Tuesday, April 18, 2017



(The Moonstone Press, 2015)

            Full disclosure: I became aware of the insani-tea (her term, not mine, as I am not delightfully whimsical in a way that allows me to create such language) that is Madison’s work through my work correspondence with her conduit, April James, whom I share a delightful working relationship with at the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania. While I must thank chance and circumstance for bringing her work to my attention, let me assure you that my views on her work are not shaded in any way, shape, or form by our working relationship.

            For, you see, good work stands on its own, and, just like the first volume of Madisonnets, this volume takes the reader on a trip that so, well, fun, that they can’t be faulted for getting lost in poetry. Don’t, however, think for one second that this is just a set of rhymes written for the sake of the Mad Hatter’s tea parties. No, what April manages to do, in this round, is put the talents of Madison to use to tell her tale, even if there’s moments where the introspection is heavier than expected. (After all, who else can find a way to write “because at such a trying time one is hard-pressed/to find a silver lining and not be distressed” in a poem entitled At your formal execution?). Never, however, does Madison allow April to lose sight of the futility of the matter. In one poem, the duo writes “I’ve 2 BAs, 2 MAs, and a PhD” (an enormous accomplishment on April’s part), only for Madison, it seems, to jump in and proclaim “Good Heavens! I’ve given myself the fifth degree!” In those moments that April finds herself becoming too serious, to critical, too introspective, Madison always comes ‘round to make sure that the primary purpose of this volume (fun) is not forgotten. Thus, even heartbreaking rhymes like “It has happened before – they work to gain your trust/they use you, amuse you, then leave you in the dust/And you stand there bleary-eyed, so broken-hearted/vowing never again to be outsmarted!” are brought back to heel with an unrelenting Madion-esque flourish (“leaving tears and fears to become all that one must.”)

            Of course, with Madison, there’s always time for tea! In this volume, the poem Won’t you please sit down and have a drink with me? pays homage to the art of tea-drinking, even if, by Madison’s admission, it’s her own special blend of “Insani-Tea!” Given how hard Madison has worked to both delight and entertain us, it’s hard to say no when she quips “for its always tea time when you spend time with me.” I’m sure our thirst will remain unquenched waiting for her next volume of seven-lined couplets, brewed up for our enjoyment…and our thoughtful consideration.

[Editor’s Note: M. Earl Smith’s review of Volume 1 is HERE.] 


From works for children to the macabre, from academic research to sports journalism, and from opinion essays to the erotic, M. Earl Smith is a writer that seeks to stretch the boundaries of genre and style. A native of Southeast Tennessee, M. Earl moved to Ohio at nineteen and, with success, reinvented himself as a writer after parting ways with his wife of eleven years. After graduating from Chatfield College (with highest honors) in 2015, M. Earl became the first student from Chatfield to matriculate at an Ivy League institution when he enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia. The proud father of two wonderful children (Nicholas and Leah), M. Earl studies creative writing and history at UPenn. When he’s not studying, M. Earl splits time between Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Chattanooga, with road trips to New York City, Wichita, Kansas, and Northampton, Massachusetts in between.

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