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2002 Connecticut Poetry Champion Emily Madsen
Appearance on WTIC 1080 Bruce and Colin Show
Wednesday, June 5, 2002
B.S., Bruce Stevens; C.M., Colin McEnroe; E.M., Emily Madsen; E.A., Edward
NOTE: IMPAC-Connecticut State University Statewide Poetry Champion Emily Madsen, a student at Avon High School, received her second $1,000 check Sunday night during the Annual Young Writers Dinner at the Litchfield Inn. In April, she was awarded $1,000 during ceremonies at Central Connecticut State University as the winner of the Angelo Tomasso Jr. Hartford County Poetry Prize. Joining Emily on the Bruce and Colin show was Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Edward Albee. His 1975 play Seascape is beginning a run at The Hartford Stage. Albee is perhaps best known for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" His latest play, "The Goat," just won a Tony Award.
CM- Edward Albee, who needs a U-haul to haul all of his Tonies and Pulitzer Prizes around, is coming to our little show. Also joining us is the future of literature - Edward Albee is the present of literature - but the ghost of literature future, Emily Madsen, tormented teen-age poet, will also be
joining us at the same time. She will read her poem (I thought it would be a nice thing, I don't know why nobody ever watched over me - I needed someone to watch over me when I was 17 years old. Emily was scheduled at this time and so I said I think you should come in anyway and sit with Edward Albee. Who knows, maybe he will take a shine to you? Maybe something good will happen to you...).
Anyway, Emily will be in here. She just won two grand. Edward, I don't know how much he gets for the Tonies, I don't even know if you get money for the Tony. You probably don't. So he might want to borrow some money from Emily. We all might want to borrow some money from her.
Edward Albee won a Tony on Sunday night. Also here with us is Emily Madsen, who won an IMPAC award for poetry on Sunday night. Two grand, right? And I've been sort of an influence on you, right?
EM- Oh, yes.
CM - If you were to make a pie out of the influence you have had, and put the $2,000 in the pie, divide it up, there is about 50 bucks that I have coming.
EM- Oh, sure.
CM - Yeah, all right. I think we have to begin now with Edward Albee. First of all, let's talk about Sunday night. First of all, you've won Pulitzers, you've won the Tony, is it a thrill still to go up there and get that Tony?
EA - Well, since I seem to get a Tony Award only once every 40 years, I got the first one in 1962 for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and the one Sunday night for "The Goat," that's 40 years. And so I get my next one 40 years from now. So, I don't have all that much experience with Tony Awards. Yeah, like with all awards, if they're handing them out it's better to get
them than not.
GAP IN TRANSCRIPT.
CM- We thought it might be fun since Emily Madsen did win this massive poetry prize, almost simultaneously, almost at the exact moment Edward Albee went up to get his Tony - actually I'm making this up - that at the same time Edward Albee won the Tony she was winning this poetry prize. We though it might be fun if she were to actually read the poem for which she won the prize. Emily, you are a senior at Avon high School, right?
EM - Yup.
CM - Are you going to tell us the title of the poem and read it for us?
EM - Yes, the title is "Bloody Nose, Tuesday Art Class, 11:40 a.m."
Bloody Nose, Tuesday Art Class, 11:40 a.m.
When Mr. Chen from down the street died
it was just as well because she had been
entertaining fantasies of dressing the kids up real nice,
packing them into the car,
and driving down to Vincent's Funeral Home
to introduce them to death.
Just to go through the line, really;
see the body, hear the other attendees, and say to the bereaved relatives:
"we're so-and-so and we're terribly sorry."
Break it to the kids gently;
some anonymous person stretched out cold and peaked
someone else's grandma brother friend
someone else's sobbing relatives in somber gray and black
someone else's death.
But then Mr. Chen died, of a cold apparently,
and the children were dressed up and driven down--
"see children? this man is dead."
A textbook written in his pale bones, laid out so stiff and dim.
This is how to live, this is how to die.
She tells us this in her matter-of-fact way,
brushing red hair out of her eyes
and wiping the blood off her nose with a tissue.
CM - Emily Madsen, reading her poem.
EA - That's a lot better than the poems I was writing when I was your age.
CM - Here are some of the judges' comments on Emily's poem: "It is raw and real - it takes my head off. The poem is grounded in a unique moment/concept and an original voice. No one could have written this poem (and in this way) except this poet --I haven't heard this one before. There
are so many places a poem of this nature could have gone "wrong," and yet it doesn't. This testifies to the poet's control and delicate handling of language to deliver the essence of the moment." But now Edward Albee is going to tell you never pay any attention to critics whether they say good things or bad things.
