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Maddie Crum
Maddie Crum is the Books Editor at The Huffington Post.

Entries by Maddie Crum

The Bottom Line: Amelia Gray's 'Gutshot'

(0) Comments | Posted April 21, 2015 | 8:23 AM

amelia gray

In the title story of Amelia Gray’s latest collection of short stories, a man cries out after being shot in the gut: “I’m gutshot!” The punchy line kicks off an absurd comedy of errors, in which...

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Andrea Joyce Heimer's Domestic Scenes Recall The Magic Of Everyday Life

(0) Comments | Posted April 20, 2015 | 11:37 AM

To look at one of Andrea Joyce Heimer’s paintings is to feel at once comforted and confused. Bold patterns clutter the walls of her domestic scenes, which lean at implausible angles, distorting your perception. With plants and knickknacks scattered about living rooms and bathrooms, she builds settings of organized chaos....

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'Autism In Love' Shows How Complex Romance Really Is

(5) Comments | Posted April 20, 2015 | 8:21 AM

A young man named Lenny lays in bed playing video games. He hasn’t been feeling as happy as usual lately, so his mom comes upstairs to check on him. The source of his woes, he explains, is that he wants a girlfriend, and he doesn’t have one. He considers making...

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Poet Monica McClure Boldly Confronts The Problem With How We Discuss Abortion

(44) Comments | Posted April 16, 2015 | 9:21 AM

"I was inconsolable when I missed prom and had to pay a woman to pretend to be my mother so I could gain parental consent," Monica McClure writes in her poem, "Dead Souls." The poem is about an abortion, and addresses the topic matter-of-factly, rather than in sentimental or political terms. The narrator simply shares her story -- that of an underage teen not yet ready to be a parent -- and draws blunt conclusions about the state of medical care for women in similar situations.

McClure, who grew up in rural Texas and received an abstinence-only sex education, said her upbringing was "scary," especially when the conversation around abortion was complicated by views of rape akin to those held by former former congressman Todd Akin (R-Mo.) -- a proponent of distinguishing between "legitimate" and "illegitimate" rape. "The horror of it all continues to our current moment," she says.

McClure is one of a bevy of young women writers working against the established notion that poetry is a stodgy, predominantly male pursuit. The tone of her work is conversational -- even confessional. She says she aims to describe her own views in a relatable way by sharing experiences she's had, or potentially could've had. "I study women very closely," she said. "We study ourselves very closely."

Above, McClure reads "Dead Souls," a poem from her latest collection, Tender Data. Below, she discusses her work, and the problem with how we talk about abortion.

What led you to write this poem?
I started writing poems with an intentionally flippant treatment of abortion around that scary time before Obama’s second election when Todd Akin was talking about legitimate rape. I was still working on them when Hobby Lobby denied its employees birth control coverage and when Texas Senator Wendy Davis heroically opposed a Republican attack on women’s health clinics.

You know. The horror of it all continues to our current moment. Everyone likes to compare this right wing faux religious extremist push to medieval times, but I wonder if Medieval times were not better for women. Even though the feudal system was terrible in that it reduced the life of the serf to mere survival, essentially unpaid labor by men and women serfs on their little plot of land was shared, and within the peasant family and community structure men and women were considered equal based on the value of their different but mutually valuable skills. I’m not a Medievalist, but this is generally what the scholarship describes.

Women kept gardens and grew herbs that helped with reproductive health, and sex education involved the belief that a child could only be conceived if both partners orgasmed. During the slow transition to capitalism, the Catholic Church helped the powerful landowners conduct witch hunts so these secrets went way underground and were eventually lost to medicine.

I think it’s important to de-sentimentalize the debate (on both sides) about abortion and by extension birth control, since it seems like conservatives are pushing to define birth control as murder as well. It’s a fundamental human good for a civilization that depends on women in the workforce and as managers of households (which are micro-economies) and agents of their own sexuality have access to safe, medical abortions. If we claim to be a sexually egalitarian society, then duh.

I’d just re-read Mark Greif’s “On Repressive Sentimentalism,” which laments that progressives must use the same sentimentalizing tactics as right-wing extremists, characterizing abortion as a “tragic” but necessary evil. I wanted the bratty persona in these poems to embody what I saw as a right-wing media fabrication of the type of woman who gets abortions -- a witch for our times -- who is hyper-sexual, irresponsible, secular, vain, single, and selfish.

