Interview with an Author: Brett A. Maddux

Where were you born? 

Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Day Job?

I now live in Hartford, CT, and am the Special Assistant to U.S. Senator Chris Murphy. 

Where can we currently access your work?

My work does not exist online. You can see photos of poems being written in diners at instagram.com/dinersofconnecticut/

What would fuels your creativity?

Creatively, perhaps the fuel is obsession? I’m not sure, but I have a feeling in my head that you must keep the muscle strong. The worth of daily writing is not to write something worthwhile every day; it is an attempt to constantly polish a filthy thing until it is clean, or as clean as you can make it. I think there is also an appeal in writing in public spaces. The diner tour is largely predicated on the idea of “making strange art in strange places for no discernible reason.” Going into a space that doesn’t require art, and finding where the art is. You are able to make art everywhere, it doesn’t have to be pretty and it doesn’t have to be bright, but it can be honest, and you must pursue it honestly.

Do you have a piece of work you feel especially close to? 

A piece of my own work that has always mattered to me is probably the first poem I ever wrote. It was 2008 and the lovely and amazing Haley Thompson made me write poetry for the first time. I can still remember the first lines. “I watched my mother/die slowly at first/then all at once./ I never told you that.” For a long time I tried to kill my mother in poems well before she was actually dead, but I remember submitting that poem and Haley saying that she thought the line “I never told you that” was worthwhile and that I should keep it up. If it was not for her kindness I probably would not be writing still today. So that poem, and that line specifically, are the reason I write at all. Which seems, to me, to matter.

Tell me about your writing routine.

My writing routine is pen to paper in a notebook from the good humans at Hartford Prints. I take the notebook with me everywhere I go. When I go to diners I sit, order coffee, take out the notebook and the book I bring with me (Making Certain It Goes On by Richard Hugo) and do some reading and writing for a while. I order breakfast, break for a cigarette, go back in and continue writing. Sometimes people strike up conversations with me, sometimes I overhear things and I simply sit and listen, sometimes it is 3:00am and I am alone in a place with a waitress and I can tell she knows all the bad things I’ve done. The location changes, but the general set up remains the same.

Is there a source of inspiration; a mentor?

Haley Thompson is my inspiration and mentor. She is the only person who matters. With regards to writers that inspire me, this diner tour would not exist were it not for the writing of Richard Hugo, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Hass and James Dickey. They are allies in my travels, they are the writers I bring along and read as I am working on whatever new poem is happening on a given day. Which also includes the book The Roominghouse Madrigals by Charles Bukowski.

Can you share with us an excerpt of your work we can expect to see in your summer release?

Here’s a poem about a tree and many other things.

May 3, 2016

every good thing 
must be
taken 
back.
to the front 
yard of our
favorite dream
we shall return,
our hands miserable
with soot, a story
we feel comfortable
telling in polite conversation,
vision of a front door
at various times of day,
the last coin you found
beneath couch cushions
in your grandmother’s living room
before she was
returned, I hear
every
good
thing
will
be
taken
back.

a house
to visit daily,
a home 
to love more
than I’ll ever 
admit to,
I have watched
birth given
to remedial sinners,
to night shift nurses,
to the cats that haunt
my lesser torments,
it goes
one year
one second
at a time
and the love
we all claim
to pray to
is never
on fire,
you will lose
everything,
it does not
matter
if you are
ready.

a meditation made
simple, last night
in bed her
body held close
against my chest
you see, 
she was
afraid.
if it is only
more tightly,
nose brooked
against her trembling
bark, bones and edifice,
whispering
songs written
by braver men 
than me into
her flesh.
if I awake
before I sleep
I pray the lord
play symphonies
that if she leaves
before I do
please sing them back
please. please.
they chop old trees,
they plant new seeds,
in a dawn made
for true breeze
they say this
is how
it goes.
some broken alternation,
let it be air
or firewood,
first cigarette
on the stoop.
I can see soil
as I drink gutters full
of whatever leaves can stay,
I have slept soundly
on beds made 
of first light
in the spring, 
they are
not wrong.
this morning
it was raining,
she was
gone.