Monday, March 24, 2014

#BLauthor3: Mitchell L. H. Douglas

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Next in the author spotlight is poet Mitchell L. H. Douglas.

Mitchell L. H. Douglas, Associate Professor of English at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), is a founding member of the Affrilachian Poets, a Cave Canem fellow, and poetry editor for PLUCK!: the Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture. His second poetry collection \blak\ \al-fÉ™ bet\, winner of the 2011 Lexi Rudnitsky/Editor's Choice Award, is available from Persea Books. His debut collection, Cooling Board: A Long-Playing Poem, was a runner-up for the 2007 Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize, a semifinalist for the 2007 Blue Lynx Prize, and a semifinalist for the 2006 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. In 2010, Cooling Board was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in the Outstanding Literary Work-Poetry category and a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. His poetry has appeared in Callaloo, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South (University of Georgia Press), Crab Orchard Review, and Zoland Poetry Volume II (Zoland Books) among others.

Here are four shorter poems by Douglas, plus two portraits by Piya Chakrabarti using a unique acrylic on plastic technique:

"The Nymph of the Blue Water,"
by Piya Chakrabarti,
acrylic on plastic

plants the first kiss
in the back of a taxi, cabbie
craning his neck, eyes in rearview
to catch the warm press of lips.
                    We run
from cab to night, Capital
breath pinning us to the hip
of One Way & DON’T
WALK, signs blinking white
surrender as we stand
in more eyes, the whip
of wind,
            kiss again. Ready
for knees, the kneel
& spin of our steal-
away song, I stop her
in winter’s thaw, chirp
            I love you
before feet rush
our bodies indoors
to corner tables
& candlelight.
          you do
she laughs, & I
lose my coat,
get acquainted

The Illusion of Hips
after Lucille Clifton
Caught in the angle of sun & slight breeze, her skirt, melon, balloons. This, she says, is for the illusion of hips, but she needs nothing to make her more. Petal & stem, hair like a crown of baby’s breath falling to her shoulders, sweet rain. She, born in Buffalo, studied @ the same high school as Ms. Lucille, which tells me she could be a poet by osmosis, a good one even (something in the water). Please forgive me, I am trying to describe beauty, inner & outer, and isn’t that always the trouble: the risk of walking in stale words? I am trying not to be that poet, I am trying to impart honor, & I will be successful, when I mention that after talking about the hips she doesn’t have, she smiles like a new world, & you nod your head                  know exactly what I mean.

Love came with the things I carried:
drops of chocolate & mason jars, a banjo
set on pluck. In private, poet
must learn to think w/head, not

heart, reason
instead of harmonize, raise
walls that lean 
on scar, reality

repelled w/ether.
You show me your apartment, the places 
he hasn’t been, high ceilings 
& darkrooms, close-ups

that call me home. & I know
in another life
I wouldn’t have to leave
& miss you w/an ache. Always
all ways.
My hands in your locks, I am
free, fingers lit
w/the scent of jasmine, 
free. Oil
on my hands, on my knees
free. You lean
into this space
w/out sound, 
the movie nothing
that interests me, numb
flicker, idiot
box squawk
on a nameless day, measure
of my pain. What if
we watched w/out clothes, moved
in time
to background hum, 10 cent dialogue
hushed w/ hands over mouths, lips
reaching for everything out of light,
the salt singing its worth
against our tongues?

          Because this chance doesn’t work
for love poems, I call them 
lost poems: a miss-
ed opportunity.          Amplified.

"Lucy Through My Eyes,"
by Piya Chakrabarti,
acrylic on plastic
Odd Hours

As a birthday present to you, I’ve decided to leave my tag
in every hole in the wall watering hole you stroll
in odd hours, call your own. In men’s
& women’s bathrooms, wooden counters
& worn table tops, my name
will burn holes in your heart, singe
ventricle, threaten burst. Fat marker
wedge, the one you gave me, carving
walls like soft flesh, hunt
for bleed, the sting of a fresh marker
taking over. Let’s be honest, I know
               you’re in his bed,
          his hands
in all the places I miss. But I can’t stop
dreaming your face. & does that make me
wrong? Should I
not want?

Co-editor Teneice Durrant on Mitchell's poems: Here are the love poems I love to read: aching, frantic, searching. These four poems by Mitchell L.H. Douglas are lovely in their grit and heart-scars. The line breaks rupture sentences with precision, adding heft and depth as the poems move through dimly lit restaurants and sweet water and want. These poems carry a reverence for getting the words down.

About the artist: Piya Chakrabarti, from India, is a writer, poet and visual artist. She is currently pursuing a Master degree in Applied Mathematics from Jadavpur University. Her writings\art have been published in Ken again literary magazine, cyberwit's “Taj Mahal Review” and “The harvest of the new millennium," Dyuti, The Telegraph, CRY “Anti-labour day Analysis Report," Blood Lotus Journal, Youth Ki Awaaz, Eastlit magazine, Contemporary Literary Review India(CLRI), The Criterion, The Indian Review, Persona Anthology and Oddee. Her poetry has been featured with many eminent literary figures like Gulzar, Ruskin Bond, Irshad Kamil, Andrei Azsacra and Yaseen Anwer."

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Douglas, I like how you use the shape of the poem and the occasional unexpected symbol instead of a word. My favorite lines are: "You show me your apartment, the places he hasn't been" and "you're in his bed, his hands, in all the places I miss." Those really give the poem feeling. Also, in "She" I did not expect them to end up in a restaurant. I enjoyed these poems.