Dear reader, life is too short for crap books.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

A Week of Southern Lit, Part 3

During his lifetime, Everette Maddox was the unofficial poet laureate of the French Quarter and founder of the Maple Leaf Bar reading series, which has been going strong since 1979, and even in these post-Katrina days, convenes each Sunday at 3pm.

After Maddox died in 1989, a memorial was placed on the patio at the Maple Leaf which reads simply: "He was a mess."

Maddox's poems call to mind Tom Waits' drunken reels and ballads, steeped in Berryman, Stevens, and Wordsworth, with a little Keatsian melancholy thrown in for good measure. Even the titles of the poems are great - "Joseph Conrad Meets All My Friends," "Thirteen Ways of Being Looked At By a Possum," "God's Last Words To the Stars," but my favorite one is this:

by Everette Maddox

I'm not going to
dignify Mozart
or metaphysics
any longer by
pretending they touch
me. I won't even
say I like these leaves
except as they swirl
against a special
emptiness. Nothing
is relevant since
losing you is what
my life is about.

Maddox published three collections of poetry during his lifetime, but never achieved widespread success or renown; however, his work and his legacy are well-remembered by the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast and have spawned a documentary, a play, and two posthumous collections, none of which you will be able to see or lay your hands on very easily.

It is goddamn tragic that we live in a world where the pretentious and unreadable works of Jorie Graham are readily accessible, but Everette Maddox is out of print.

I have tracked down a few places where you can acquire his work in piecemeal:

1. Rette's Last Stand, a posthumous collection of his works, some previously unpublished, is available for a very reasonable price at Abebooks. (The Everette Maddox Songbook is also available here, if you're willing to drop $150 for it)
2. American Waste, another posthumous collection, and The Maple Leaf Rag, a collection of 100 writers from the Maple Leaf Bar Reading Series, are available at Portals Press, out of New Orleans.
3. Several works are included in The Made Thing: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern Poetry
4. The 1994 Fall/Winter issue of the New Orleans Review features a Maddox interview, several essays, a series of letters he wrote to a friend, and several poems, and can be ordered here.

So little published poetry actually matters. This stuff is worth finding.


brady said...

Of course, if you are interested in getting a copy of the songbook, you can also send me five bucks for xeroxing and postage.

Copyright be damned, it's a fine work and should be easier to get.

Will said...

Just saw "Finding him in pieces," theater performance by Mondo Bizarro at the Hopkins Black Box Theatre in Baton Rouge. This intense depiction of the alcoholic genius inspired a flurry of research, leading to discovery of this post. See this production somewhere, if at all possible. And if Brady's still out there, I'll take you up on the five buck offer for a copy of the Songbook. Cheers! Will

Anonymous said...

Two things: 1) Grace Bauer and I (Julie Kane) have just co-edited a book of essays, poems, short stories, and even song lyrics about Everette, containing work by fifty writers including Ellen Gilchrist, Rodney Jones, William Matthews, etc. The title is Umpteen Ways of Looking at a Possum: Critical and Creative Responses to Everette Maddox, and the publisher is Xavier Review Press (2006). It can be ordered from the publisher's website,, or from amazon. 2) Bill Roberts of Pirogue Publishing (which published Everette's second book, Bar Scotch, in 1988) told me he still has some copies of it and that if you contact the Maple Street Book Shop in New Orleans (504 862-0008), he will fill any requests for it through them.

Brady said...

I was, uh, kidding about copyright be damned.

bigun6605 said...

I was a personal friend of Rette, when we lived in the same house from 1968-70. Rodney Jones also lived there for a while.

I will never forget Rette, every note, poem, piece of paper he got in his life was taped to his wall. You couldn't see the wall for the paper. He was brilliant and I think of him often. He came to Montgomery twice for a poetry reading in old Cloverdale and I saw him there. Never changed.

I did remind him of the following ode he composed:

Definition of a frat man
by Rette Maddox

6 foot, three
Curly hair
Muscle bound
Picture on a penny
Nobel prize for Greatness
Girls out the a@@

Rest In Peace Rette

Al Cagle

mary_m said...

I can't even imagine what that household must have been like!

Thanks Al, for sharing the poem and the memory.

Anonymous said...

If you are looking for more pieces by Everette Maddox... and obscure ones at that .... consider Vol. 2 of XAVIER REVIEW, which is published n 1982 by XAVIER REVIEW PRESS (the same folks who brought you Julie Kane's and Grace Bauer's book, UMPTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT A POSSUM. There are also some copies of AFTERMATH OF INVISIBILITY II, a chapbook produced by the press in 1975, available. Not available, or at least not through the press, is its THE THIRTEEN ORIGINAL POEMS.