A memoir by Marco Wilkinson
October 12, 2021 • 5 x 7.75 • 152 pages • 978-1-56689-618-4
Madder, matter, mater—a weed, a state of mind, a material, a meaning, a mother. Essayist and horticulturist Marco Wilkinson searches for the roots of his own selfhood among family myths and memories.
“My life, these weeds.” Marco Wilkinson uses his deep knowledge of undervalued plants, mainly weeds—invisible yet ubiquitous, unwanted yet abundant, out-of-place yet flourishing—as both structure and metaphor in these intimate vignettes. Madder combines poetic meditations on nature, immigration, queer sensuality, and willful forgetting with recollections of Wilkinson’s Rhode Island childhood and glimpses of his maternal family’s life in Uruguay. The son of a fierce, hard-working mother who tried to erase even the memory of his absent father from their lives, Wilkinson investigates his heritage with a mixture of anger and empathy as he wrestles with the ambiguity of his own history. Using a verdant iconography rich with wordplay and symbolism, Wilkinson offers a mesmerizing portrait of cultivating belonging in an uprooted world.
About the Author
Marco Wilkinson has been a horticulturist, a farmer, and an editor. He has taught literature and creative writing at Oberlin College; University of California, San Diego; James Madison University; and Antioch University’s MFA program, and has taught horticulture and sustainable agriculture at Lorain County Community College and MiraCosta College. He has been the recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Award for Individual Excellence and fellowships from the Hemera Foundation, Craigardan, and the Bread Loaf Environmental Writers’ Conference. Madder is his first book.
Praise for Madder
“Plant life is more than metaphor in the enthralling Madder. Rather, it’s a way into rethinking self, origin, the body, sexuality, spirit—the very idea of limit. In language both majestic and down to earth, Marco Wilkinson conjures up a manual for living, animated, exacting, and true to its darkness. A major achievement.” —Paul Lisiky, author of Later: My Life at the Edge of the World
“In the lush ecotone between poetry and prose, Marco Wilkinson, horticulturalist and caretaker of all things underseen, has propagated an extraordinary space where ‘the lost are found, one way or another, and cradled.’ Wilkinson has the rare ability to confront all that is deliberately hidden and at the same time protect the most delicate mysteries from harm. This utterly gorgeous, learned, tender treatise on kinship and the ecology of memory just knocked me out.” —Lia Purpura
“Madder: A Memoir in Weeds is a reminder of life’s messiness, of its wild beauty, minor consequence, and major ripples. Beautifully written with a concise, poetic prose, this hybrid work explores the ache in all of us, that space continually growing, grown over, starting anew with the seasons. Wilkinson treads the line between meaning and matter with exquisite attention, energy, and reverence.” —Kao Kalia Yang