Madison Mae Parker

Artist Profile No. 10

Writer / Performer / Space-maker
Spring 2019

Words by Lucas Wetzel
Cover Photo by Jennifer Wetzel

Madison Mae Parker’s commitment to poetry is intense and unwavering.

Whether she’s hosting an open mic, staging a solo performance, or instructing high school students in writing, Madison Mae Parker’s commitment to poetry is intense and unwavering.

Bursts of powerful emotion characterize Madison Mae Parker’s performances.

A gifted

With a
of Texas

Madison Mae Parker Spring 2019
Some of those poems have saved my life.

Parker delivers each poem at a rapid pace, pushing her voice into the red from the opening lines, hands raised and in motion as if directing each word into the minds and hearts of her audience.

Parker’s poems address issues ranging from femininity and family history to identity and survival. God runs through her work less as a theme than as a bolt of lightning, and while her performances are uplifting, she doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects like panic attacks, eating disorders, or suicidal thoughts.

“There have been times someone has messaged me to say how much a poem meant to them, or even to say ‘that poem saved my life,’ which is really humbling and honoring, because some of those poems have saved my life,” Parker says.

Rather than demand answers from her art, Parker uses poetry as a means to question and better understand the problems, images, and ideas that inspire her to write in the first place. “I don’t think there necessarily has to be a solution or an answer to any of these things,” she says. “I think art is a space to process these things.”

Madison Mae Parker Spring 2019
I was drawn to poetry from stories, and the reminder that I was not alone.

A native of Lubbock, Texas, Parker began writing poetry during her junior year at Texas A&M, where she was studying prose and fiction writing. Her open mic career began when a friend signed Parker up to read without her knowledge.

“I needed that push,” Parker says with a laugh. “She knew that I would never sign myself up. I kept saying ‘next week, next week,’ but she knew I always had stuff on me.”

The community atmosphere at open mics felt like home for Parker, who had grown up attending a church where sharing stories was encouraged.

“It felt very similar in those regards, and I think what I enjoyed is the stories that were being shared, and the resonance that came from that, and the community that came from that. I think I was drawn to poetry from stories, and the reminder that I was not alone, and that other people were not alone.”

Parker directed a series of poetry festivals

Parker directed a series of poetry festivals in Texas and became active in Kansas City’s spoken word scene after moving to the area in 2016 for a residency at Transform Creative.

She debuted her one-person dramatic work, Unravel

Parker has also edited and been published in literary journals. Experiencing her poetry in written form allows for a deeper appreciation of its content and structure — the rhythms and repetitions that sound so effective in live performance correspond closely to how she has chosen to arrange them on the page.

At the Arts Asylum in 2017

later adapting it for
a performance at UMKC

Artist Gallery

Our westernized culture exists insides duality: if it is not x, it must be y; if it is not good, it must be bad; if it is not happy, it must be sad. This dichotomy forces people into isolated boxes, both physically and emotionally, separating us from the world around us, and ultimately ourselves. Through my art practice of poetry, performance, and installation, I remind people that you are not alone.

Unravel Madison Mae Parker performs in Unravel, a one woman poetic theatre installation- fabric serving as a connective tissue between the physical and the spiritual. Unravel premiered at the Arts Asylum in KCMO in 2017. Written, coproduced, and performed by Madison Mae Parker. Directed and co-produced by Rye Lanae Boothe. 2017
Stretch Marks Madison Madison Mae Parker performs in an improvisational work at Charlotte Street Foundation’s Open Studios event in 2019. The show is an exploration of her stretch marks as an act of survival from an eating disorder. She is wearing a body suit featuring embroidered lines of her own scars. 2019
Unravel A Durational Performance
Madison Mae Parker performs in a second iteration of Unravel at the UMKC Gallery of Art in 2019 as part of the opening night. The dresser from the original set of Unravel became an interactive installation in the gallery, with each drawer serving as a visual for the original text. During opening night, Parker performed a improvisational durational piece based off the original text of Unravel. The installation was created in collaboration with Rye Lanae Boothe, who also served as a Director. Installation: dresser, fabric, mirrors, family photos, candles, salt, religion, grief, sex, death.

Parker volunteers weekly at Lincoln College Preparatory Academy, where she teaches poetry and helps students compile a literary publication. She has assisted with the youth poetry slam, Louder Than A Bomb!, served as a youth advocate and instructor at Mattie Rhodes Center, and she organizes adult discussion groups on social issues at The Open Table KC.

Madison Mae Parker Spring 2019
There have been a lot of friends that have come from it

Parker took part in Artist INC in 2019

In order to learn the practical side of being an artist. In addition to help with taxes, budgeting, and pricing her work, Artist INC program advisors helped her learn more about how to secure funding and engage audiences.

“The community and resources were helpful, and it was a lot of fun,” Parker says. “There have been a lot of friends that have come from it, both true friendships and also creative friendships.”

Recently, Parker has been exploring body issues

Recently, Parker has been exploring body issues by making ink and fabric prints of her stretch marks. On fabric, the line shapes and spacing of the stretch marks achieve a disembodied yet deeply personal form of visual poetry, transforming something she once regarded with shame into something beautiful.

Building on
top of it

Whatever the project, Parker says poetry remains the foundation for all of her creative and professional work. “It’s still the starting point for all the things I build on top of it.”

Madison Mae Parker Madison Mae Parker