Student Spotlight: Madison P. Jones IV, graduate student in the Department of English
Madison P. Jones IV is a graduate teaching assistant in the Department of English. His first collection of poetry, Live at Lethe, was recently released by Sweatshoppe Publications. The book is all about Auburn and was written after the passing of his grandfather (and namesake) Madison Jones, Jr. who was a notable post-agrarian novelist and professor emeritus of Auburn’s Department of English.
A fifth-generation Alabamian, Jones is a second-year graduate student pursuing a master's degree in American literature with a focus on contemporary American poetry. He is founder and editor-in-chief of Kudzu Review, a journal of Southern literature and environment. Some of his recent poetry has appeared in Tampa Review, Canary Magazine, Cumberland River Review, Town Creek Poetry, among numerous others. He was awarded the Robert Hughes Mount, Jr. Poetry Prize for 2012, sponsored by the Academy of American Poets. In our interview, Jones discusses his love of teaching, learning, and writing.
Q: Live at Lethe was recently published and you are pursuing a graduate degree in American literature. How did you know writing was what you wanted to do?
A: I don’t know if it’s something I wanted to do, it’s more of a sort of hobby and vocation for me. It’s not really a job; I hate to think about writing as a job. It’s just something I really enjoy doing, and I feel like I get a lot out of it.
Q: How did you decide to choose Auburn University for graduate school?
A: I’m actually originally from Auburn. My grandfather (Madison Jones), who this collection of poems is about, was the writer-in-residence here in the late 70s and 80s, so my family is from here, I grew up here, and I went off to Montevallo for my undergraduate, and I decided to come back for my master’s here.
Q: Do you have a favorite Auburn tradition or favorite place in Auburn?
A: It’s not technically in Auburn I guess, but my grandfather’s farm is outside of town in Gold Hill, Alabama. It’s about 10 minutes from downtown Auburn, and that’s one of the most memorable places of my childhood. The second half of the book actually is dedicated to that place. It’s all about the farm.
Q: You are a graduate teaching assistant - what would you say is your favorite memory while teaching so far?
A: I GTA for literature sections and I teach composition, and I love it. I think getting to teach Flannery O’Conner was a great experience for me. My grandfather was very good friends with Flannery O’Conner a long, long time ago, and he would go and visit her out at her farm in Georgia, and he would bring peacock feathers home with him. My family actually still has these peacock feathers, so I was able to tell them a little more about her as a person since my family had talked about her.
Q: Who are some of your greatest influences?
A: I think W.S. Merwin, who is a contemporary American poet, is a fantastic writer. He’s written maybe 15 or 16 collections of poetry and he’s just a national treasure. And his poetry is all about place and environment and how the lyric poet can express self through place. And the pedagogical philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin and his notion of heteroglossia has actually influenced my creative writing, so it’s been an interesting experience reading composition theory and sort of seeing how that relates to creative writing in general. I also definitely have to thank all of the wonderful professors here at Auburn who have helped me over the past year and guided my studies. Dr. Miriam Clark, for one; Professor Keetje Kuipers has been a big influence on my writing; and Dr. James Ryan. They’ve all helped guide me in my study of American lit, and I’ve really enjoyed that experience a lot.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: I’d like to go into a PhD program after I graduate, maybe after a year or so, in American literature and just continue my studies.