As one of only a few southern cities to create the position, One Columbia for Arts and History and the City of Columbia are proud to announce the selection of poet Dr. Ed Madden as Columbia’s first Poet Laureate. Madden will serve a four-year term that begins January 2015.
Madden is the founding literary arts editor of Jasper Magazine.
Recognized by Mayor Benjamin and the members of City Council in a resolution passed on October 21, 2014, the honorary position of Poet Laureate will “encourage appreciation and create opportunities for dissemination of poetry in Columbia, promote the appreciation and knowledge of poetry among the youth, and act as a spokesperson for the growing number of poets and writers in Columbia.”
“Dr. Madden is not only a world class talent and scholar but also a leader who, through his actions as well as his words, exemplifies the very best of who we are and who we hope to be,” said Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin. “We’re honored to have him serve as our city’s first Poet Laureate and confident that he will exceed our highest expectations.”
"Ed has led poetry summer camps for a number of year and has some good ideas of how to involve kids and families into the activities he'll conduct as poet laureate,” states Councilman Moe Baddourah, the chair of City Council’s Arts and Historic Preservation Committee. "I believe he's the right person to take on this job."
Dr. Ed Madden, Associate Professor of English and the Director of Women’s and Gender Studies Program at the University of South Carolina, holds a PhD in Literature from the University of Texas at Austin. Originally from Newport, Arkansas, he has lived in Columbia since 1994. He has published three books of poetry and is currently working on a fourth entitled Ark, to be published in 2016. He is the recipient of the inaugural Carrie McCray Nickens Fellowship in poetry from the SC Academy of Authors as well as a fellowship for prose writing from the SC Arts Commission.
His first scheduled readings as City Poet Laureate will be part of the State of the City Address on January 20, 2015 as well as for the commemoration events for the 150th anniversary of the burning of Columbia on February 17, 2015.
“I am excited to have been chosen for this position, and really honored to be the first poet selected,” said Madden. “Columbia is a city so rich in writers, I’m also very humbled.” He is looking forward to using this position to promote poetry and the literary arts in the area. “I want to be a champion for poetry, language, and the arts, and I want to use poetry to document the life and culture of the city.”
Dr. Madden is excited about the possibilities of community work and hopes to work with local schools, libraries, and writing groups. He particularly hopes to develop forums for youth and student voices, and he’s planning a project on walls and windows that would highlight the work of community writers in public spaces.
One Columbia will provide financial support for the Poet Laureate to conduct activities that support the organization’s mission to promote and strengthen the arts in Columbia.
“It’s a privilege to be able work with Ed,” Lee Snelgrove, Executive Director of One Columbia for Arts and History states. “He has the skills and ambition to craft the position of poet laureate into something very special that will bring even more recognition to the City for it’s deep pool of artistic talent and strong support for the arts.”
Dr. Madden was selected to serve in this role by a selection committee representing the literary community, city government and academia. The members of this committee were: Nikky Finney, winner of the 2011 National Book Award for poetry; Tony Tallent, Director of Literacy and Learning at the Richland Library and Board Chair of One Columbia; Councilman Moe Baddourah; Michael Wukela representing the office of Mayor Benjamin; Jonathan Haupt, Director of the University of South Carolina Press and One Columbia board member; Sara June Goldstein, Senior Coordinator for Statewide Partnerships with the SC Arts Commission; Cynthia Boiter, co-founder of Muddy Ford Press and editor of Jasper Magazine; and Alejandro García-Lemos, a Columbia artist and founder of Palmetto Luna.
"The choice of Ed Madden, as Columbia's first poet laureate, is a lovely luminous moment for our city and state,” says Nikky Finney. “Poetry has the grace and power to both inspire and guide. The city of Columbia and the state of South Carolina need more poetry in its heart and soul. Ed is absolutely the one to help direct it there and there.”
An official presentation will take place on January 15, 2015 between 6-8pm at the Seibels House (1601 Richland Street). The event will also feature the official launch of Columbia’s One Book, One Community 2015 selection of On Agate Hill by Lee Smith and will be hosted by Jasper Magazine, who will be celebrating the release of their January issue and Historic Columbia who will feature the series of events commemorating the 150th anniversary of the burning of Columbia. The event is open to the public.