Kill Your Darlings
For The National, I reviewed the first novel by Amit Majmudar, who is also a very talented and widely published poet. There’s a lot to like about Majmudar’s writing, but he fails to follow through on the rending climax he’s built up to, which makes the ultimate ending kind of treacly. Still, a writer to look out for. You can read the review here.
I don't know why, but I was just reminded of a poem
Specifically Amit Majmudar’s “Dothead”, from the 1 August edition of the New Yorker, which my father made me read.
Well yes, I said, my mother wears a dot.
I know they said “third eye” in class, but it’s not
an eye eye, not like that. It’s not some freak
third eye that opens on your forehead like
on some Chernobyl baby. What it means
is, what it’s showing is, there’s this unseen
eye, on the inside. And she’s marking it.
It’s how the X that says where the treasure’s at
is not the treasure, but as good as treasure.—
All right. What I said wasn’t half so measured.
In fact, I didn’t say a thing. Their laughter
had made my mouth go dry. Lunch was after
World History; that week was India—myths,
caste system, suttee, all the Greatest Hits.
The white kids I was sitting with were friends,
at least as I defined a friend back then.
So wait, said Nick, does your mom wear a dot?
I nodded, and I caught a smirk on Todd—
She wear it to the shower? And to bed?—
while Jesse sucked his chocoloate milk and Brad
was getting ready for another stab.
I said, Hand me that ketchup packet there.
And Nick said, What? I snatched it, twitched the tear,
and squeezed a dollop on my thumb and worked
circles till the red planet entered the house of war
and on my forehead for the world to see
my third eye burned those schoolboys in their seats,
their flesh in little puddles underneath,
pale pools where Nataraja cooled his feet.
“Much of what we call the “teaching” of poetry is actually the teaching of contemporary conventions governing poetry. There are fewer truths in this art than poets like to think; what is “good” shifts from culture to culture, subculture to subculture, and even within a culture, shifts over time. The general opinion that poetry comes from the heart (and, implicitly, concerns the self) was not so obvious a truth in 17th century England, where Wit was cherished; nor yet in 3rd century India, where demonstrations of the nine rasas, or artistic moods, were prized. And for that matter, that characterization of good poetry isn’t, even now, much of a general opinion: The poems of John Ashbery, Frederick Seidel, and Kay Ryan, to name three major American poets, hardly meet that deeply-felt-personal-emotion criterion, which wasn’t a catch-all even at the height of the Romantic Era—think Byron’s Don Juan, or Shelley’s dramatic poem The Cenci, or Keats’s “Isabella, or the Pot of Basil,” a retelling of Boccaccio that has, it would seem, absolutely nothing to do with Keats’s personal life or feelings.”—“Why I’ll Never Teach Poetry” by Amit Majmudar
Partitions shortlisted for the HWA/Goldsboro Prize
Wonderful words from Manda Scott, the chair of the HWA/Goldsboro prize for which Amit Majmudar’s PARTITIONS has been shortlisted:
“It was relatively easy to pick the shortlist: these four [novels] stood out as being exceptional—any author would have been proud to write them at any point in his or her career, but to have written them as a first novel is exceptional.”
Save the Candor
knows it never
nests on urban
fences set its
head askew, its
Few have got it
on their lists and
fewer still have
caught it singing,
of the done-in
Big Sur tremor-
ten or twenty
hang glide over
(as their days are)
for us crazy
crown- and throat- and
Any niche as
fragile as a
certain. We can
half a laugh or
worth of candors
off their branches,
soon are little
more than snarking-
grounds for minor
birds, the common
snipe, the yellow-
Kings and hotblooded counsellors
Sit up in bed with chest pains,
But when the doctors arrive,
Stethoscopes out, to listen,
Each unbuttoned silk nightshirt
Reveals the crisp soot print of
A black hand.
Gavrilo Princip’s standing
On the wrong street this June day
With his hands in his pockets
When the Archduke’s open-top
Car takes a right turn and stops.
Gavrilo feels a soft throb,
Looks down, and sees to his shock
There, at the end of his arm,
A black hand.
Charcoal on the cheeks is best
For night raids gathering fresh
Blown roses off a thorn bush.
In a land that is no man’s
Lies a man that is no man,
His helmet glowing yellow-
Green then going out again—
A firefly cupped in night’s
Kindest of all: the Harlem
Hellfighters. Ich black slave, du
White slave, they chuckle, poking
A cigarette in a near-
Dead Kraut’s mouth as if he were
A new dad. Yet in this hell
They bring hell, give hell, and close
The black eyes of their black dead
With black hands.