Everette Maddox (1944 – 1989)
Everette Maddox made a vivid impression on me the few times I met him, because he struck me as someone who had been given the job of a sweet clown guarding a strange intersection of time and place. The Maple Leaf Bar poetry scene in New Orleans at the near-end of the 20th century was as temporary as place and time get. Everette was the perfect master of ceremonies over a dying dance that took a few happy, booze-soaked years to play out . . . . The South, New Orleans, decay, poetry, wit, crippling nostalgia, and carpe diem—all of these things wafted off Everette like the smell of whiskey and cigarettes . . . .
-- Andrei Codrescu
In the late 1970s, then-chair of Xavier University English Department, Dr. Thomas Bonner, Jr., sought fresh MFA graduates to teach. There were relatively few about with a Masters of Fine Arts in writing, and the closest university to offer such a program was the University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa. When Dr. Bonner called asking for recommendations, Everette Maddox was mentioned. Maddox, whose first published work appeared in The New Yorker, was interviewed and, upon accepting the job, moved to New Orleans.
It is safe to say that neither Maddox nor the city was ever the same after.
Looking very much like a gentleman from the 1800s that had accidentally stumbled into the mess and mayhem of 20th century life, Maddox was a poet who became a legendary figure in the Crescent City literary scene, the Maple Leaf Bar, and the Carrollton neighborhood. He initiated and hosted the reading series that is still as much a tradition in the city on a Sunday afternoon as a dinner of red beans and rice on a Monday night.
As one would expect, there is a special connection between the work of the late Maddox and Xavier Review Press. In 2006, the press published Umpteen Ways of Looking at a Possum: Critical and Creative Responses to Everette Maddox, edited by Grace Bauer and Julie Kane, an anthology that included poetry and fiction, essays and song lyrics, by more than fifty writers. In a review by Mary McCay that appeared in the Times Picayune, the work was heralded as
… New Orleans’ tribute to the poet that countless people loved and let visit, but would never let stay too long for fear that his world would swamp theirs. Practically every writer who lives in or once lived in New Orleans and had any contact at all with Everette Hawthorne Maddox has contributed something to the volume that is a ‘loving memorial’ to him. . . .
To paraphrase Dwight Eddins in his comments in the Alabama Writers’ Forum, Xavier Review Press saw to it that Maddox, who complications due to cancer and years of alcohol abuse, did not “go obscurely into that good night.”
In addition to Umpteen Ways, Volume 2 of Xavier Review, which includes Maddox’s work, is available through the press.