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Standing Ovation by Karen Elias.jpg
Standing Ovation by Karen Elias


Featured Artist:

Karen Elias  

Featured Poet:

Marjorie Maddox

Valiant Scribe presents an artistic showcase of the collaboration between Karen and Marjorie, two friends with a shared passion for addressing social issues. This collection includes excerpts from their forthcoming book titled Small Earthly Space (Shanti Arts).

The collaboration takes us to those small, earthly spaces that we visit with fresh eyes, watching as the mists rise over the hills, as the poppy – both symbol and brilliant-petaled flower – reveals the “intoxication of possibility.”  Maddox and Elias also explore the journey of the curlew, which requires that we grow humble enough to pass through the smallest of doors, that we confront both regret and ecological devastation, and that we experience “the long, slow burn of loss.”  But the journey is not without hope. As the poet asks: “What if IF still exists?”  What might happen if we “delete the expected ending” and “claim. . . the urgent adverb of now”?  

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.

Strange Light by Karen Elias
Strange Light by Karen Elias

Calling Hours: August 21, 2017                                                                     Marjorie Maddox


While the moon moved across sun, we moved

inside to your viewing, the face—yours

and not yours—eyes closed but looking up

at ceiling, the outside air starkly dark

or not (we couldn’t see behind the heavy curtains

in that room of bereavement)—but there we were

with and without you, while the rest of the country

put on their protective glasses and stared

at what could harm them.


What can harm us lingered there

beneath the bright posthumous display

of the body and its accomplishments

of self, dressed-up grief stripping clean

in the lonely weeks after, bright bursts

of fear from looking directly or too long

into the face of the loved, while, as Auden knew,

the impersonal sun keeps diving into the sea, keeps rising

with or without the sorrow we think will drown us.


What will drown us steals your name—Harvey—

and, simultaneously, spins a different destruction,

the rain and wind inside us now on street and shore,

in bedroom and barn, sky a shadow of shroud

large enough for the land to collapse in

or sink under. Our eclipse and theirs:

what can harm us lingers there beneath the bright

faces of bereavement, no protective glasses

when we move with the moon across sun.*

Curlew of the New Moon Discovers a Poppy by Karen Elias

Curlew of the New Moon Discovers a Poppy by Karen Elias 

Curlew of the New Moon Discovers a Poppy,

                                 Marjorie Maddox


discovers on the corrugated

surface of mud, a few

surviving petals of grief

from Flanders Fields,

the curlew’s curved body

bending down to remember

where poppies once bled beauty

before buried by warfare.


Or the curlew—

Genus Numenius,

bird of the New Moon—

un-buries instead the curved

brilliance of joy, hallucinates

a happiness addictive enough

to be real.


Plucked by the curlew’s

sleek beak, the red poppy

recalls constellation and

explosion, then tucks itself

into the curlew’s speckled

attire of feathers.


Even here

beneath night’s sickle

of light: the dangerous

burst of bloom, the intoxication

of possibility.


O curlew, fly back

to the moon that bore you,

where stars inhale everything:

the land of now, sky’s simple curve


of before. Once there,

bestow on us this one sign

of wonder: poppy ignited


as comet—flight and curve

over earth—red, moon, and you


dazzling the planet with awe.

Poppies and the Cedar Tree by Karen Elias
Poppies and the Cedar Tree by Karen Elias

Poppies and the Cedar Tree

                                           Marjorie Maddox


What else could they be

but planets and sun, coral glow

of bloom tattered against dusk’s


uneven waves of bark, slowly peeling

to reveal the underneath? Tangled

temporarily in brittle twigs, they do


not die but transform: bright

miracles of surprise orbiting,

cedar’s ashen fingerbones that release


and heal with orange what rises

and descends, what keeps circling

in this sphere of sky, of us.

Two Poppies and the Fence by Karen Elias
Two Poppies and the Fence by Karen Elias

Two Poppies and the Fence

                                                    Marjorie Maddox


The best of neighbors, they ignore

boundaries, inquisitive countenance


            peering over into what we claim

            as ours—rectangle of land, sky


delineating what is paid for and possessed,

which is why, at day’s end and beginning,


            we need them, each wide eye

            and petaled chin trespassing


on morning coffee, on evening strolls

around the cloistered yard that needs


            their joy, their bright exuberance

            of orange, unsolicited and bold.

Refusing to Take Minutes by Karen Elias
Refusing to Take the Minutes  by Karen Elias

The bright-suited woman’s

                                  Marjorie Maddox



bright ideas spark the only light

in the outdated room filling fast


with cigar smoke and face-less men,

foggy with what once was


before she entered. Her place

at the table is not at the side


but the head. She doesn’t take

dictation, instead dictates and delegates,


but mostly just does, checking off

decades of items that should have been


Mission Accomplished eons ago.