I also just wanted to talk about how scary it was for me to grow up with an abstinence-only education co-existing with rape culture in rural Texas.

The tone of this poem, and other poems of yours, is confessional. Why is that, and what effect do you hope that will achieve?
Using “I” challenges readers to parse out the persona from the author’s autobiographical “I," which is always an interesting tension to create. I also think of this “I” as being collective, because it describes experiences I’ve had or, if not, could have easily had. I study women very closely. We study ourselves very closely. The effect I was going for was relatability, I suppose.

You write bluntly about women's issues -- topics poetry has been shy about in the past. Which other poets do you think do this well?
Ariana Reines, Jenny Zhang, Ana Carrette, Jennifer Tamayo, Lara Glenum, Chelsea Hodson, Niina Pollari and Dodie Bellamy employ bluntness to great effect.

In this poems and others in your collection, you undulate between tragic and funny. How do these two opposing moods work together in your poems?
Comedy and tragedy are co-dependant. For me, those moods have a sublime and absurd connection that I’ve never understood to be oppositional in the same way other people have. I have lots of early memories of my family having drunk and joyful times at funerals and in the midst of other tragedies, so at a young age understood some emotional responses to be socially affected (the appropriate emotion) and that more private emotional responses were weird and double-sided.

Think about how at the end of a Greek tragedy, the gods come down and just fix everything only to mess them up again in another narrative. I’ve always thought that was funny. I think there’s a therapeutic relationship, too. We process the realities that make us feel powerless (sexism, racism, economic disenfranchisement, mortality) through humor, and this collection is very focused on power dynamics.

You've mentioned that you like to "lightly art direct" your readings. What role do you think outward appearance plays in poetry performance? And why did you choose to dress as you did for this particular performance?
I think fashion is a narrative. I think of what expectations an audience might have for a certain kind of performance and play with that. For many years, I was accustomed to poetry readings being somber events in which personalities recede in an effort to forefront the work. Women, especially, seemed worried about not being taken seriously if they looked too dressed up. Well, I thought about it at least. But those kinds of readings felt incomplete.

The myth of the artist, the politicized body of the performer (especially if she’s a woman), and the ways in which art is made by a body are part of the conversation, whether we’re explicit about it or not. For this particular performance, I thought the expectation would be for me to appear youthful, urban, and ultra-feminine so I went with something softer and more generic. I was thinking of angels, which aren’t human but are as anthropomorphized euphemisms for gentle, beautiful women in our culture. The poem is harsh on patriarchal religions and the outfit is soft like an angel. I like the contrast.

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14 Stunning Designs That Perfectly Illustrate America's Decades-Long Fascination With Posters

(4) Comments | Posted April 16, 2015 | 9:14 AM

Uniquely situated at the point where art and consumerism intersect, posters serve a purpose slightly different than other design objects.

In addition to being aesthetically pleasing and eye-catching, they must convey information, be it the title of a summer blockbuster, the location of an upcoming concert, or the reasons...

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How The Exclamation Mark Went From :-O To ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

(11) Comments | Posted April 15, 2015 | 8:16 AM

Image by Tiara Chiaramonte

A friend of mine who I occasionally Gchat with messaged me last night about a guy she’s been seeing on and off for over a year. The nature of their relationship is precarious because this...
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K.A. Holt On Writing Poems For Kids, And Why Gender-Related Reading Habits Are A Myth

(1) Comments | Posted April 14, 2015 | 3:59 PM

K.A. Holt's poems have energy; to read one of her books is to go on an adventure. Which is why it's great that she's currently so focused on penning poetry for kids and young adults -- she takes the medium back to its playful roots.

"I do think that...

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The Real Reason Why You Love Don Draper, According To Science

(14) Comments | Posted April 14, 2015 | 8:48 AM

don draper

What will become of Don Draper? As the final season of “Mad Men” continues, the debate surrounding our crestfallen hero’s fate grows more tense, and contentious, with each episode.

Will Don get a happy ending...

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The Bottom Line: 'Voices In The Night' By Steven Millhauser

(0) Comments | Posted April 9, 2015 | 8:36 AM


The towns in Steven Millhauser’s stories are haunted. The characters -- nearly all of them -- are frenzied. They see phantoms, they fixate on surreal happenings, they hear voices in the night. But Millhauser isn’t a horror...

