Poets

Search more than 3,000 biographies of contemporary and classic poets.

Ed Madden

Ed Madden was raised in Newport, Arkansas. He received a BA in English and French from Harding University, a BS in Biblical Studies from the Institute for Christian Studies, an MA in English from the University of Texas at Austin, and a PhD in literature from the University of Texas at Austin. His most recent collections include Ark (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2016), Nest (Salmon Poetry, 2014), and Prodigal: Variations (Lethe Press, 2011). He is a professor of English and director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at the University of South Carolina, where he teaches Irish literature and creative writing. In 2019, he was named an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow. Madden currently serves as the poet laureate of Columbia, South Carolina.

By This Poet

3

Sacrifice

When my father bound me, I submitted,

closed my eyes to the lifted knife in his fist.
Even now, the cords still hold my wrists,

rough ropes of love. My chest is bare,
my heart lies open. He loves his god more

than me. I open my eyes, watch my father
raise his fist against a bright and bitter

sky, no angel there to stay his hand.

Ark

           Christmas 1966

The small box is filled with little beasts—
a barn that’s a barge, a boat—the ark’s

ridged sides like boards, a plastic plank,
a deck that drops in fitted slots, but lifted

reveals that zoo of twos—heaped beasts
to be released beneath a glittering tree,

its dove-clipped limbs.  Dad’s asleep
in his reclining seat, and crumpled waves

of paper recede as Mom circles the room.
The humming wheel throws light across the walls.
 

How to Lift Him

Don’t pick him up by the pits,
which seems easiest. You risk

broken bones, bruised skin.
Instead, once he’s eased up, sits,

shoulders hunched, feet slung
over the edge, lean down for the hug,

your arms under his and around,
hands flat against his back, his arms around

you. This is what you do. Then lift him,
his feet between yours, this timid

dance around, this turn. Tell him
to bend his knees as you ease him

down to the chair, its wheels locked,
set him in slow. Kneel in front

as if to receive his blessing.

Lift each foot to its rest. Wrap
a blanket around him—you’re going out.

Stop at the old flat-front desk,
last hiding place for his cigarettes—

why he wanted up, after all. Stop
at the edge of the porch and lock

the wheels. Make sure he’s in the sun.
Stand silent by, he won’t talk much,

though the lonely cat will,
rubbing its back against the wheels.