By Annie Newcomer:
The Flapper Press Poetry Café features the work of poets of all ages from around the globe. This week, we highlight the life and poetry of Maddie Kizer!
Maddie Kizer is a graduate student at the University of Iowa studying Library and Information Science. In her spare time, Maddie enjoys writing poetry and fiction (particularly in the romance genre!). She also enjoys watching all things Muppets-related, doing yoga, and traveling for concerts. Maddie’s short stories and poetry have been published in Inner Weather literary magazine as well as The Uprising fashion and social justice magazine. You can read Maddie's blog posts about life in her twenties here and find her on Instagram and TikTok at @maddiekizer.
We reached out to Maddie to talk about her life, passions, and poetry!
Please meet Maddie Kizer!
Annie Newcomer: Welcome, Maddie. We are so pleased to share your work in the Flapper Press Poetry Café and to have this moment to chat with you. You chose the words "Love- Filled" and "Vulnerable" to describe the poems you shared with us. In her online piece "No, Being Open and Being Vulnerable Aren’t the Same Thing,” Mary Grace Garis shares:
I don't know who needs to hear this . . . but being open is not the same as being vulnerable. . . .
Vulnerability is a sacrifice of comfort, of the ego, allowing yourself to be potential prey to emotional velociraptors. So yeah, that sounds scary. But there's a major relationship payoff: Vulnerability is the catalyst to true intimacy, that thing we all crave, that thing that makes us feel, in a round-about way, safe.
So my first question for you today is "How do you, Maddie Kizer, define vulnerability, and how does this vulnerability shape your writing?"
Maddie Kizer: I love this quote you chose, because I agree there is definitely a sacrifice of comfort when writing something vulnerable. I’ve found it can be easy for me when writing to almost feel the need to be a bit uppity. Something like, "I went through XYZ, and here’s how I analyzed every feeling I ever had about it, and I’m better off now." But I view vulnerability and my poetry as a way to simply feel and respond, to sit with my feelings rather than judge them. I try to immerse myself in memories and in moments. By doing so, it helps bring that pain and love, the hardship and perseverance that life asks of us to light and allows that vulnerability to have a voice of its own.
AN: One of the librarians at a library near my home here in Kansas writes romance novels, and she actually was able to leave her job and make an excellent living with her romance manuscripts. Have you thought about writing professionally when you complete school? And if yes, in what capacity?
MK: Truthfully, I would be over the moon if I could write romance novels for the rest of my life. That sounds like a dream! I am currently enrolled in a Library and Information Science graduate program at the University of Iowa for next fall, so at the moment I’m focusing on my career as a librarian. In my down time, I enjoy writing romance—especially when an idea pops into my head. I’m very stubborn, and when I have a creative idea, I have to roll with it. I know that I want to be able to have a career as a librarian, as well as be able to publish and write stories and poetry whenever I can. I like that I’ll be able to take different roles in the literary community as both a writer and a librarian. But if one day my writing were to take off, I’d buy a cottage next to a large body of water and dedicate all my time to writing on a big front porch. That would be the life.
AN: I am intrigued by the name of your school literary journal, Inner Weather. Have you worked on this journal while in school, and if yes, how has this expanded your walk with poetry, compiling others' work for a journal?
MK: Inner Weather is a great publication, and while I know many people who worked on it, I only ever submitted fiction and poetry. However, during my time in undergrad, I did work on the North American Review (which is the oldest literary magazine in the nation!), and I had the best time as an editorial intern. I got the chance to sift through the creative work of thousands of great writers from all over the country, and it definitely helped me as a writer. In the NAR, I was also a preliminary judge for the James Hearst Poetry Prize, and I got to see so many creative styles and advanced work from poets I admire. By immersing myself in hundreds of these poems at a time, I think it subconsciously made me want to step up my writing a bit more and be willing to try new formats and styles.
AN: How has studying Creative Writing and Poetry in a college setting helped you evolve as a poet? Has it been easy or exhilarating? Please explain.
MK: Studying creative writing and poetry has been one of the best parts of my college experience. I remember the first creative writing class I ever took: Elements of Creative Writing with Jeremy Schraffenberger. At the time, I was only taking it as an elective, but studying poetry and creative writing became something I couldn’t get enough of. I suddenly had a community of other students and professors who truly cared about literature and writing not solely for academic purposes. At first I was overwhelmed and intimidated, worried everyone had the secret to writing really good material, and I simply didn’t. But I eventually learned you have to trust your gut when it comes to writing creatively through poetry or fiction. There isn’t one clear-cut way to decide if something is “good enough,” you have to believe it’s good enough and start from there.
AN: What are some of your goals for your poetry?
MK: My goals for my poetry are to capture moments in my life that can otherwise be difficult to articulate. Capturing big and small moments, how I felt when I experienced them. I’d love to create a series of poems that revolve around different places I’ve been to. My sister, Emma, and I have gotten the travel bug the last two years, and we travel for concerts all the time. One of my favorite parts of traveling with her is experiencing new cities together. I’ve written a few poems about the places we’ve been, but I want to make a big collection and share them.
