(Copyright © 2003 The Blacklisted Journalist)


 (Copyright © 2002 Joyce Metzger)

BLESSING OF THE HOUNDS by Michael Madsen, 12 Gauge Press, 2002 (p/b 186pp), Original Limited Edition, Cover by Rob Draper, Foreword by Quentin Taratino

"Madsen's poetry explores the intense and gritty experiences of a man living on the edge."--Rolling Stone

"Some of the most personal and perceptive scenes from an actor's travels since Sam Shepard's Motel Chronicles.--Gerald Locklin

Born in Chicago, Michael Madsen, is the author of two previous books of poetry. His face is familiar to all who watch any amount of t.v. time, or the movies. He has appeared in Thelma & Louise; High Noon (Calgary) and in many other Hollywood-based shots. He resides in Malibu, CA. Madsen is currently working on two volumes of poetry as well as on many films.

How does a busy man with a hustling, bustling life find time to relax enough to write poetry?  These poems shout out:  diary!  From personal experience during my five-country venture (1997) in Europe, I realize, that as the scenes whirl change, the only way one can truly recall afterwards, is to take the time each night to record events, places, people, even if only one or two paragraphs, in a diary.  Later; weeks, or months later, one can revisit the diary and everything comes back quickly and accurately; places, names, people, events.

This book is well assembled by 12 Gauge Press.  It is a larger, full sized volume, and is filled with poems, memories, and snapshots. If you are a collector of movie memorabilia, this book waits for you.  

Michael Madsen drops names like an accurate hand drops flies in the summer time.  He mentions movie sets, parties, acquaintances, and the deaths of those we have watched for years on the larger than life screen.  That is Michael Madsen's life; he travels extensively, then relaxes with wife and children on Malibu when he can.  Other times he lives from wardrobe trunk in places like, Chateau Marmon Hotel, Harbor Hotel (Baltimore), Paradiso Hotel, The Ritz Carlton, Windsor (New Orleans), Athenaeum Hotel (London), Vogue Hotel (Quebec), YMCA (Vancouver), Princeville Hotel (Hanalei), and many other stopping over, temporary places, rooms which will not allow attachments; commercial-cold enterprises.

Those who live on the edge balance always between temporary and something permanent in their lives.  Madsen writes extensively about death, loss, and longing. Most would view his life as the "high life," but he has, and is, paying the toll; daily, hourly, weekly, yearly. Time runs on swift feet, soon the children will be grown, and the hotel rooms, and thoughts, would be lost if not for Madsen's poetry.

This too is a balance as he stands on one foot on the sharpest of pinnacles.  Other wannabes are climbing, eager, ready to knock off the pole-sitter.  A wary glance, a knowing look is on the lion face in all those black and white shots.

The poetry is simple, straightforward, but shaded with introspection. Don't look for long phrases, eloquence, or intricate delivery. The foreword was written by Quentin Tarantino, also an actor, and evidently a friend of Michael Madsen.

"But for me, the real journey that Michael the writer is exploring is what it means to be a man in a world where the notions of manhood that some of us grew up with are barely remembered at best, or ridiculed at worst.  But then if everybody embarked on the hero's journey, everybody would be a hero, wouldn't they?"  This was the last intro paragraph by Quentin Tarantino.

Evidently, my definition of "hero" is very different than the way the term is bantered about these days.  I was taught, and believe, that a hero, is someone who is willing to risk his life for another; not a movie star, a football player, or some other demi-god. Those are "idols", not heroes.


      I've walked the dirty streets of Hollywood. I've inhaled the
    stench.  All the broken souls wander aimlessly, up and down
    Sunset, even the ones in Rolls Royces.  I've been all over the
    United States, Canada, Italy, Yugoslavia, Spain, Luxemberg, Rome
    & Paris and there are a lot of places I have not been.
    But, nowhere on Earth has the strange, sad duality as
    Los Angeles, the greatest show on Earth.
    It will make you or break you.
    Either way, you're fucked."

Honest, hard-hitting, whack the piñata furiously, take your best shot, then don't look around, or back.  A deep sadness permeates many of these poems.  They are lain out by someone who has developed his own style.  Madsen muses, contemplates, then records.  Some are entirely veneer, but there are deeper plunges into the psyche.  

     --September 13th--

    I'm living in Malibu on Broad Beach
    with Deanna Gale Morgan.
    We have 3 dogs and they all have fleas.
    Our little son, Hudson, is 4 months old.
    There are baby elephants on the shelf
    with colored lights on their backs and
    a Barry White album "Love Unlimited."
    September 13th was a good day.


Observations. Surface. Then the undercurrent that acknowledges another performer and unlimited coherence, attachments.


   It was none other than Tom Mix the famous cowboy.  My pa took
   a piss with Tom Mix.  12 years later my pa was a World War II
   Navy Veteran who made it as far as New Orleans before the big
   bomb dropped on Hiroshima and ended the whole thing,  

   --New York--
   Why am I a raw nerve?  Why must I see the immense sadness in
   yes, I am a lost and lonely soul that will one day come to an end
   as have many that went before me.  

   --Bungalow #3--
   So alone, all alone, the water is spraying on the grass in the
   backyard.  The dog bit off one of the sprinkler heads...
   The fuckin' grass IS dead, anyway, you know....  

   --Joe D.--
   They put Joltin' Joe in the ground today....something is lost.
   Gone now. That stupid Paul Simon song was way ahead of its
   I'm reading Jack London, now and asking God to grace these words
   as he did those, for London, when he said, "It is not well for one
   to see himself truly, nor can one so see himself for long, and live."
   I loved Joe D., as did millions...  Marilyn did, in her own way.
   He stuck with it, man./ And, like London, did not go undone.


   I am lost.  Alone.  And Suicidal.  Although not likely to act upon
   the latter.
   I am some sort of freak.  Admired by other freaks because I play
   Doomed to portray the ill advised.  Doomed to play myself.

   --It's All Good--  

   Listen. I'm always writing about sad things and fucked-up people
   because it's a sad world filled with a lot of idiots who are trying
   too hard to have a good time.
   But, I must say that, thru it all, I'm having one hell of a ride.
   I've got a lot of good shit going on too.  Wonderful gifts from
   God, if that's where they're from.  My sons, my health, my toys
   and memories; my wife, my life, my family, my friends, the films,
   the books, the travel and the sunsets.  I've gone to bed more
   times than not, with a's all good.

Yes, indeed it is, Michael Madsen. This is language from the heart telling us his version of life, about the ups and downs, the ins and outs.  Nothing fancy.  Nothing embellished. No flights of wild imaginations.  He's worked for his position, had some lucky breaks, won some, and lost some.  He straddles the line; one foot in stark reality, the other foot on the smooth stone of introspective, soul-searching poetry.

Michael Madsen is a poetic voice to watch, to listen to.  His work will evolve, so might his style. Hopefully, his intuition and observation will remain intact. ##



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