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Katie Madvig

  • Katie-Madvig_webKatie Madvig, Academic Transfer

    Katie saw five of her poems published in Illuminations, Vol. 16, and she snagged the Runner-Up Poetry Award for her work. In her interview with us, Katie discusses her surprise at winning, how her darker side is expressed, and why reading to her kids matters.

    (Photo: Katie, sons Donovan and Liam, and boyfriend R.J. at a Husker basketball game)

    Illuminations: Hi, Katie! In your Vol. 16 bio, you claimed that writing is your favorite activity. Why is that, and how has your love of writing evolved over the years?

    Katie: Well, I may have lied because reading might be my favorite activity. Writing is certainly number two, though. Whenever I write poetry, it tends to be depressing, but my prose is quirky. I love awkward female protagonists with a witty inner-monologue and commentary that’s alternately vain and self-deprecating. There’s something uniquely hilarious and honest about it, and I like to mess around with it. I’m not sure that my writing style has changed too much, besides the fact that I’ve finally decided that all of my short stories don’t have to end in death to be meaningful. I’ve learned to love reading and writing all different types of styles.

    I: This is evident from your five published poems in Vol. 16. They cover a range of issues, including an abandoned church, a decaying farm, rape within marriage, a young mother’s attempt to find time for herself, and a functioning alcoholic. In spite of the varied topics, the tone seems familiar in each – reflecting some sense of loss or violation. Where does this come from, and why are you attracted to this theme?

    K: As I mentioned earlier, my poetry tends to be darker. I generally never explore that side of myself, and if I try to write more than a poem, I get bored and feel like I’m whining. So I confine it to short poems. I have to explore it somehow, right?

    I: You won the Runner-Up Poetry Prize for Volume 16. Were you surprised by this?

    K: I was very surprised! Heck, I was surprised the poems I submitted were accepted! The last time I wrote poetry was in high school (that’s now eight years ago). I was thrilled to take an SCC class that let me express in that medium again.

    I: What have been the reactions of others who have read your poetry?

    K: I had very positive reactions in class…. Outside of class, I haven’t let anybody read them! I’m not sure why.

    I: Trust me – people outside of class have read them now. You mentioned that you also write prose. Do you prefer writing poetry to writing prose?

    K: I don’t know if I prefer either, honestly. I can say without a doubt that I love reading prose much more than poetry…but as for writing, if I do one or the other in excess, I get overwhelmed.

    I: You call yourself “a HUGE Harry Potter nerd.” Did reading JK Rowlings’s books influence your writing? Are there other writers you enjoy reading?

    K: I don’t think Rowlings’s books really influenced my writing. I could never imitate her greatness. There is this unparalleled combination of humor and significance and feeling that transcends generations. I read the books, my parents read the books, and I’m going to read the books to my kids. They can’t be dated because there is nothing culturally telling about anything in the novels—it is its own world. I just finished reading Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, and that novel was absolutely marvelous. I enjoy reading just about everything. Sophie Kinsella is one of my favorite authors, too, and I’ll read just about anything Barbara Kingsolver puts out.

    I: You’re the mom to two young boys. How do you nurture their love of reading and writing?

    K: We read every night before bed. Sometimes we have time for only one book, but I want to make sure they’re at least getting that. My oldest is six and can read things now, so he loves to take a book off the shelf and sound things out. It’s amazing; I love watching him. He’s starting in school to write little stories about things—learning beginning, middle, and end. The younger one is five and he still isn’t totally reading, but he’s getting there. I love when we read together because sometimes they’ll be playing around, and I’ll sit down and say, “Well, okay, I’m just going to read this book by myself then.” I don’t even get past page one before they’ve abandoned their toys and crawled up onto the couch next to me. I hope they always keep that love for reading.

    I: It sounds like you’re doing your part to ensure that! You were in the Academic Transfer program at SCC. What do you hope to be doing in 10 years?

    K: I’m at UNL now. I was just accepted into the Teaching Program in the College of Education, and I’m going to be either a middle or high school English teacher.

    I: Great! And finally, the random question of the day: Is the glass half full or half empty?

    K: Well, one of my favorite quotes addresses this issue: “It doesn’t matter whether you see the glass as half full or half empty, there is clearly room for more wine.” :)

    by Katie Madvig:

    Thirteen miles outside Lincoln
    is a farm ruined by
    drought. The fields are bare, save a
    copse on a hillock. The trees’
    knobby branches cross over
    a twisted maze of bark.

    The crumbling barn endures
    daily abuse from the dry
    wind. An homage to the field’s
    fertile past, it leans west,
    granting the force of nature
    a victory.

    Inside is calm and clouded
    by hay dust. In a cool
    patch of shade lay a lunch pail,
    its celadon-colored
    lacquer peeling from the sides.
    A troop of ants marches through.

    The barn is worn
    but not robbed of its
    spirit. Tools still wait in its
    loft, a rusty hammer
    anxious to nail the rough
    walls together again.