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Earth - Our Home
A Collaborative Showcase on Climate Change

Home Sick - Wildfires by Karen Elias
Home Sick* by Karen Elias


Featured Artist:

Karen Elias  

Featured Poet:

Marjorie Maddox

Valiant Scribe presents an artistic showcase of Karen and Marjorie's collaboration, two friends with a shared passion for climate change advocacy. Through their artwork, they seek to raise awareness and start important conversations about environmental issues caused by human activity, and climate change, in particular the raging wildfires in North America.

Karen and Marjorie have a wide range of projects under their belt, from photography to poetry. No matter the project, their mission is to make art that speaks to the heart and empowers people to take action.

At Valiant Scribe, we strive to create a space where everyone feels welcome and inspired. We hope you join us on this journey and discover what we have in store below.

Interview with Marjorie Maddox
by Jaime Grookett for Valiant Scribe

Written Interview with Marjorie Maddox & Karen Elias


We had the opportunity to interview Marjorie and Karen for the Valiant Scribe Showcase. This collaboration formed from a mutual appreciation of each other’s work, resulting in a partnership that is greater than the sum of its parts. In the following interview, you’ll learn how this duo has teamed up to make an impact on the art world, social justice issues, and climate change.

Can you start by telling us how the two of you came to work together and how you see your work as complementing each other?

Marjorie: Having taught, at one point, at the same university, Karen Elias and I have known each other for years. However, it was not until we were paired in a community ekphrastic exercise that both our interactions and friendship deepened. The Station Gallery, a small art gallery housed in a train car in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, hosted a Words & Images event, where poets and artists used work by each other as prompts. I was very fortunate to receive Karen’s art as inspiration (confession: I requested her composite photographs, and she requested my poetry). My work with Karen is true collaboration—mutually thought-provoking and joyful. We are both happy to share drafts and to revise here and there, but most often we understand, appreciate, and are delightfully surprised with what the other person has discovered or underscored in our own work. Truly, the pieces are stronger together than by themselves. 

Karen: As Margie says, we first came to work together after being paired (at our own request) for an ekphrastic event held at the Station Gallery in Lock Haven. When most successful, our collaborations allow us to enter a common space where we can dream together to spark additional layers of complexity and depth.

What motivates you to create your art? How does your work complement Valiant Scribe's focus on social issues?

Marjorie: Often, collaboration, and ekphrasis, in particular, push me into new territories. I never would have written some of the pieces I have without collaborating with Karen on this new curlew series and on our book Heart Speaks, Is Spoken For

Karen: As climate change has turned into a climate crisis, I have become more and more focused on using my art in service to our planetary well-being. Trained as a Climate Reality leader, I also work with a consortium of environmental activists working to change the conversation about the climate in the halls of our state capital in Harrisburg, PA. Though activism and the dissemination of facts are effective strategies, I believe we also need ways to speak to the heart. Creating photo collages has become, for me, a way of presenting the viewer with the reality of climate devastation, not for its own sake but as a way to understand the impacts our actions will have on future generations and on the life of our planet itself.  I want the viewer to be stilled, to see through the lens of grief, to understand the persistence of possibility.            

Tell us a bit more about this collection. What inspired your work on climate change and the other topics reflected in the collection?

Marjorie: The most recent collaboration, focuses even more on environmental concerns. For example, several early pieces were inspired by passages Karen discovered in Ali Smith’s Companion Piece

Karen: Everything is connected. Our failures around climate come from the same place as our failure to understand our responsibilities as larger caretakers of the earth and of each other. 
You are both accomplished writers with extensive publication histories. In what ways is your work similar to the work you created early in your career? How has your work evolved or changed throughout the course of your career? What do you think drives those changes? 

Marjorie: I write in several genres—poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, children’s literature—and on such different topics as medicine, the body, the intersection of the spiritual and natural worlds, faith and doubt, etc. I think what propels me toward all of these is curiosity, a deeper understanding, and, again, the joy of discovery. As Joan Didion once famously said, “I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” Writing is my way of witnessing and processing the world around us and the world to come. There’s always another experience, text, idea, or work of art to spark a response.

Karen: I've always been concerned in my work with social justice issues; it's the medium that has changed over the years. And now that I think about it, although I love and will continue to use visual imagery in my work, it seems I'm reverting now to the medium I grew up with and trained in – that of words.  Since retiring from teaching college English for over 40 years, I've written something like fifteen plays, most of them centred around climate. Those of us who are passionate about combating the crisis are hearing that we need to have conversations with others. A play, which happens in a room where living people are sitting, listening, and breathing together, is one good way to advance those conversations. Thanks so much to Valiant Scribe for giving us this opportunity to talk!

Valiant Scribe would like to thank Marjorie Maddox and Karen Elias for taking the time to chat with us today. Their work demonstrates their passion for written and visual art which pushes boundaries between what is and what could be. Please enjoy the showcase!


Curlew Sends Feelers into the World by Karen Elias.jpg
Curlew Sends Feelers into the Future by Karen Elias

Hope Is the Thing with Feathers        

- after Emily Dickinson

The curlew is the thing 
with feathers, is the beak 

wildly waving wide ribbons
that hold back the strands 

of storm. That’s the thing 
about curlews, 

about hope. Red sky
in the morning...Warning 

and delight intersecting, 
flag-like ribbons curling 

into another day
maybe. The curlew is 

the thing. Even in the middle 
of a hurricane, even on a fragile 

bough while earth’s vast tornado 
of despair keeps widening, 

widening, the curlew is the thing 
with feathers, is the beak 

wildly waving its frayed 
but flapping ribbons 

of persistence, of hope. 
Red sky at night, 

sailor’s delight. Sky 
widening, widening into 


curlews, into hope. 
That’s the thing.


by Marjorie Maddox

Curlew Witnesses Curlew Fire by Karen Elias.jpg

Curlew Witnesses Curlew Fire by Karen Elias 

The Witnesses

              -after the 2018 wildfire in Curlew, Washington


Near the confluence

of Long Alec Creek and the Kettle River,

the curlew watches its namesake—

town of one hundred—

as residents stare toward the west,

inhale fear.