EA - The only time to pay attention to critics is when they praise you. When they don't praise you, they're terrible. This poem has no place where it goes wrong. That's good. That's really good to hear.
CM - Well, America, or at least Connecticut, or at least the Farmington Valley, or at least parts of the Farmington Valley, is or are asking it or themselves, Will success spoil Emily Madsen? Anyway, Emily Madsen is here with us and actually, all kidding aside, on Sunday night she did win a rather prestigious award set up by Jim Irwin and the Connecticut State University System. First of all she won the Hartford County (Angelo Tomasso Jr.) Poetry Award and a grand, and that would have been enough right there.
BS - You certainly are hung up on the money.
CM - Well, my thought is, her Dad and I are going down to Foxwoods for the show tonight, see if we can run this thing up a bit.
EM - You only get 50.
CM - I get $50 for the influence. But anyway, then she won the statewide thing, and there's another grand right there. And the big time. So it must have been kind of exciting. Did you know you were going to be the statewide winner?
EM - No, I had no idea. I was pretty surprised.
CM - It was for that one particular poem. Do you want to talk a little bit about that poem, what's behind it
EM - It was based on an actual incident. I was in art class at the time. I basically took what the teacher said and put it into the poem. I put it in my words.
CM - Edward Albee seemed to like it. Do you want to read another poem for us? What's this one called?
EM -- This is called The Gift. I actually only read it once before in public and that was at the Sunken Garden last summer.
CM - We should mention that. The Sunken Garden every year does a night of young poets ... and Emily was one of them last year.
EM - The Gift
The man in the blue bib with navy trim
has the most beautiful eyes.
They are like black porcelain eggs
swimming around in his face.
His mouth puckers around the edges,
gathering skin for a smile.
Maybe he once spoke angry words with those lips,
yelled or shouted till they lost their elasticity and youth.
But his eyes say that he was not a yelling man.
Not even a sometimes-angry man.
No, these are the eyes of a man
with a life tender as young asparagus shoots.
A man whose pants and shirt were always ironed neatly.
A man of the loneliest, quietest kind,
with change in his pockets and eyes black like caviar.
Of course there was a dog, with slow lovely eyes,
and on the mornings when everything was light
with mist, he and his dog would go rambling.
When the two pairs of eyes moved across the landscape,
it was like the movement of liquid across black marble,
or the movement of the music through the air
as I play my violin in this dull beige rec-room.
It is birthday day at the retirement home, and
everyone has white hair and a slice of cake,
I've come to play them Bach's Partita No. 2,
but what I want to do is wrap Bach up for them
in his inkstained manuscript paper--
and when it falls away, I want them to see him as I see him,
dust motes moving slowly through the room with thick drapes where he writes;
door closed to the sounds of his children, and Bach, sitting at his wooden desk,
wig slightly askew, crumpled papers filling the corner where he sits--
so absorbed in this moment that the music seeps from his skin
into the motes, the sunlight, the richness of the drapes--
how there is immense sadness and beauty like a blue mountain in the room.
but I also want them to know what I am feeling as I play this partita for them.
The empty, joyous space between each somber note;
my trembling and peace coming together so that the music shines through;
and when I open my eyes and look out into the room of circular tables where
wheelchairs and fragile bodies are parked,
I catch his beautiful porcelain eyes.
He knows this sadness; his eyes are so dark with the music flowing through
them; he has heard, and the movement of his eyes across my face
is like a whole new composition
which I take away in my fingers and skin,
where it waits to be composed.
CM - Emily Madsen. 17 years old and she writes this. That's wonderful.
BS - Incredible voice.
CM -- Very nice reading, very nice style of reading. That's something you have to do well as a poet. Some poets do it better than others. Were there poets that you either read of heard and you thought, that's it, that's what I want to do?
EM - There are a number of poets that I really admire. I like Mary Oliver. Actually, the first poet I really related to is Jane Kenyon. Reading her work really focused me. That was my first connection.
CM - The widower of Jane Kenyon is Donald Hall, also a great American poet, and some of his thoughts about writing were also read Sunday night when you won the award. Jane Kenyon died rather young, tragically, a few years ago, [from] a terrible form of cancer. The fact that she was married to a poet who tried to deal with this through his poetry -- I just find this completely haunting ... Thank you very much; I know you are going to go on to greatness and refuse to be on the show at that point.
EM - Thank you so much for having me now.
CM - Emily Madsen from Avon High School. Congratulations.
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