In Your Next Beach Read, we want to introduce you to a new author every day in June in the hopes that you’ll find the next book you want to take with you to the beach, the pool, or the comforts of air conditioning.
Today’s author is Tamara J. Madison, author of Threed, This Road Not Damascus.
What’s your name (or pen name) and where are you from?
My name is Tamara J. Madison. I was born and raised in southern Indiana (Evansville) with both of my parents being my Kentucky roots. I have lived all over from Indiana to Strasbourg, France to Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta, Jersey City, and now I reside in Florida.
How long have you been writing? How did you start?
As a teenager, I wrote poetry and spoken word for community talent shows. I have long had a love for languages since hearing family members tell stories at gatherings. Descending from a lineage of Baptist ministers, I was also intrigued with stories from the Bible.
Who are some of your influences?
I greatly admire the work of poets, Aimé Césaire and Lucille Clifton. I was a big fan of Maya Angelou, Sonia Sanchez, Ntozake Shange, and James Baldwin in my early years. Regarding fiction, I am intrigued by the work of Octavia Butler and Toni Morrison.
What is your book about?
Threed, This Road Not Damascus is about the speaker’s journey with an other-worldly persona, “Three-Breasted Woman.” She boldly defies traditional feminine stereotypes to lead the poet through a rite of passage. The poems are also a commentary on the fear and chaos of the contemporary social landscape.
Where did you get the idea?
I am intrigued by mythology and spirituality and the other worldly connection to the earthly. Over time, the voice of “Three-Breasted Woman” took shape in a series of persona poems. It was quite an interesting study to discern my voice from hers and craft/translate it.
How long did it take you to finish it?
FOREVER! At least it felt like it took forever. I have worked on the book in one form or another for over ten years. The poems and concept have grown and developed as I have matured as an adult and a writer. The manuscript has had many reincarnations and evolutions.
Is this your first book, or have you written more than one?
My chapbook, Sistuh’s Sermon on the Mount, was published many years ago through Open Hand Press while living in Seattle. I also self-published a collection of short stories, Collard County, and a poetic sequence with a creative essay on mental health, Kentucky Curdled. Kentucky Curdled is also available as an audio book.
We all like to write about people we know, even if we never name them. Who are some people who inspired characters or situations?
Many of my family members, especially those who have died, were inspirations for the poems. There are a few poems inspired by my children as well. I am intrigued by relations and their quirkiness and gray areas.
What’s your favorite scene in the book?
I have many favorites, but my most favorite is probably the closing poem, “Psalms: In Praise of Three-Breasted Woman.”
What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever got?
“Poetry, at its best, is language lifted into ceremony.” — Carol Frost
The quote reminds me that great writing transcends ascends and takes the reader to very unexpected and sacred places.
What’s the worst?
“I don’t know what this is, but it’s not poetry. You might seriously want to do something else with your life.” — my former instructor (the professor’s TA at Purdue University)
Where can we buy your book?
Tamara J. Madison is an internationally traveled author, poet, and editor. Her critical and creative works have been published in various journals, magazines and anthologies. She has performed and recorded for stage, television and studio. Madison holds a BA from Purdue University and an MFA from New England College. She has also studied at the University of Strasbourg in France. She is currently a professor of English and Creative Writing at Valencia College.