Centre College alumna Madeleine Wattenberg ’12 (Louisville, Kentucky) has been recognized for her creative writing skills by becoming a finalist in the 2019 National Poetry Series for her manuscript entitled “Hinge.”
Wattenberg, who was reading in a coffee shop when she initially discovered she was finalist, claims she felt an “immediate sense of lightness.” She explains that switching from a “private poet” to a “public poet” has been an amazing and unique experience.
“Having someone see my work as communicating something important amidst a large pool of really talented writers from across the country feels wonderful,” Wattenberg said.
She elaborates on the influence her upbringing as the daughter of a scientist has had on her poetry. “I’m interested in the intersection where the poetic and scientific imaginations meet and the possibility of building laboratories from language.”
Her manuscript features a variety of subjects, such as 17th century scientist Margaret Cavendish, Greco-Roman mythological poems and a few selections about zeppelins.
“I’m interested in critiquing how these views live on in scientific discourse, but also in the idea that knowledge isn’t only produced through reason,” she explains. “Emotion is a form of knowledge. Being is a form of knowledge. The non-human world produces its own forms of knowledge, too. I see poetry as inherently relational—pattern seeking, making, breaking—whereas, experimental scientific practice seeks to isolate its variables.”
Wattenberg expressed gratitude toward her Centre education, claiming that her professors encouraged interdisciplinary exploration and self-exploration, and provided a support system. She also gave an immense amount of praise for Lisa Williams, Paul L. Cantrell Professor of English and director of Centre’s creative writing program, for being her “compass.”
“She was central not only to my growth in terms of craft but also for what I think impacted me the most—she took me seriously. She made space in the classroom for students’ opinions and approaches, for believing in students’ intentionality behind their poems, but also rigorously examining poems and modeling the work that lies behind the poem.”
Williams also offers words of pride and praise toward her former student.
“She was very motivated, even outside of classes, to expand upon her knowledge and plunge more deeply into philosophy, religion and literature. We were lucky to be able to work with her, and I’m grateful that poetry is still a part of her life.”
Wattenberg is currently in her third year in the University of Cincinnati’s Ph.D. program in creative writing, teaching creative writing and literature courses as a graduate student and serving as assistant editor at the Cincinnati Review. She is also in the process of earning a graduate certificate in women, gender and sexuality studies.
by Makenzie Dries
September 18, 2019