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.
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.”
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
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.
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.
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.”