Poetry and new media intersect in Julia Madsen’s practice, along with a taste for social-justice issues and grassroots politics. Raised in the Midwest and currently a Ph.D. candidate in English/Creative Writing at the University of Denver, Madsen is well embedded in the literary community as a published poet, videographer and educator, with work on the printed page and in galleries alike.
Follow along as Madsen sums up exactly how that works in our Colorado Creatives questionnaire.
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
Julia Madsen: My book of poetry The Boneyard, The Birth Manual, A Burial: Investigations Into the Heartland is deeply inspired by memories of forgotten landscapes, working-class poetics, neo-regionalist writing and documentary poetry. Poets like Mark Nowak, C.D. Wright and Muriel Rukeyser are always echoing back, especially Rukeyser’s 1938 The Book of the Dead and her documentation of the voices of workers that continues to resonate with and speak to contemporary issues surrounding class oppression.
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I am also passionate about looking closely at how we represent/document labor and class struggles, focusing particularly on the working-class lived experience. Documentary films like Finally Got the News (1970), about the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, are also inspiring and significant in this vein. My video poems also engage with these discourses, modes and genres.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party and why?
Because this is a party, I would like to invite folks I think would be fun to party with. Off the top of my head: Harmony Korine, Bear Grylls (per a conversation I had with a friend the other night), and Rachel Maddow.
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?
The best things are the friends and people you meet. The creative community has been so energizing on all fronts, and I have been lucky to meet so many captivating writers and artists and attend their one-of-a-kind literary/arts events. For example, Counterpath’s Unseen Festival for experimental cinema has been an enclave of extraordinary films that you would perhaps not have a chance to see otherwise, and reading series like Art of Storytelling and At the Inkwell are always seriously enthralling.
I admire how active Counterpath is in organizing events in collaboration with the community, and am excited about curating and hosting a Reproductive Justice Reading alongside Selah Saterstrom and Julie Carr at Counterpath on June 30. We will be sharing work and performances celebrating women’s reproductive rights and the choice to do what we want with our bodies. We would love to gather many people in the community for this important event!
How about globally?
Using the Reproductive Justice Reading as just one example, I appreciate how poets and writers tend to be committed to social justice and social practice with an understanding that the work we do in the community is a necessary and important application of the work we do on the page. I am also inspired and energized through my collaborations with other poets and artists, and love how many people are similarly passionate about collaborating with one another both in the studio and the community.
You’ve come this far in life. What’s still on your bucket list?
I would like to learn how to write screenplays and direct experimental documentary films on labor.
If you died tomorrow, what or whom would you come back as?
Fog at night.
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
I love Denver. The writing community keeps me here.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
I have too many favorites, but I’ll mention Hillary Leftwich here.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
Alongside the Reproductive Justice Reading at Counterpath at the end of the month, we are hosting a fundraiser through our Reproductive Justice Catalog. The catalog is filled with unique and creative services from writers and artists that are available for purchase, and 100 percent of the purchases go to the Yellowhammer Fund and Planned Parenthood.
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Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
I’m obsessed with Brandi Homan’s novel-in-fragments Burn Fortune, which was just recently published with CLASH Books, and feel deeply connected to it, as it represents the experiences of a teenage girl coming of age in rural Iowa, where I’m from. I’ve had the opportunity to hear Brandi read from this book several times in Denver now, and each time I hear something different.
Julia Madsen will host the Reproductive Justice Reading and bake sale, presenting a curated group of writers sharing their words about reproductive rights, at 6 p.m. Sunday, June 30, at Counterpath, 7935 East 14th Avenue. Admission is free, and copies of the Reproductive Justice Catalog resource guide will be available.
Learn more about Julia Madsen and her work online.