Smoke rewrites the sky

where the curlew once flew.

Flames attack its map and habitat.

Ridgelines pulse with what is singed:

feathers, pines, mountains, horizon

streaked with regret


and the burnt promises

of those not there to witness,

the incineration of branch,

the contagion of spark,

the long, slow burn of loss.


O Curlew and curlews,

obscure enough to hide

once within these safe acres,

even you Grief has found,

even you.

by Marjorie Maddox

The poem and photo previously appeared in Still Point Arts Quarterly

This Way, That Way by Karen Elias.jpg
This Way, That Way by Karen Elias

This Way, That Way

                     -after Robert Frost


For too long, even the curlew

deliberates the obvious:


restoration or destruction?

Surely, a simpler choice


than paths diverging

in yellow woods in a poem


pretty enough to frame

in Curlew, Washington,


before wildfires curl

toward the Canadian border.


In this different world and poem,

nature hesitates; amber flames


consume the fast-approaching end

of the road. Will we follow


the plain beaks on our faces

to safety? For the short-sighted,


the signs appear almost

identical. But look beyond


the bend. Ages and ages hence

is here. This way and that


are not just as fair

at all. Those first steps do


make all the difference.

There will be sighs.


About this, the dead poet’s

right: We can’t go back.

by Marjorie Maddox

North by Karen Elias.jpg
North by Karen Elias



From down here,

            up there is

nowhere close to

            click click there’s no place like

City Hall to haul your

            cracked compass spinning,

spinning its shiny tin arrow, True North

            a myth lost in the reshuffling

of district lines and Which way do the monkeys fly?

            voting booths Pay no attention to yourself

behind the curtain. Or do that keep you looking

            both ways, keep you crossing streets,

rivers, endless fields of deceptively sweet-

            smelling poppies all the way

to the Emerald mirage you mistook

            for your own backyard Toto, this isn’t

Pennsylvania anymore, the familiar still

             in focus but slanted just enough

to help you see the unreal not paved

            with yellow bricks, but the ordinary

cracked choices of Now, pointing someplace

            not here, not home, not anywhere

close to the bright blue skies harboring

            tomorrow’s tornadoes.


by Marjorie Maddox

The poem and photo previously appeared in The Coop: A Poetry Collaborative.

Locked Out by Karen Elias.jpg
Locked Out* by Karen Elias

And It Was Good


Not the green-grey sludge

snaking to the river’s edge.


Not the sun’s overdone orb

baking the snake to a dry bed of dust.


Not the hands of a man cracking open

stones in a barren bed of dirt


beside a field void of crops,

or trees, or snakes, or


soul. Not the frickin’ fracking

or the culture-draining pipe.


And the morning and the evening

of the umpteenth billionth year…


And it was not good, not not good,

not not not not not not not not not not not not not

by Marjorie Maddox

Homesick - After the Hurricaine by Karen Elias.jpg
Homesick: After the Hurricane* by Karen Elias

Thank you for visiting "Earth - Our Home," a showcase about climate change. We hope you enjoyed the amazing works of art displayed by our talented artists. We encourage you to share broadly and reach out to the artist and poet to learn more about their past and future endeavors. We hope you take a second to read the short bios of the collaborators below before you exit the page. 

* "Home Sick," "Locked Out," and "Home Sick: After the Hurricane" were previously published in Cold Mountain Review (Spring/Summer 2019)

Plastic Sheet Floating

Featured Artist & Poet

Dr. Karen Elias, who taught college English for 40 years, is an artist/activist, using photography to raise awareness about climate change. Her award-winning work appears in private collections and galleries. She serves as board member of the Clinton County Arts Council, as membership chair, and as curator of the annual juried photography exhibit. Heart Speaks, Is Spoken For, an ekphrastic collaboration with poet Marjorie Maddox, appeared in 2022 from Shanti Arts. Additional collaborations have appeared in such literary, arts, or medical humanities journals as About Place, Cold Mountain Review, The Ekphrastic Review, The Other Journal, Glint, Poetry in Transit, Ekstasis, and Ars Medica. Elias, also a playwright, has work chosen by the Climate Change Theatre Action and performed in 8 countries.

Professor of English at Lock Haven University, Marjorie Maddox has published 14 collections of poetry—including Begin with a Question (Paraclete, International Book and Illumination Book Awards Winner), and the ekphrastic collections Heart Speaks, Is Spoken For and In the Museum of My Daughter’s Mind, based on her daughter’s paintings (, and including work by Karen Elias, Greg Mort, Margaret Munz-Losch, and others (Shanti Arts). She also has published the short story collection What She Was Saying (Fomite); 4 children’s and YA books, and Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (co-editor with Jerry Wemple, PSU Press). Please see

Marjorie Maddox and Karen Elias at Schlow Library exhibit in State College .jpeg

Marjorie Maddox and Karen Elias

View our 2021 and 2022 showcases here and here.
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