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In the tradition of the Langton Hughes classic Montage of a Dream Deferred, Mitchell L. H. Douglas uses persona poetry to explore the personal and professional struggles of soul legend Donny Hathaway in his debut collection Cooling Board: a Long-Playing Poem. Evoking the sense of listening to a concept album, Douglas presents a narrative in two sides: side one focusing on Hathaway’s development as a young musician and subsequent rise to fame and side two bearing witness to the adversity that plagued his later years. Readers will see Hathaway as true to his family, true to his faith, and uncompromising in his quest for musical innovation.
In a nod to Hathaway’s legacy as a musical trailblazer, Douglas implements a significant poetic innovation in the format of the book. By including alternate versions or “takes” of poems throughout Cooling Board, the reader hears an echo of ideas that can be likened to an album with previously unreleased versions of popular songs. When the poems are revisited in alternate takes, new information emerges, and the reader is forced to consider new interpretations. Along the way, poems resembling liner notes and pop charts enhance the experience, never letting the reader forget that the heart of this ride is the music.
Above all, Douglas’ depiction of Hathaway gives readers the human side of a man who has remained a mystery in the 30 years since his death. Not only does the poet speak in the voices of Hathaway and his long-time collaborator Roberta Flack, the reader also hears the voices of those closest to Hathaway whom we are less familiar with: his mother, Drusella Huntley, his grandmother, Martha CrumwellHathaway’s earliest music teacherand his wife, Eulaulah.
As the book’s first “Liner Notes” poem recognizes, “Cooling Board is about life lessons, the difficult things you don’t always get on the first take.” With Douglas as a guide versed in the power of possessing many tongues, Cooling Board captures its reader like the best Hathaway song: passionately, honestly, and with an undeniable sense of purpose.
|Publisher:||Red Hen Press|
|Product dimensions:||7.00(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.40(d)|
About the Author
Mitchell L. H. Douglas' poetry has appeared in Callaloo, Crab Orchard Review, and the anthologies The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South (University of Georgia Press), America! What's My Name? (Wind Press), and Zoland Poetry Volume II (Zoland Books) among others. He was named a finalist for the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize in 2007 and nominated for a Puschart Prize in 2006. A founding member of the Affrilachian Poets, a Cave Canem fellow, and Poetry Editor for PLUCK!: the Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture, Cooling Board: a Long-Playing Poem, is his debut collection.
Table of Contents
Liner Notes I 8
Essex House Hotel 10
Exodus I (Chicago to St. Louis) 12
Ascension (A Lesson for Miss Martha) 13
The Amazing Donny Pitts & his Magic Ukulele 14
The Music: An Explanation to Miss Martha 16
Trying Times, Central City 17
Moving Days 18
Midnight Hour 20
Exodus II (St. Louis to D.C.) 21
Meeting Eulaulah, Howard University 22
What Eulaulah Hears 23
Negotiating the First Date 24
What Stars are For 25
Meeting Eulaulah, Howard University (alternate take) 26
Roberta, Rebirth 27
Miss Martha Meets Eulaulah 28
Roberta, Rebirth (alternate take) 29
Curtis Breaks it Down 31
S.R.O.: Mr. Henry’s, Capitol Hill 32
Troubador, 1971 33
The Bitter End 35
Notes on ‘Life,’ a Symphony 37
Liner Notes II 38
The Hip 39
Sessions: New York 41
The Uninvited (Visitor 1) 42
An Evening at St. Vincent 44
Diagnosis, 1973 45
This is Blues 47
In Case You Thought It Was Easy 48
The Uninvited (Visitor 2) 49
Chart Position (What Hits & What Does Not, Take 1) 50
Release Me 51
Phantom Limb 52
On Country & Western 54
This is Blues (alternate take) 55
Roberta, Rebirth (alternate take 2) 56
Liner Notes III 57
Process of a Love Song 58
What Eulaulah Hears (alternate take) 60
Chart Position (What Hits & What Does Not, Take 2) 62
Sessions: New York (alternate take) 64
Liner Notes IV 65
The Omega Sessions: Eight Steps Closer 66
Make it On My Own 67
The Last Supper (Roberta’s Apartment, Central Park West) 68 Essex House Hotel (alternate take) 69