marjoriemaddox.com

Winner of America Magazine’s 2019 Foley Poetry Prize and Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University, Marjorie Maddox has published 11 collections of poetry—including Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (Yellowglen Prize); True, False, None of the Above (Illumination Book Award Medalist); Local News from Someplace Else; Perpendicular As I (Sandstone Book Award)—the short story collection What She Was Saying (Fomite Press); four children’s and YA books—including Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises and A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry, Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems , I’m Feeling Blue, Too!—Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (co-editor, PSU Press); Presence (assistant editor); and 600+ stories, essays, and poems in journals and anthologies, including anthologies by Paul Janeczko. She is the great grandniece of Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers who helped break the color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson to Major League Baseball. The chair of the jury of judges for the 2020 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Book Award, she gives readings and workshops around the country. For more information, please see http://www.marjoriemaddox.com

The poll results are in



Yesterday Marjorie Maddox’s guest appearance was a big hit and drew warmly appreciative comments from fans new and old. Thank you again, Marjorie, for agreeing to be my guest.

My thanks for the feedback you have provided this past week by indicating what you like most and, by process of elimination, least about various features of my blog. This has been helpful.

For each 1st place vote I assgned a value of 3; a 2nd place vote was worth 2; and a 3rd place vote was given a 1. Only a few people voted but I assume that they are representative of those who remained silent on the issues. Here are the results.

24 — Monthly Word of the Month Challenge
14 — Occasional Poetry Tips
11 — Friday Guests
6 — Sunday Poem of the Week
3 — Monthly Voting for Hall of Fame Poets
2 — Monthly Teaching Tool
1 — Monthly Kids Activity

It seems clear that the fun of writing and posting monthly poems far outweighs the process of voting for a monthly winner. Therefore I’ll change that beginning next month. For this month, which cuts off Sunday night, we’ll vote as usual. After that I’ll rethink what we do. I could skip the selection process altogether or seek some way to select monthly winning poems without a general vote from readers. What I do not wish to do is become involved in personally critiquing all those poems each month. Sorry, but this has to be fun for me too. Maybe I’ll hit on a few friends to help me by reading the poems, casting ballots among ourselves, and then I could announce the winner. Let me know if you have comments on this.

I’m not sure how to respond to the low votes for the Teaching Tool and Kids Activity pages on my website. We didn’t have much of a turnout for this voting and I don’t know if any teachers were among those who cast ballots. Teachers tell me they find those pages helpful so for now I’m inclinded to keep them. I often wonder how many blog visitors click onto the website itself but I figure there aren’t many. The more I get into this blogging, the more I can identify with the new human specie affectionately known (to me at least) as a blog hopper. That’s where a lot of fun and action seem to be.

Thanks again for your help. Don’t forget to post a poem based on STONE before Sunday night at 10:00!


Marjorie Maddox today


Hello everyone,
Here, as promised, is my guest today, Marjorie Maddox Hafer, pen name: Marjorie Maddox. I love her voice and you will too. She is an articulate spokesperson for all writers, but especially those who must juggle many roles and still manage to keep writing. For a view of some of Marjorie’s work, here’s the link to Tricia Stohr-Hunt’s feature of her during April. http://missrumphiuseffect.blogspot.com/2010/04/poetry-makers-marjorie-maddox.html

I Do

“So, what do you do?”

The question, of course, pops up again and again throughout our lives. I write—I’m a mother, a wife, a writer. I also am an English professor and director of a creative writing program at a state university. This is my day job, and I love it. But I am a mother, a wife, a writer, and—having fallen in love with words at a young age—it’s the calling of writer that I’ve claimed the longest. For most of my youth and my adulthood, I’ve written and published poetry, short stories, and essays. When I was a child, I shared my work with family and friends, publishing my first poem in Campfire Girl magazine. Over the following decades, I published in literary journals and presses. I became a writer—for adults.

But now I also am a writer for children. This adventure has expanded and enhanced how I view myself. It has allowed me, in new and wonderful ways, to bring together my “lives” as mother, writer, and teacher.

