Wilpo woman writes woes, wonderments

The Trans World Airlines (TWA) Flight 800 and United Airlines Flight 93 crashes and the Nickel Mines Amish schoolhouse shootings are just three of the topics covered in “Local News from Someplace Else,” a poetry book that features poems written in response to sad and joyful newspaper headlines, as well as life occurrences.

“Poetry is a confrontation with our everyday lives, a way to discover the world and our place in it and, in the case of some of these poems, a way to wrestle with the tragedies around us,” author Marjorie Maddox said. “These events are in the poems because they are in my life – in many of our lives – as we both grapple with and rejoice in the world we call home.”

Some of her happier headline-based poems talk about a wedding ceremony at Reptiland and a man who gets a tattoo of his wedding ring.

Maddox, a Williamsport resident for 30 years, said the short answer of her inspiration for the poems came from life, her children and current events.

“We are witnesses of so much in so many ways,” she said. “In addition to our own delights and disasters, media adds to how we experience tragedy everywhere every day. I am at heart an optimist and I hope that a strong sense of hope and faith comes through in the collection. The book doesn’t have easy answers – there aren’t any – but it does, I trust, examine what matters most in our lives.”

The book has gone through numerous versions and has been a finalist in 30 national competitions over a span of about 15 years.

“My husband and I learned we were expecting our first child around the time of the terrible TWA Flight 800 crash and so we struggled to balance the joy of this good news with the deep sorrow we felt for those who lost so much,” Maddox said.

What people read in the newspaper or hear on the radio often intersects with their personal struggles and celebrations, she said.

“I try to find that intersection in these poems,” Maddox said. “Of course, the book also contains much joy and these (happier poems) can be just as tricky to write well. So, on one level writing equals hard work and meticulous revision. On another level, it’s just plain entertaining, a chance to play with words.”

“Local News from Someplace Else” means more than just picking out one of the poem’s titles in the book.

“The title suggests our paradoxical horror of and fascination with local and national events and how, too often, we disconnect from our own lives,” Maddox said. “On another level, the title shows, I hope, how truly universal are our human joys and sorrows.”

Maddox is the director of creative writing and professor of English at Lock Haven University. Her previous works fall in a number of different genres, including fiction, creative nonfiction, essays and children’s literature.

“Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation” focuses on her father’s unsuccessful heart transplant; “Weeknights at the Cathedral” on her spiritual journey; “Perpendicular As I” on the way body becomes landscape and landscape becomes body; the children’s book “A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry” on collective nouns; and the children’s book “Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems” on baseball. Her fiction book manuscript, “What She Was Saying,” explores power and silences in women’s voices.

“All writing is creative. Composing in several genres gives me different ways to approach a topic or audience,” Maddox said. “Plus, it’s just plain fun to switch things up a bit.”

Still, with her career at Lock Haven University and as a mother of a son and daughter, finding time to write isn’t always easy.

“While I long to write every day, with my busy teaching schedule and our busy household, that usually doesn’t happen,” Maddox said. “However, the ideas are still churning whether I’m typing or washing dishes. Because I often compose out loud, I prefer silence around me. I write a lot on our back porch.”