Madison Davis on Becoming Obsessed

Madison Davis on Becoming Obsessed

An interview with Madison Davis, from The Write Stuff series over at SF Weekly:

Madison Davis writes about mourning, family, water and disaster. She holds an MFA from Mills College. Her recent work can be found in The Manifest Anthology, It’s Night in San Francisco but It’s Sunny in Oakland, and The Portable Boog Reader. She lives, writes and works retail in Oakland.

When people ask what do you do, you tell them…?

I work at a charming independent consignment clothing boutique…But really I write.

If someone said I want to do what you do, what advice would you have for them?

Become obsessed. Really obsessed so that you can’t look anywhere and not see some aspect of your obsession. I feel the most productive/sane/contented when I can’t wait to know more about what I am writing about.

Do you consider yourself successful? Why?

When I moved to the Bay Area three years ago, I was in search of a community. I imagined finding writers and artists who would challenge and inspire me. I have found peers who will stay up late talking about poetry over whiskey sodas, commiserate about the process while singing karaoke and dream about publishing each other over pizza. In this way I feel very successful and very lucky.

When you’re sad/grumpy/pissed off, what YouTube video makes you feel better?

I’m a big fan of Broad City. Almost any clip makes me laugh but when I’m really in the thick of it I have to watch Abbi hunt for an apartment:

Do you have a favorite ancestor? What is his/her story?

I have been working on a project about my great uncle Fritz who died in WWII. He was just 19 when he was killed in action in Italy. My grandmother has spoken of him since I was a child and this summer I traveled to the place in Italy where he died. I have found it really beautiful and rewarding to get to know this ancestor 70 years after his death.

How much money do you have in your checking account?


What is your fondest memory?

On rare warm evenings in Washington as a child, my parents would bring sleeping bags out onto our back deck and with my brother we would lay down to look at the stars with red frozen grapes in a bowl between us. One of those foundational memories that is simple and complete. After losing both my father and brother since this time, the memory of those rare warm evenings has become powerful evidence of who we were.

What are you working on right now?

For the last year I have been working on a project that looks at loss over the generations of my family beginning with the great uncle that I mentioned. I tend to write with a sort of research poetics that attempts to archive while documenting the process of archiving. The details surrounding the death of my great uncle have been almost entirely unknown to the family since his death in 1943. My research became the backbone of a project that grew to include the deaths of three other family members and a friend. Somehow the process of searching for information in various history books and records allowed me to trace the less tangible threads braided into my family history. Threads of violence, power and loss began to come to the surface. The project takes a turn just shy of a real family history and the information is revealed piece by piece through myself as a potentially distorting filter. This project has taught me a lot.

What can you do with 50 words? 50 dollars?

I will make you a delicious vegan meal that is probably some kind of pasta. There will be many bottles of wine but you will have to bring desert because I cannot bake because I refuse to measure. Included is $1.99 for an episode of something irresistibly terrible to watch.

What are some of your favorite smells?

Coffee. Lilac. Cut Grass. Cedar. Puppy.

If you got an all expenses paid life experience of your choice, what would it be?

I would have all my life expenses paid so I had the time to do all the rest. Getting by takes up a lot of space that could be filled with writing, researching and listening. I would travel spontaneously. I would read Maggie Nelson’s Women, The New York School and Other True Abstractions which is currently walking around with me everywhere while I nibble at it on my lunch breaks. I’d read it twice! I would go to all the wonderful events that take place during the day when I am usually at work. I would walk on the beach. I would settle into the luxury of sitting on my front porch writing in the middle of the day.

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