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  • Heartache & Wonder, Joy & Drink: The Poetic Scribbling of Everette Maddox
  • Kristine Somerville and Speer Morgan

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Everette Maddox, Maple Leaf Bar, 1988, photographer Hank Staples

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Put a hand overyour shirt pocket.Can you feel that?That’s your heartdoing that. That’s your heartlaughing at the language. The language wantsto love you: let it.

In New Orleans there are numerous places of literary interest: the attic apartment on Toulouse Street where Tennessee Williams struggled with The Glass Menagerie; the Hotel Monteleone, a lovely Beaux-Arts structure where Truman Capote claimed he was born because his mother stayed there so often; and the cobbled streets of Pirate’s Alley, where, in a ground-floor room of a yellow four-story house, William Faulkner drank bathtub gin and turned out his first novel, Soldiers’ Pay.

When New Orleanians want to share something special, they offer up tales of Everette Maddox, denizen of the Quarter and bard of the Maple Leaf Bar. It was there that Maddox became the town’s unofficial poet laureate. His ashes are buried in the bar’s patio, marked by a small tombstone that reads, “He Was A Mess.” Maddox practically took up residence in the Maple Leaf, writing his last works in a shaky hand on soiled and tattered coasters and napkins, flyers and handbills, cash- register receipts and pages from prescription pads. These last works were stuffed in brown paper grocery bags and given to the bar’s owner, Hank Staples, who, after Maddox’s death in 1989, donated them to the Historic New Orleans Collection. This small archive of what could easily have been mistaken for scraps of bartop scribbling offers a glimpse of why Maddox is remembered by New Orleans’s writers and why his work influenced a good many poets: Rodney Jones, Ralph Adamo, Nancy Harris and Dennis Formento, to name a few.

Everette Hawthorne Maddox was born in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1944. He pursued a PhD at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa but [End Page 176]


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The Historic New Orleans Collection

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never finished his dissertation. He loathed academic politics; according to his good friend Fred Kasten, who might be called the keeper of the Maddox literary flame, he was known to “gleefully and expertly deflate the pompous and pretentious,” though his students remembered him as a wonderfully generous man with a piercing gaze and a lively intellect. Maddox was a lifelong student of literature. Kasten marveled at his ability to consume literature: “He could pack away whole shelves of classics in nothing flat—had done so for years when I met him in Tuscaloosa in the late ’60s—and with an unrivaled, in my experience, capacity to recall—and quote at length from—his favorites, even in the throes of heroic, Malcolm Lowry–level drunkenness.”


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The Historic New Orleans Collection

In 1975, Maddox moved to New Orleans for a one-year appointment as poet-in-residence at Xavier University. He lived for a time in the apartment where F. Scott Fitzgerald had once resided. Maddox’s famous address was no accident; he was admittedly entranced by the Fitzgeralds’ glamour and wealth, although in his own life he mostly shunned material attachments. With publications in the Paris Review and The New Yorker, he quickly became known as a rare talent in the city’s small but thriving literary community. Many thought him a potent example of the [End Page 178]


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The Historic New Orleans Collection

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The Historic New Orleans Collection

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The Historic New Orleans Collection

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Fred Kasten, Everette Maddox and Julie Kane, Maple Leaf Bar, 1987, photographer Dale Milford

doomed romanticism of New Orleans—of its grandeur and decay. He founded the Maple Leaf Bar’s reading series, one of the longest running in the South, hosting it weekly until his death. Some of the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 175-185
Launched on MUSE
2014-10-09
Open Access
No
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