I was the guy what drove Madison around on some of his early situational-description jaunts, mostly in his VW Bug, once on my snack truck route. We’d pull over on whatever street for two or three minutes, then drive around some more to the next time he’d stop us and write a while. I was always intrigued and still am how he’d decide where (what) to write about. One of those mysteries of poetry, I guess. I basically thought of these drives as friends out on a literary lark, but I did sense the larger venture behind it all—vaguely, and with some confusion. Looking back, I see that it was awe I was feeling for this “life-work” project of his, taking place, partly, in a regular, mainstream, Midwestern Ameri-can city, where I lived.
Then came the chance for my little no-clout press to publish some of the work. Heady times those were, and I damn sure wanted to be in on publishing these quirky books, in case they ever came to something.
For one thing, that smart-bomb-hit-descriptions-of-person-place-and-thing ability. Colors. Always colors. And finding (knowing) right-on 24 words for “blouse,” say. And precisely individualized. It makes for a lot of hyphenated adjectives, this nuts and bolts writing. But at the same time I am also aware of MM’s ability to manipulate the chosen scene, which casts some mediation on the feeling of objectivity inherent in in situ writing. He could be telling you just what he wants you to hear, i.e., extensions of his own being. Obviously, every writer does, to one extent or another. One always wonders if the manipulation increases the clarity and significance of a scene, or is the narrator merely unreli-able? In this case, the integrity MM evinces through his work allays such fears. As a friend and associate too, he proffers his abilities without taking undue advantage. From the start, I was thankful to be in on such, even if it didn’t come to something.
But now it has. The work, after 30 years of writing, two-thirds done. With depth, resonance, mythic or at least divine proportion and scale. And the text-intertwining brings an infinite, curious startlingness and multiplies the reader’s available approaches to the text—more of the mysteries of poetry, yes? In toto, I feel MM’s corpus is real nutrient for literary progression and our never-ending investigation about what language is and what language can do, available for serious international critics to explore.