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Cynics Everywhere Will Appreciate 'Room For Love,' The Graphic Novel That Tackles Romantic Stereotypes

(0) Comments | Posted April 8, 2015 | 9:10 AM

Romance novelist Pamela Green -- pen name Leonie Hart -- has lost her edge. Or so says her agent, who insists that Pamela's brand, and therefore her fan base, is fading. The problem seems to be that when she sits down in her pristine, hard-won office, adorned with movie adaptation...

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'The Royal We' Imagines Life After Will And Kate's Happily Ever After

(4) Comments | Posted April 7, 2015 | 11:02 AM

Behind the Duchess of Cambridge's demure dresses and artfully arranged headwear lies ... well, who's to say? Though the media's interest in the royal couple has waned since their lavish wedding, they're still perpetually in the spotlight -- a less-than-humanizing place to call home. And while discovering Will and Kate's...

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Here's What Actually Happens In Shakespeare's Most Famous Plays

(8) Comments | Posted April 2, 2015 | 9:21 AM

"I wasted time, and now time doth waste me" need not apply to your procrastination habits. If you're in need of a quick Shakespeare refresher (say, before watching a modern-day adaptation), consulting a timeline of how events unfolded could come in hand. Does Titania fall in love with...

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Amber Tamblyn's Poetry Book 'Dark Sparkler' Tells The Tragic Stories Of Dead Actresses

(7) Comments | Posted April 1, 2015 | 9:31 AM

Amber Tamblyn writes about dead actresses. Icons like Jean Harlow and Marilyn Monroe people her powerful poems, but so do lesser-known starlets, such as Li Tobler, whose acting career was overshadowed by her relationship with a Swiss painter. Depressed, she died tragically at the age of 27.

That Tamblyn...

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Leslie Jamison And Catherine Lacey's E-mail Conversation About Narcissism, Emotional Writing And Memoir-Novels

(1) Comments | Posted March 30, 2015 | 9:11 AM

Below, writers Leslie Jamison (The Empathy Exams) and Catherine Lacey (Nobody Is Ever Missing) discuss their respective books, the value in emotional writing, and the emerging trend of memoir-novels. This interview was conducted via email over several months from several...

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What I Learned From Watching 'Insurgent' With My Mom

(7) Comments | Posted March 30, 2015 | 9:10 AM

I take after my mother: not great at remembering the names of things, but a meticulous logger of my emotional inventory. My mother once referred to my roommate “Alyssa” as “Alys--manda?” for an entire year. Still, she was able to sense the bubbling...

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The Bottom Line: 'The Dig' By Cynan Jones

(0) Comments | Posted March 26, 2015 | 8:56 AM

The Dig
by Cynan Jones
Coffee House Press, $15.95
Publishes April 7, 2015

The Bottom Line is a weekly review combining plot description and analysis with fun tidbits about the book.

What we think:
If writers like Ben Marcus and Tom...

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A Gritty, Graphic Memoir About The Hardships Of High School

(4) Comments | Posted March 23, 2015 | 8:33 AM

Lisa Wilde didn't begin her career as a graphic novelist. Though she's always loved hobbies that make use of her dexterity -- baking and drawing sketches -- she's been a teacher at a second-chance high school in Manhattan for the past 14 years. Wildcat Academy is a place for students...

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David Levithan, Author Of 'Nick And Norah's Infinite Playlist,' On The Best Teen Reads

(0) Comments | Posted March 23, 2015 | 8:33 AM

David Levithan is the author of several fiction books for young adults, including his first novel, Boy Meets Boy, which began as a love story penned for his friends for Valentine's Day. His Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist was adapted into a movie, and his latest book,

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Graphic Novel 'The Tragedy Series' Illustrates Life's Many Absurdities

(0) Comments | Posted March 19, 2015 | 8:35 AM

Imagine a pair of star-crossed lovers, kept apart only by one's darkest secret -- instead of hands, she has a huge, unwieldy pair of lobster claws. To call such a strange predicament a tragedy wouldn't be inaccurate -- we all remember what happens in "Edward Scissorhands" -- but to do...

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Lauren Oliver Talks Fictional Crushes And Her Favorite Teen Reads

(1) Comments | Posted March 19, 2015 | 8:32 AM

Lauren Oliver is the author of many YA books, and one adult novel. Before I Fall follows Sam Kingston, who's fated to relive the last day of her life on a loop until she remedies her wrongs caused by her self-centered lifestyle. Her latest novel, Vanishing Girls, is...

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