In these poems from “A Museum of Midwestern Domestic Architecture,” Julia Madsen captures the liminality of a geographic region that, according to Midwestern essayist Meghan O’Gieblyn in The Paris Review, “has largely outlived its purpose.” A self-selected archivist (as illustrated in the title and visual artifacts in the work itself—the photograph, the frame, the celluloid) Madsen depicts the necrotic presence, the rot around the edges of everyday Midwestern domestic life and calls into question the readers’/the country’s surprise upon discovering this very decay: “[W]hy do we think the rain will not seep and soften the roof long after we’ve forgotten how to stop its leaks.”
As in her video poems, there is something of the saudade about Madsen’s work—the presence of absence, even though the physical place/region (and all that it contains) is still here, is present. This is different than the direct connection Madsen makes between nostalgia and the ruins it has created—in her version of saudade, the absence lingers over the region like a weighted blanket before its artifacts are gone: “Everything dissolves then, the windshield before the history of the Corn Belt.”
Much like other contemporary Midwestern Gothic poets Kristy Bowen and Ander Monson, Madsen pushes at the wound of our limping American Dream. Madsen asks the reader: “Would you remember bone.” Would we, reader, even as we—and its inhabitants—remain ever tied to the region’s vanishing point? Madsen insists we should, we should indeed.
Read an excerpt from Julia Madsen’s from A Museum of Midwestern Domestic Architecture: “If any pastoral image...” >>
Read an excerpt from Julia Madsen’s A Museum of Midwestern Domestic Architecture: “Between now and then...” >>