A Blessing of the Hounds – Michael Madsen

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Originally posted in February 2012:

A Woof And A Bark

I enjoyed watching Michael Madsen on this year’s Celebrity Big Brother [I’m a big fan – get over it] not that it did him any good, either for his sense of well-being and purpose, or from a viewing public perspective who knew little about his career and judged him entirely on his abrasive behaviour in the house. I guess some would explain that’s the point. I wouldn’t say I’m a massive fan because I haven’t really seen that many of his films. I’ve watched Reservoir Dogs and Donnie Brasco once, but a favourite that Madsen just happens to be in is Mulholland Falls.

I didn’t realise that Madsen wrote poetry. This emerged when the housemates were given the task of writing their own poems with Michael as judge, and when he read his aloud it was clear that this wasn’t a first. To cut to the chase, I ordered a secondhand copy of his collection A Blessing of the Hounds from the States and I have enjoyed reading it. As the fine poet Gerald Locklin states simply on the backcover blurb, Very clear and honest work. Dennis Hopper is more hyperbolic, claiming I like him better than Kerouac.

A nice little surprise was that as I was typing this post and dipping into the book to read a few I noticed for the first time that the book is signed by Madsen. It is addressed to Pablo, but that’s me now.

Madsen is clearly influenced by Hemingway and Kerouac and Bukowski and that simple connective which links these to his American voice capturing day to day reality in the simplest of language and unadorned imagery. Of course, Madsen’s experiences which provide the storylines are far from ordinary, and the name-dropping could seem bloated if it wasn’t so common as to simply be just how it is in his life. Most of the poems are diary entries of his daily observations, very often enlivened by the extraordinary people and places occupying these. Many are recordings of the barking of hounds and what they mean to say.

I said ‘unadorned’ but there is obviously an affectation in the American voice he uses, but that is what makes it poetic, and it is also to do with simple but certain structuring on the page. I’m not going to try and analyse it any further. It’s straightforward and accessible and engaging. Yes, it’s very often macho and brash, but there are sweeter moments – not that there needs to be, but there are – and at times he is inclined to ruminate and gesture seriously. Here’s the last stanza from an early poem in the collection called Paper which is about writing,

I just burned some hairs
off my arm with a cigarette.
Yeah, think about it.
I wonder what Earnest was thinking
when he loaded the gun.

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