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Tamara Madison


by Tamara Madison

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Tamara Madison grew up near the fault line in the California desert. Her poems have appeared in Chiron Review, the Worcester Review, A Year of Being Here, and many other print and online journals. Several of her poems have been featured on the Writers Almanac and the Lyric Life. She is the author the full-length poetry collections, Wild Domestic and Moraine, and the chapbook The Belly Remembers, all published by Pearl Editions. Along The Fault was published by Picture Show Press in 2022. Read more about her at


In this third full-length collection of poems, Madison welcomes the reader to step into her craft for a tour that tracks the movement of a life. Among narrative, lyric, and points in between, the poems in this collection are informed by the poet’s keen eye for detail, command of language, and ear for the music of words. Poems of loss, growth, grief, pleasure, joy and snark, are presented with arresting imagery, humor and an abiding faith in the salvation that nature offers.


To read Tamara Madison’s newest collection is to open ourselves to everyday sacraments. This is verse “taking in the sacred body of Earth,” starting with remembrances of family and friendships past, eventually acknowledging all “we carry on and in / our bodies as we walk” through the rising waters of today’s world. There are homages to pollen, fallen trees, and sunlight widening. Even nods to the assisted living singalong and the neighbor with the plastic lawn. Grins are not uncommon here. Nor are lines that ache and linger long beyond their reading: “All that’s left of you now / is everything that’s missing.” Mercy, that’s good. Madison is un-blinkingly honest in her emotional truths, unfalteringly graceful in her poetic craft. The entire collection moves like the restless listener in her poem “Bach Cello Suite,” wandering “the corridors of music, / trying the knobs, following the sounds // along the tightrope of each clef, / listening deep to the voices of the strings // that join the mind’s imaginings…” Morpheus Dips His Oar is music well-wrought. A memorable “journey / into the sea of everything.”

––Grant Hier, author of Untended Garden, The Difference Between, and Similitude; Poet Laureate of Anaheim (2018-2020).

It’s not news that every plant and creature will someday cease to be, and each person will be witness to just a tiny arc of the existential drama. It’s the poet’s calling, perhaps duty, to praise and mourn the temporal world in full-throated song and story. In Morpheus Dips His Oar, Tamara Madison answers the call in a voice entirely her own, in full command of language, wit, and music. From “Voyager”: When you left this world, / you abandoned your body like a dress/ tossed aside after a night of dancing. In “Sparking Joy” a well-used shirt given away in a burst of closet organizing becomes the vehicle for an elegiac look at more momentous losses. Morpheus Dips His Oar is a celebration of life from a poet who knows how to live, how to love, how to grieve, and how to sing the story in beautiful, well-wrought poems.

––Donna Hilbert, author of Threnody, Moon Tide Press, 2022 and Gravity: New and Selected Poems, Tebot Bach, 2018

In Madison’s newest volume of poems, readers are led into a dream-like space of what once was before “life” intruded. There are trees bleeding sap for loss of limbs. There are owls softly calling, a hawk with a beak like an axe. The narrator wants to live in a wood duck’s house, a box pinned to a post where she can listen to frogs and cedars, somewhere safe where nothing ages and nothing dies. In language that is lush with description, she paints watercolors with words. “…I follow in springs / shy first footsteps, see / how spring has brushed the boughs with chilly / fingertips pimpling them with buds.” Madison’s poems are deeply reverent, especially those about family and children. She is able to create empathy for all things living or not.

––Karla Huston, Wisconsin Poet Laureate 2017–2018. Author of Ripple, Scar, and Story, Kelsay Books, 2022


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