She looks everyone straight in the eye.


She approves vs. keeps the minutes.

When she says so, the meeting is adjourned


or extended until everything

and everyone is caught up,


which she, alone, determines,

as it should be. 

Plastic Sheet Floating

Featured Poet & Artist

Commonwealth University English Professor, Marjorie Maddox has published 16 collections of poetry—including How Can I Look It Up When I Don’t Know How It’s Spelled? and Seeing Things (2024), as well as the ekphrastic collaborations Heart Speaks, Is Spoken For (w/Karen Elias) and In the Museum of My Daughter’s Mind (w/daughter Anna Lee Hafer, 2023 Dragonfly Book Award in photography/fine arts) and others. Maddox also has published a story collection, 4 children’s books, and the anthologies Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania and the forthcoming Keystone (co-editor, PSU Press). Assistant editor of Presence, she hosts Poetry

After teaching college for 40 years, Dr. Karen Elias is an artist/activist, using photography to record the beauty and fragility of the world and to raise awareness about climate change. Her work is in private collections, has been exhibited in galleries, and has won numerous awards. She is a board member of the Clinton County PA Arts Council and curates the annual juried photography exhibit. In addition to Heart Speaks…, her collaborations have appeared in many journals, including Valiant Scribe and About Place. Her plays have been chosen by the Climate Change Theatre Action and performed in 8 countries.

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

Marjorie Maddox and Karen Elias

In Conversation 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.

Q: Can you start by telling us how the two of you came to work together for this showcase?

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 refurbished train station 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, PA. We already shared the experience of teaching in the same English Department, but what a delight it was — many years later — to discover this collaboration! When most successful, our work together allows us to enter a trusted, mutually-respected common space where we can dream together, sparking additional layers of complexity and depth.


Q: What is your collaboration process? How do you ensure your work complements each other?

Marjorie: Karen and I have developed a true collaborative process, where we go back and forth between image and word. Sometimes we begin with Karen’s image, and I respond with a poem. When this happens, I try to enter into the visuals and experience what Karen has created. Other times, we begin with the poem, and Karen both builds on and deepens the “conversation” with images. It is especially helpful to hear from the other what needs to be tweaked or more thoroughly revised to best fit the collaborative vision. Mutual respect and openness to the vision lays the foundation for collaboration. Because we live in different towns, we work together via email.

Karen: At times, our collaborative process gives us a perfect match on the first try. At other times, we work recursively, moving back and forth between word and image until the idea I’m working with, for example, reflects Margie’s intent. The poems are so wonderfully rich that there are times when I need to choose between multiple possibilities. At other times, I try to distill the essential spirit of the poem and imagine what that might look like if it were made concrete. We find, in general, that when poem and image are set side by side, they always seem to complement each other —even though they may offer slightly divergent perspectives.  


Q: 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 curlew and poppy series as well as new pieces on social justice and climate change.

Karen: Though activism and the dissemination of facts are effective strategies, I believe we also need ways to speak to the heart. I want the viewer to be stilled, to see through the lens of grief, to understand the persistence of possibility.


Q: Can you tell us a little about your other work not featured on Valiant Scribe? Where can we find more collaborations by you two?

Marjorie: I’ve been busy with several new books and collaborations. How Can I Look It Up When I Don’t Know How It’s Spelled? Spelling Mnemonics and Grammar Tricks, just out from Kelsay Books, is a collection of witty poems on (as the title states) spelling mnemonics and grammar, alongside fun and memorable graphics by Karen. My next book is forthcoming in Winter 2024 from Wildhouse Press. With its focus on memory, psychosis, disease, and their ramifications, Seeing Things explores the ways that we distort or preserve memory, define or alter reality, see or don’t see those around us. Woven throughout the collection is a series of odes.

Karen: I also work as a playwright. Several of my plays have been produced, both here in the U.S. and internationally. Two have been collected in anthologies, The Future is Not Fixed and All Good Things Must Begin (forthcoming). I have also collaborated (as librettist) with Akshaya Avril Tucker, a composer, to produce a musical composition (“Night Fire”), which premiered in April in Salt Lake City with the NOVA Chamber Music Series. For more on Margie’s and my collaboration, watch for our forthcoming book, Small Earthly Space.

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.  

We also want to thank YOU for visiting "Remembrance". 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. 


"Standing Ovation" design by Karen Elias; night sky by gelpi from Freepik

“Calling Hours: August 21, 2017” was previously published in Mezzo Cammin and is used by permission of the author.

"Curlew of the New Moon Discovers a Poppy" design by Karen Elias; curlew by hapr80 from Pixabay; new moon by dmitri_7 from Pixabay

"Refusing to Take the Minutes" and "Strange Light" design by Karen Elias, graphics by Freepik

View our 2021, 2022, and 2023 showcases herehere and here.
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