Columbia, S.C., names first poet laureate

Ed Madden

Ed Madden; photo by Forrest Clonts

One Columbia for Arts and History and the city of Columbia, S.C., announce the selection of poet Dr. Ed Madden as Columbia’s first poet laureate. Madden will serve a four-year term that begins January 2015. Columbia is one of the few Southern cities to have a poet laureate position, according to One Columbia.

Recognized by Mayor Steve Benjamin and the members of City Council in a resolution passed on October 21, 2014, the honorary position of poet laureate will “encourage appreciation and create opportunities for dissemination of poetry in Columbia, promote the appreciation and knowledge of poetry among the youth, and act as a spokesperson for the growing number of poets and writers in Columbia.”

“Dr. Madden is not only a world-class talent and scholar but also a leader who, through his actions as well as his words, exemplifies the very best of who we are and who we hope to be,” said Benjamin. “We’re honored to have him serve as our city’s first poet laureate and confident that he will exceed our highest expectations.”

Madden, associate professor of English and the director of Women’s and Gender Studies Program at the University of South Carolina, holds a Ph.D. in literature from the University of Texas at Austin. Originally from Newport, Arkansas, he has lived in Columbia since 1994. He has published three books of poetry and is currently working on a fourth book, titled Ark, to be published in 2016. He is the recipient of the inaugural Carrie McCray Nickens Fellowship in poetry from the S.C. Academy of Authors as well as a 2011 fellowship for prose writing from the S.C. Arts Commission.

His first scheduled readings as poet laureate include the State of the City address on January 20, 2015, and commemoration events for the 150th anniversary of the burning of Columbia on February 17, 2015.

“I am excited to have been chosen for this position and really honored to be the first poet selected,” said Madden. “Columbia is a city so rich in writers, I’m also very humbled. I want to be a champion for poetry, language, and the arts, and I want to use poetry to document the life and culture of the city.”

One Columbia will provide financial support for the poet laureate to conduct activities that support the organization’s mission to promote and strengthen the arts in Columbia.

Madden was selected by a committee representing the literary community, city government and academia. Committee members were Nikky Finney, winner of the 2011 National Book Award for poetry; Tony Tallent, director of literacy and learning at the Richland Library and board chair of One Columbia; Councilman Moe Baddourah; Michael Wukela, representing the office of Mayor Benjamin; Jonathan Haupt, director of the University of South Carolina Press and One Columbia board member; Sara June Goldstein, senior coordinator for statewide partnerships with the S.C. Arts Commission; Cynthia Boiter, co-founder of Muddy Ford Press and editor of Jasper Magazine; and Alejandro García-Lemos, a Columbia artist and founder of Palmetto Luna.

“The choice of Ed Madden, as Columbia’s first poet laureate, is a lovely luminous moment for our city and state,” says Finney. “Poetry has the grace and power to both inspire and guide. The city of Columbia and the state of South Carolina need more poetry in its heart and soul. Ed is absolutely the one to help direct it there and there.”

An official presentation will take place on January 15, 2015, between 6 – 8 p.m. at the Seibels House, 1601 Richland Street, Columbia. The event will also feature the official launch of Columbia’s One Book, One Community 2015 selection of On Agate Hill by Lee Smith. The event is open to the public.

About One Columbia for Arts and History
One Columbia for Arts and History is a nonprofit corporation that works to promote collaboration among citizens, the cultural community, and city government through celebrations of Columbia’s arts and historic treasures. Its goal is to enhance the quality of life for our residents, attract tourist dollars to our city, and further build our vibrant community. In short, it serves as the promotional arm of the City for Columbia’s cultural community. Visit the One Columbia website ( for a continuously updated master list of art and cultural activities occurring throughout the city.