Michael Madonick

Born in the Bronx, Michael David Madonick attended Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, where he received a BA in English and an MBA. After several years in real estate development in New York, he returned to school and received his MFA from the University of Oregon. His awards include the Academy of American Poet’s Prize, the New Jersey Council on the Arts “Distinguished Artist” Award, an Illinois Arts Council Grant and an Illinois Arts Council Literary Award. For more than twenty years he has been teaching creative writing at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. He is currently the poetry editor of Ninth Letter. His first book, Waking The Deaf Dog, was published by Avocet Press, New York. He is married to Brigit, and they have three children and four grand-children.

Books by Michael Madonick for the Backwaters Press


Author: Michael Madonick
Format: Paperback, 84 pages
ISBN: 9781935218302
Published: September, 2013

Buy This Book: Small Press Distribution

Praise for Bulrushes

The figure of the infant Moses—child of slavery, exile, captivity; lying in an ark of woven bulrushes “daubed…with slime”—is the figure for this remarkable collection. “Bring on the damn swans,” the book begins, as poem by poem it strips away “art” to uncover beauty, and we find the grounds for belief, for in Madonick’s hard reckoning we discover that, like the prey’s vulnerability to the predator, we are nonetheless “as good as danger is.” Through extraordinary range and mastery of diction and music, Madonick pits the confusions and destructions of the present, both natural and human, against the consolation and tested experience of lyric. And lyric wins—for Bulrushes is poetry itself, that fragile ark of language in which hope is borne.

—William Wenthe

 Moses and Jesus—those elegiac infants turned most famous of prophets—draw back the curtains on Madonick’s newest collection, Bulrushes. And, as if we were on watch in a hunter’s blind, the creatures revealed to us—bird, deer, snake, whale, children, wife, and parents—believe themselves unobserved, when in fact they are at their most liminal and vividly rendered. Gentler than Jeffers, as sharp as Jarrell, Madonick proves his mastery over the craft in every line, each image and phrase evoking the sensory world, and underworld, in ways that improve upon both. As a reader, I entered this book fully, and it held me.

—Kathy Fagan

Poems from Michael Madonick’s Bulrushes


It’s time to put a swan on a lake, a few
mallards, maybe, mulling near the lilies, or

the kingfisher, of course, forever resurrecting
symbolism on the sagging phone wire. After all,

it’s time for the beautiful. Who could be against that?
Time to look past the box turtle turned on the blacktop

struggling for his feet—the yellow sun, his damned beach ball
spinning toward dusk on his toes. Time to look past those

snarling geese, hissing at any good intention. Or the inconvenient
water moccasin hanging its noose from a limb. It’s time

to be beautiful, to be sure. So let there be swans, white ones
trumpeting the lake as they travel, and even the lapping

of waters against some distant shore where wind-fagged
willows are giving at the root. Bring on the swans, their canker

of beak, their devious eyes, their armor of feather, the pumice
wings. Bring on the damn swans, anything that’s beautiful

deserves its day.

Box Turtle

It may be that I’ve got the whole story wrong,
but I’ve heard that eagles in Argentina have learned,
after the rain forests were burned back, to
catch box turtles that survived the fires by
hiding deep in their rooms, and carry them
to rocky outcroppings, a hundred feet up, and
drop them like bad cartoons until their helmets
crack. I suppose one should give credit where
credit is due, to the birds that never did such
things before the burning, or to the farmers themselves
who decided to set the trees down so their cattle could
graze more easily. But I’m more likely to think
about the turtles, to whom altitude is as foreign as
speed, pulled aloft by the claws of some sharp-beaked
angel, its house entire raised like Dorothy’s in the
tornado, or the deep heat of a fever, or the deus ex
machina of sporadic holocaust that God has cast us
to. And then, when the wrench of feathers decides
it is right, RELEASE, an unbungeed free-fall, a
reckless unbraked downhill dive toward the inevitable,
the Diaspora of soup, the shell gone weak against
the stone. Then, if there is anything left in listening for,
to wait, one might hear the angel come in for
its food. The oratorious stall of feather that makes a backwash
of air so it can land delicately by the mess, the Humpty
Dumpty that the turtle has now become. I suppose
one needs to give credit where credit is due—God,
Belief, no less apparent now than ever before.

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