We are a family of readers. Along with my husband—another writer and college professor—I am, not surprisingly, addicted to books. We’ve passed our obsession to our son and daughter. How could we not? To read or not to read: no question there. To sit on our back patio with book in hand and let words envelop me while my daughter, next to me, has flown to an imaginary world through a paperback she’s clutching: this is a life I like. This is a life my husband and I wanted to share when we read page after page to our growing children, watching their eyes—and minds—expand. I hope I can continue this experience by creating books that will transport other children to these worlds that words build.

To do so, I find myself collaborating more and more with family. For years, my husband, an excellent editor, has been first reader for much of my work. However, when I write for children, even my kids join in brainstorming. They test-run my poems and let me know which pieces take off, which run out of gas, which crash. “This is boring”; “I don’t get it”; “Huh?”—they don’t hold back. Their reactions are immediate. They have kid-view expertise. When they get to “Yeah, sweet” or “This rocks,” I know I’m headed in the right direction.

Both my husband’s considered responses and my children’s blunt reactions have become part of my process. When I was writing Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems, for example, my children, two Little Leaguers, and my husband, an avid fan, enthusiastically served as a panel of experts. When I drafted A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry (a book on collective nouns), my husband, with his background in rhetoric, and my children, with their background in play, entered into the word games. Currently, I’m revising riddle poems, which grew out of rhymed scavenger hunts I’ve had with my kids for years. My audience is willing. Let the family collaboration continue!

This partnership between family and writing has grown to include my role as teacher. For twenty years, my passion for writing and literature has flowed into the university classroom. Then, it was natural that when my children began elementary school, I would visit their classes, leading their friends on poetic journeys.

When I began writing my own children’s books, I joined illustrator Philip Huber in conducting assemblies and workshops at elementary schools. What a joy! To fan a spark that can strike a literary bonfire or a love of reading—or to help a young author take what began as clichéd images and transform them into a crafted and powerful poem: this is what I love about school visits. This also is what I love about college teaching.

But teaching young children is unique. Discussing and writing poetry with children is, to put it simply, loads of fun. Together we spin, twist, and fly with words. We trial-and-error our way through rhymes. We try on umpteen different metaphors and look at the world through kaleidoscope glasses. I do the same thing, of course, with college students, but the enthusiasm from a room filled with K—sixth graders is immediate. The kids and I are in this enterprise together, this exciting world of the imagination, as we go full-speed-ahead where the words take us.

Likewise, it is an honor to read my books to children and see their reactions. Writing, of course, is a solitary act—at a computer in a room with a door closed. Publishing, especially for an adult audience, also can seem a solitary act. Except for the occasional letter or review, I don’t get to interact with my audience until I meet them, face-to-face, at a reading or other literary event. When I meet kids at their school, I get to see my words jump from the page and into their minds. The sudden laugh, the “aha!” in the eyes, the nose crinkled in playful disgust—these reactions shout louder than the best review.

And all this keeps me coming back for more. All this beckons, “Hey, Teacher,” “Hey, Mother,” “Hey, Author, it’s good to have you here. Sit down. Make yourself comfortable. Write. “

And so I do.

Marjorie Maddox

Please post your comments for Marjorie in the boxes below. Thanks, Marjorie!


Marjorie Maddox tomorrow


Thanks to you who have let me know your preferences among the features I’ve introduced since starting my blog last August. Many readers have dropped by to review the boxes. Voting ends Saturday.

I’m happy to introduce Marjorie Maddox today by posting her bio. I became familiar with Marjorie and her work last month on Tricia Stohr-Hunt’s month-long celebration of poetry. I like Marjorie’s work very much and was glad that she accepted my invitation to appear as my guest. I am sure that many of you are already familiar with Marjorie, but for those who do not, you are in for a new treat.
Marjorie Maddox Hafer
(pen name: Marjorie Maddox)

