Ed Madden (1963–)

Ed Madden is a poet, activist, and educator who has written, co-written, and edited numerous books and anthologies. His poem “Sacrifice” was selected for the Best New Poets 2007 anthology. In 2015, he was named the first poet laureate of Columbia, South Carolina.

Ed Madden was born on September 13, 1963. Originally from Newport (Jackson County), Madden grew up on a rice farm. His family was devoutly Christian. Madden studied English and French at Harding University in Searcy (White County) and graduated with a BA in 1985. He received a BS in biblical studies from the Institute for Christian Studies in Austin, Texas, in 1992; an MA from the University of Texas (UT) at Austin in 1989, and a PhD in literature from UT in 1994. In his essay “An Open Letter to My Christian Friends,” which appears in various textbooks, including Everything’s an Argument, Madden recounts growing up in a conservative Church of Christ environment and working to suppress his own homosexuality before finally coming to terms with it.

Madden is a professor of English and director of women’s and gender studies at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. His first poetry collection was Signals (2008), which won the 2007 South Carolina Poetry Book Prize. His second poetry collection, Prodigal: Variations, was published in 2011. He has also published chapbooks Nest (2010) and My Father’s House (2013), and full-length books Nest (2014) and Ark (2016). Madden often writes about his childhood in Arkansas as well as spirituality and equal rights. His essays on sexuality and spirituality also appear in various anthologies and publications.

Madden has published several critical articles on modern British and Irish poetry. He wrote the book Tiresian Poetics: Modernism, Sexuality, Voice, 1888–2001 (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2008) and co-edited, with Marti Lee, Irish Studies: Geographies and Genders (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2008). He also co-edited an anthology of essays and poems on the male experience, The Emergence of Man into the 21st Century (2002).

Madden has received many awards and fellowships, as well as writer-in-residence appointments, including a Carrie McCray Nickens Fellowship in Poetry from the South Carolina Academy of Authors and a 2010 Fellowship in Prose Writing from the South Carolina Arts Commission. He won the State newspaper’s poetry contest.

Madden, who is known for his activism, regularly writes editorials on gay rights for local and national newspapers. He has served in many roles, including president, of the South Carolina Gay and Lesbian Pride Movement. Madden was the executive producer for Rainbow Radio: The REAL Gay Agenda, a talk show broadcast on Air America, and he compiled Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio (2010), which he edited with Candace Chellew-Hodge. Out Loud was chosen by the University of South Carolina’s Upstate campus as a common reader for its first-year experience, a controversial move that led the South Carolina legislature to cut funds to the school. Madden’s activism also garnered a 2006 Legacy Award from the Human Rights Campaign of the Carolinas for “a consistent and significant record of working to improve the lives and visibility of LGBT people in North and South Carolina.” Madden gave a TEDx Talk in 2014 and has been featured on National Public Radio.

His papers are housed at Furman University’s special collections. Madden lives in Columbia with his husband, Bert Easter, who is a past president of the South Carolina Gay and Lesbian Pride Movement. Both served as board members for the Harriet Hancock Community Center (formerly the South Carolina Gay and Lesbian Community Center). Madden and Easter were among the first gay couples to be legally married in the state on November 20, 2014. In 2023, he published A Pookah in Arkansas, a collection of autobiographical poems about finding his identity and leaving Arkansas.

For additional information:
Bledsoe, C. L. “‘Nothing Is Lonelier Here Than Attention’: An Interview with Ed Madden.” Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies 40 (December 2009): 175–182.

Boyle, Emily Cramer. “Ed Madden.” Stir (April 2009): 17–18. Online at https://issuu.com/stirmagazine/docs/stirvol5web (accessed October 15, 2020).

Ed Madden. Department of Language and Literature. University of South Carolina. http://artsandsciences.sc.edu/engl/ed-madden (accessed October 15, 2020).

Ed Madden Collection. James B. Duke Library Special Collections and Archives. Furman University, Greenville, South Carolina.

Madden, Ed. “The Sound of Where I’m From: What Is Delta Poetry?” Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies 50 (April 2019): 5–7.

Martin, Philip. “You Can’t Go Home Again.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 30, 2023, pp. 1E, 4E. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2023/apr/30/ed-madden-tells-his-story-through-poetry-in-a/ (accessed May 1, 2023).

C. L. Bledsoe
Wynne, Arkansas


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