Everette Maddox : Poet

maddox                                                                             (1944 – 1989)


After everything quits,
things continue
happening. The phone
rings. A knock comes
at the door. Lightning
flashes across the bed
where you bend, looking
at the dictionary.
Asleep, you keep waking
from dreams. The surface
of your life keeps
being broken, less and less
frequently, at random.
Raindrops after a storm:
surprise: the ghost of awe.

He’s been called the unofficial poet laureate of the French Quarter. Everette Maddox (1944-89) was a native Alabamian (Montgomery-born), who, like so many complicated literary souls, made his way to New Orleans to better commune with his muse. While there he taught for a few years at Xavier University and the University of New Orleans, hung out at Uptown’s Maple Leaf Bar (where he founded a reading series that is still going strong) and gradually descended into homelessness and alcoholism, all the while churning out verse on scraps of paper. He published two books of poetry during his lifetime, as well as dozens of individual poems in newspapers (including Mobile’s old Azalea City News) and magazines, which helped secure him a devoted regional readership.

Now, a wonderful new volume collects a nice range of Maddox’s verse and presents it for a new generation of readers. “I hope it’s not over, and good-by” (UNO Press, paper, $16.95) edited by Ralph Adamo is as good a one-volume introduction to this compelling poet as one could wish for, and every lover of Gulf Coast literature will want a copy on his or her shelf.

In his brief introduction, Adamo, a Crescent City poet and journalist, explains that this volume “is intended as a showcase of his [Maddox’s] styles, concerns, his wit, and sometimes dazzling sensibility.” Clearly, Maddox’s devotion to his art, to the detriment of his health and, in the end, his very survival, will be difficult for most readers to fully fathom. But the intensity of his experience and his gift for communicating it come through very strongly in this book.

Several of the poems reference locales around the South — Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile among them — but New Orleans is by far the dominant presence, and it is beautifully evoked time and again. In “2900 Prytania,” named for Maddox’s first New Orleans address (pictured on the cover), he wrote: “These top few/ lines sagging/ with words/ like ennui/ lagniappe/ crème de menthe/ constitute/ the wrought-iron/ balcony/ of a poem/ shaped just like/ my new 120-/ year-old house/ in New Orleans:/ a wooden lime/ peel hanging/ out of a lightning-/ murdered tree/ 2 stories/ down to knock/ against/ a honeysuckle-/ scented neighborhood/ of weird readers.”

In “New Orleans,” the city’s watery nature is to the fore: “From the air it’s all puddles:/ a blue-green frog town/ on lily pads. More canals than Amsterdam. You don’t/ land — you sink.” It concludes, “I’ll never write another line/ for anything but love/ in this city where steam/ rises off the street after/ a rain like bosoms heaving.” And in “Front Street, New Orleans,” place and history intermingle: “… Only Governor/ Bernardo de Galvez who played/ ‘so decisive a role’ in the War/ for American Independence/ just off the ferry from Spain/ on his horse looks indecisively/ over my head up Canal Street/ as if to say Where can a man get/ a drink in this part of History”.

Getting a drink was certainly a significant concern for Maddox. In the introduction, Adamo writes that the poet was frequently “under the influence (from drink served in places that would not be mistaken for glamorous),” and poem after poem references alcohol and drunkenness. In “Urban Maudlin,” Maddox wrote: “Is it the accumulated/ effect of the screwdriver,/ bourbon on the rocks,/ Dixie beer and three brandies/ I’ve had today that/ has caused the first/ g to be torn from the/ Pi gly Wiggly sign across/ the street from this bar?” And in “Drinking Glass,” he composed a poem in praise of an empty glass: “Pick it up and hold it/ to the light — / a repository of dust,/ hair and lipstick.//” But, he continues, “Dump it out/ (salvaging the butt),/ rinse it, twirl it/ once on a cloth,/ and look! how Clarity/ Rides Again.// Raise it now in a toast/ to Friendship,/ and observe,/ deep in the amber booze,/ the old bright planets/ winking.”

If ultimately careless of his health and worldly prospects, Everette Maddox was fortunate indeed in the devotion of friends like Ralph Adamo, whose determination to share his extraordinary poetic voice will keep his memory and his work evergreen.

~  John Sledge




The Poem Remains ...






Long ago

She would bring me her




Fine wine


And Friends.


Never ending parties

And beautiful words

Magnificent and dressed in

Black, poetry written and

Cloaked in mystery and

In the eternal darkness

Of the night.


And now?

These days

She just brings me

A six pack of beer

On weekends

Sits with me

By my side waiting

Screams at me, nags at me

And tells me to








by R.M. Engelhardt

in the night
the cold wind, the frozen

stands still
like an abstract
like a painting

without motion.

without sound.

smoke & the harsh light
of streetlamps, reality
dirt white city sidewalks
and the panhandlers
at the bus stop
telling their tale
their stories

to buy another bottle
or another pint.

all fallen, all once born
from someplace


who had once believed
who had once had faith

like “you”

the story of mankind
the story of every past
history, and poverty,
promises…and life.

brother sister child mother
ghosts of selves dying beneath
the light. a last dance, a curtin bow
the only time that we see them
in our eyes…

merry christmas
happy new year

nothing has changed
no more is given other
than what is given
like a greeting or like a gift

you are a saint
you have given him a whole dollar

to eat

you have changed
his life completely,
love and sin, drink no more
the gods are all smiling
upon your soul

but the george bailey in
this story has no clarence
and no one gives a damn,
the shelters are all full
and the angels have all ran

far far away
with their wings
to look after

peace on earth,
good will towards men

their breath,
still hanging upon
the cold wind and
the smoke of their cigarette
and its burn…

do you have a dollar?
a smoke?

can I be you? warm?
heart beating inside
not realizing
that the man under the
jacket’s hood

is “you”

merry christmas.

peace on earth

good will towards men,

good will
towards men.

Be Visionary

Saint Poem ... Be Visionary

The Visionary …All men should possess a ‘visionary faculty’. Men do not, because they live wrongly. They live too tensely, under too much strain, ‘getting and spending’. But this loss of the visionary faculty is not entirely man’s fault, it is partly the fault of the world he lives in, that demands that men should spend a certain amount of their time ‘getting and spending’ to stay alive. …The visionary faculty comes naturally to all men. When they are relaxed enough, every leaf of every tree in the world, every speck of dust, is a separate world capable of producing infinite pleasure. If these fail to do so, it is man’s own fault for wasting his time and energy on trivialities. The ideal is the contemplative poet, the ‘sage’, who cares about having only enough money and food to keep him alive, and never takes thought for the morrow.”

From The Outsider by Colin Wilson

(Source: rmengelhardt.com)