Thursday, April 03, 2008

Poet Heather Madden: A Recent Transplant to Somerville’s Rich Artistic Milieu

Poet Heather Madden: A Recent Transplant to Somerville’s Rich Artistic Milieu

Somerville poet Heather Madden is in the midst of a love affair. It was love at first sight with the city of Somerville. She loves the mixture of artists, the generations of families that reside here, the Sherman Café, the eclectic shops of Union Square and the general enthusiasm for the Arts the ‘ville embodies. Madden, who lives in the Union Square/Winter Hill Section area of the city, told the News that her Somerville neighborhood is: “quiet enough” for her to write and she loves the view of a historic home across the way from her flat.

Madden is a published poet, with extensive teaching experience on the college level. Currently Madden works as an adjunct professor at Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. and as a Development Associate at the Arsenal Center For The Arts in Watertown, Mass.

At the Center she is involved in grant writing, editing, proofing, to name just a few duties. The Center has four resident companies, and has its own programs such as “Text and Context” a series that matches a writer with a visual artist. Both participants talk about their “process” and there is an open discussion with the audience. Somerville Poet Lloyd Schwartz was a recent participant.

As for her work at Hampshire College Madden told the News that she finds the students consistently engaged with the craft of poetry. In Madden’s view her students are genuinely interested in poetry-- a godsend for any teacher.

Madden, who experienced the death of her father and other family members in short order said she need the distance of some eight years to truly write about it. She is now really “engaged” with her past in the context of her work. When she completes the manuscript she is working on: “Bring the Dead Girls Home,” she feels she will be able to “move on” in her writing.

Madden grew up near State College, Pennsylvania, a university town, but her parents were not professors. Her late father was a criminal investigator. When Madden started teaching at her alma mater she founded a visiting writers program for Department of Youth Service kids living in a residential treatment setting. She had her own college students teach the kids with laudable results. Since then Madden has gone on to teach in the Midwest, but came back to the Northeast to be near friends and family.

Madden also pitches in as a reader at the prestigious literary magazine “Ploughshares” based at Emerson College in Boston. As a reader of poetry manuscripts she looks for original vision, an element of surprise, humor, and emotional layers. Madden told the NEWS:

“If a poem makes me pause, and each line makes me want to go back and read the poem again, then it is a winner.”

Madden, who worked at the Sherman Café for a brief time when she first moved to Somerville, is happy in her new digs and glad to live in a place that is inspiring.

Doug Holder

No comments:

Post a Comment