AN: What is your impression of free-verse poetry? What is your impression of form poetry? Do you prefer one over the other?
MK: I’m a fan of free verse because I like the freedom it brings, but I tend to ramble, and that can make free verse hard for me. A subject that felt very poignant in the beginning can start to drag on because I feel the need to insert a lot of other noise that doesn’t necessarily add to the piece the way I think it does. Sometimes the limitations of form poetry, and that structure, really helps me get my thoughts across in a way I otherwise maybe never would’ve been able to, so I’m trying to be better about experimenting with more forms.
AN: Maddie, I appreciated reading the poems you submitted very much. I did recognize the vulnerability in them, and this added to the enjoyment they brought me. I am confidant that our readers will be moved by them too.
Before we share your poetry, I'd like you to ask a question of yourself that I didn't ask you in this short interview that you wish I had and then answer it.
MK: A question that I would love to answer is regarding the second to last line in “My Parents’ Bedroom in 2005.” What was on the Disney Princess CD?
My answer is that originally, the CD was a mix of various Disney songs—including the villains. This scared my sister and me, so any songs that had villains, we made our dad take off of the CD. We had songs from Mulan like “Let’s Get Down to Business,” “Baby Mine” from Dumbo, and “You’ll be in my heart” from The Lion King.
AN: Thank you for joining us in the Flapper Press Poetry Café. Now it is time to share your poems and their backstories with our readers. Maddie, we wish you everything good as you continue your writing journey.
This poem was inspired by my home life and watching my family as they are aging. My father is going deaf, and my grandmother has early signs of dementia. I wanted to capture what small snippets of life can look like as you watch your parental figures declining mentally/physically—the good and the bad days.
Tankas for a Deteriorating Household
Holding the embrace for a second longer—
squeezing tighter for each word he cannot hear me speak
tells him my love has not left
She asks questions twice, three minutes apart
with deep frown lines and a panic filled gaze
as I watch dementia seep into her skin.
My grandfather fills the coffee pot
before snooping at a car accident on the old highway—
a retired man’s Thursday.
This is a nostalgic memory I find myself returning to on difficult days. I wanted to capture the warmth of childhood and bedtime routines.
My Parents’ Bedroom in 2005
When the bubbles flatten and the water
turns icy and my baby teeth chatter,
my mother shakes me with my cotton towel—
wrapped up like a birthday present
with wet hair and pink toenails under my
Home-filled yellow fluorescent hues filtered
through our two dusty mirror chandeliers.
The clock shows 7:55, nearly time to turn in.
I beg for the special sparkling lotion,
the one that leaves me looking like a fairy,
twinkling under the chandeliers
smelling of warm vanilla sugar and giddiness.
My mother lathers us both up in the sparkly sweetness
and kisses me on the forehead before carrying me off,
ready to tuck me in and recite our prayers.
My father comes in to join and they give me one last kiss,
pressing play on the Disney princess CD
“Sweet dreams, lovebug” they say.
This is a story of aging and a change of perspective. I added in the clarinet—an instrument I played for ten years and always assumed I was horrible at. I wrote this poem to capture the journey to realizing the importance of inner validation and confidence, as well as longing for small moments you thought you’d never miss.
My split clarinet reed sits awkwardly in my mouth
it reminds me of the time I was twelve—
opening up my shiny red-leather instrument case
mistaking the cork grease for chapstick.
Back then all i wanted was time—
time to admire the untouched keys
time to learn a single note only slightly out of tune
time to become a “real” artist.
I wish someone would’ve told me
you never feel like a “real” artist
until you decide one day—
no matter how many notes you can play in one breath—
it’s only “real” art when you believe it is
no measurement of proud parents clapping
or clumsy classroom lessons
or sweat-producing performances
will give you the permission you seek
to believe your art is substantial.
Ten years later I glance down at my molding reed,
split down the middle from my carelessness,
taking apart the pieces of my instrument for the last time.
Only now do I believe maybe it was real after all.
Annie Klier Newcomer founded a not-for-profit, Kansas City Spirit, that served children in metropolitan Kansas for a decade. Annie volunteers in chess and poetry after-school programs in Kansas City, Missouri. She and her husband, David, and the staff of the Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens are working to develop The Emily Dickinson Garden in hopes of bringing art and poetry educational programs to their community. Annie helms the Flapper Press Poetry Café—dedicated to celebrating poets from around the world and to encouraging everyone to both read and write poetry! If you enjoyed this Flash Poet interview, we invite you to explore more here!
The Flapper Press Poetry Café Presenting a wide range of poetry with a mission to promote a love and understanding of poetry for all. We welcome submissions for compelling poetry and look forward to publishing and supporting your creative endeavors. Submissions may also be considered for the Pushcart Prize. Submission Guidelines