Review Series #10: Dothead

Each month I review a new book for ImageUpdate. Here’s the latest.

Marking the Unseen Eye
Dothead by Amit Majmudar

“It’s not some freak / third eye that opens on your forehead like / on some Chernobyl baby,” writes Amit Majmudar in the poem “Dothead.” “What it means / is, what it’s showing is, there’s this unseen / eye, on the inside. And she’s marking it.” The narrator of this poem is a child struggling to explain his mother’s bindi to white friends at school, and although this book is electric with struggle—“FUGITO ERGO SUM,” declares one poem, taking up the fight with God—these are generally fights more foisted on the speaker than picked by him. Majmudar responds with storytelling, sharp meditations, and the choice of real, embodied human experience over abstractions. Some of these poems send the reader into the bodies of men facing societal violence: T.S.A. profiling, drone warfare, torture. Elsewhere, we are sent into the bodies of Adam and Eve, and of a contemporary married couple who reunite as lovers after the toddler is asleep: “they thumb a lock and make a greenhouse / where once there was a master bedroom. / Orchids push open the drawers. Honeybees / bother the reading lamp…. The scar from her Cesarean / his Tropic of Capricorn.” In “The Autobiography of Khwaja Mustasim,” we hear from an ageless character hidden in the corners of Muslim history: “I was a parrot fed melon seeds by the eleventh caliph,” ”the mosquito whose malarial kiss conquered Alexander,” “the grandfather who guided the gaze of a six-year-old Omar Khayyam to the constellations.” The wordplay in this book is a marvel, sometimes recalling Gerard Manley Hopkins with its near-manic music, as in this excerpt titled “Fe”: “Translate chemistry into Spanish, and iron / is faith—this pile of shavings, / the Devil’s own toenails, the same / ore that’s at our origin, heme. / Of all the metals, the ferrous to me seems / fairest. Aurum is more ardent, argent rarer…” In short: Read this book for its mind, its heart, its art, and for Majmudar’s gift for revealing large things—centuries, cultures—in the versicolor burn of the perfect detail. 
—Reviewed by Jen Hinst-White

Purchase your copy here.

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