Writing Alumna Madeleine Cravens ’22 Publishes New Poetry Collection, ‘Pleasure Principle’

Lisa Cochran
April 18, 2024

Pleasure Principle, a debut poetry collection by writing alumna Madeleine Cravens ’22, will be published by Scribner in June, 2024. 

Many of the poems in Pleasure Principle describe chaos, youth, and desire. Cravens relates both pain and pleasure as she depicts a young woman on the precipice of adulthood. She tries to make sense of longing, using a poetic, sharp vulnerability and bold style. 

Pleasure Principle spans the freeways of California to the parks of Brooklyn as Cravens interrogates family bonds and queer relationships, urging readers to consider what comes to form an identity. The young woman of the poem reflects on her life and the world around her, making beautifully put statements about femininity and embrace: whether asserting that “womanhood felt like an incorrect container” or observing that love is enacted “in the historic way, with bartering and harsh alliances.” 

“These poems are also poems that acknowledge the world as governed by possibility as much as by pattern—when Cravens writes, ‘There was a world inside the world. I wanted the hard pit,’ she is writing her way toward a possible world, the world in the seed in the world,” writes Associate Professor of Writing Shane McCrae. “This book is itself such a seed, both the beginning of a poet and a renewal of poetry.” 

"I feel grateful for the advice of professors and peers as I worked through the early stages of assembling Pleasure Principle at Columbia: This allowed me to go into my first year as a Stegner Fellow with a fairly clear idea of what I wanted my first book to look like," Cravens said. 

Pleasure Principle is available for preorder here

Madeleine Cravens was raised in Brooklyn and lives in Oakland. She was a 2022-2024 Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and, during her time at Columbia, a Max Ritvo Poetry Fellow. Her poems can be read in The New Yorker, The Washington Square Review, The Adroit Journal, Best New Poets, and The Kenyon Review. Cravens was a finalist for the 2022 James Hearst Poetry prize and is the first-place winner of Narrative Magazine’s 2021 poetry contest and 2020 30 Below contest.