Director of Creative Writing and Professor of English at
Lock Haven University, Marjorie Maddox has published Weeknights At The Cathedral, (an Editions Selection, WordTech, 2006), Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (2004 Yellowglen Prize, WordTech Editions), Perpendicular As I (1994 Sandstone Book Award), When The Wood Clacks Out Your Name: Baseball Poems (2001 Redgreene Press Chapbook Winner), Body Parts (Anamnesis Press, 1999), Ecclesia (Franciscan University Press, 1997), How to Fit God into a Poem (1993 Painted Bride Chapbook Winner), and Nightrider to Edinburgh (1986 Amelia Chapbook Winner), as well as over 350 poems, stories, and essays in such journals and anthologies as Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Crab Orchard Review, and Image: A Journal of the Arts and Religion.
Her fiction has appeared in many journals, newspapers, and magazines, including The Sonora Review, The Great Stream Review, Cream City Review, Art Times, US Catholic, Midway Journal, and the anthology Dirt, published by The New Yinzer in Pittsburgh. Her short story collection, What She Was Saying, was one of three finalists for the 2005 Katherine Anne Porter Book Award and a semifinalist for Eastern Washington University’s Spokane Fiction Book Award and Louisiana University Press’s Yellow Shoe Book Award.In addition, she is the co-editor of Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (Penn State Press, 2005) and has two children’s books, A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry (WordSong, 2008) and Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems (WordSong, 2009). Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation was a runner-up (Brittingham), finalist, or semifinalist at 20 national competitions, including the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize, OSU The Journal Award, the Vassar Miller Prize, New Issues Press, the Coffee House Press Poetry Prize, and the Winthrop Poetry Series Prize from Pleiades Press. Local News From Someplace Else has been a finalist for the Samuel French Morse Poetry Award, sponsored by Northeastern University, for the Kentucky Women’s Prize, sponsored by Sarabande, for the Magellan Prize, sponsored by Button Wood Press, for the Mammoth Books Poetry
Award, the Ashland Poetry Press, Prize, and a semifinalist for the Crab Orchard Poetry Award, and elsewhere.

Marjorie studied with A. R. Ammons, Robert Morgan, Phyllis Janowitz, and Ken McClane at Cornell, where she received the Sage Graduate Fellowship for her M.F.A. in poetry in 1989, and at the University of Louisville with Sena Jeter Naslund, where she received an M.A. in English.

Her numerous honors include Cornell University’s Chasen Award, the 2000 Paumanok Poetry Award, an Academy of American Poets Prize, the Seattle Review’s Bentley Prize for Poetry, a Breadloaf Scholarship, and four Pushcart Prize nominations. She lives with her husband and two children in Williamsport, Pa., birthplace of Little League and home
of the Little League World Series. She is the great-niece of baseball legend Branch Rickey, the Brooklyn Dodgers manager who helped break the color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson.

For further information about Marjorie, check out her reviews page: http://www.lhup.edu/mmaddoxh/reviews.htm

Whew! All that in one lifetime! If you are impressed by Marjorie and her accomplishments, you are going to really like what she has to say tomorrow. Be back then!


Announcing Marjorie Maddox as an upcoming guest

Have you voted yet? Please use the boxes that went up on Saturday to provide me with your feedback. Here’s the link: https://davidlharrison.wordpress.com/2010/05/15/which-features-do-you-like-best-about-my-blog/ 

I’m assigning a value of 3 to all 1st place votes; 2 for 2nd place votes; and 1 for 3rd place votes. So far the list from most liked to least looks like this:

1 — Word of the Month Poetry Challenge
2 — Guests on Fridays
3 — Poetry Tips (want them more frequently)
4 — Poem of the Week
5 — Monthly Teaching Tool
6 — Activities on Kids page
7 — Voting for Hall of Fame poets

These early results are based on a small sampling of visitors to my blog so I hope to see more of you let me know what you think.

I’ll leave the boxes up through this coming Saturday so please take time to give me your opinions! Thanks!


This is the final week for submitting May’s Word of the Month poems!! I hope you still plan to share your work based on the word of the month: STONE. Let’s hear from you! Students, we’re waiting to see your poems come in too. Don’t lose track of the time and let Friday slip by.

I’m pleased to tell you that this week’s Friday guest is Marjorie Maddox. Many of you enjoyed Marjorie’s work during April when Tricia Stohr-Hunt selected her as one of her featured poets. Here’s the link to that: http://missrumphiuseffect.blogspot.com/2010/04/poetry-makers-marjorie-maddox.html