Book Review: “In the Museum of My Daughter’s Mind” by Marjorie Maddox

In the Museum of My Daughter’s Mind by Marjorie Maddox
Featuring art by Ann Lee Hafer
Reviewed by Rebecca Beardsall
Shanti Arts Publishing, 2023


Opening with the choices and vast possibilities of a library, In the Museum of My Daughter’s Mind, a witty and eloquent poetry collection, invites the reader to the museum to linger with the mind and spirit of the artist and the writer. Marjorie Maddox’s fourteenth book of poetry, In the Museum of My Daughter’s Mind, intertwines the mystery and magic of painting and photography with the cadence and tantalizing rhythm of poetry.

Maddox and her daughter Anna Lee Hafer exchange moments and memories artist to artist, mother to daughter. In “Naming Creation,” the reader sits with Hafer’s painting Swarm, an image with links to a swarm of earthquakes off the Oregon coast. The circles of impact and restructuring inspire,
                           Her pursed lips
                           release a kiss of them, explosion of light
                           and swirl that redefines the way words slip
                           from cortex to cochlea.
The swooshing of S-sounds lulls the reader with the rhythm and sway:
                           the way words slip,
                           spark synapse after synapse after synapse
                           while hand, brain, memory, insights
                           transform the letters to warms.

The way art can trigger memories of delight or trauma and sometimes joy and sorrow together is how the reader moves through the pages alongside Maddox and Hafer. Hints of the blue colors from Antar Mikosz’s The Gateway are paired with vibrant reds in “At the American Visionary Art Museum: The Gateway.” In this poem, the speaker turns the color red into blood and heaving hearts, “his damaged heart heaving inside your terror / that clings to thick vein-like trunks / patterned with geometric tastebud recipients / of bitterness.”

Over and over, Maddox points the reader to roads, streets, transportation, and travel. Movement is a constant in life, taking us from one point to another. These poems show the way journeys can mean reuniting or goodbyes, loss or hope. In “At the American Visionary Art Museum: The Gateway,” the road means death and life: “my father’s heart, / where, from a deep hole, his donor’s / car careens into scream that bubbles up.” In “Transcendental Interstate,” the speaker speeds
                           through time,
                           this high-
                           speed chase twisting into one alternate
                           reality after another and
                           another, this inner state
                           of who we are – driving and driven.
We move into other elements of intersection in “Illegitimately Trained,” where we are asked
                           what is real,
                           a train, the tracks,
                           a sky, smoke,
                           you. Really.
                           Come see.
                           The cotton balls are real
                           and the paint.

“At the American Visionary Art Museum: Madre Dolorosa” is a poem in this collection that I returned to a few times, delighted by Maddox’s words paired with Ingo Swann’s painting. The poem starts:
                           O invocator of auras, practitioner
                           of the remote view, of gender fluidity,
                           dressed as a nun at Studio 45, you
                           nevertheless adore her, Mother of Sorrows.
The poem then spirals into comets “atomic mushrooms,” a doomsday layered with creation. The call to Mary, the mother of Christ, reminds the reader of the link between poet/mother and artist/daughter joined forever together on these pages.

Linking together paintings and poems while lingering in moments of life and death and questioning what is real, In the Museum of My Daughter’s Mind is a stimulating, ekphrastic poetry collection.


Rebecca Beardsall (MA, Lehigh University; MFA, Western Washington University) is the author of two memoirs: The Unfurling Frond (Forthcoming – fall 2023) and My Place in the Spiral. Find her at:

Image: Cover of In the Museum of My Daughter’s Mind featuring a study with a tan armchair and a chess set.

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