On Friday, May 20 at 5:30pm, Summit Artspace in Akron, Ohio brought together poetry and science lovers into one room. Poet and diagnostic nuclear radiologist Amit Majmudar shared work from his new collection Dothead. As the first poet laureate of Ohio, it was an honor to be listening to Majmudar’s work.
Drawing on his experiences of growing up as an Indian American, Dothead features imagery from the Hindu tradition, as well as the religion of Islam. From the very first poem of the collection, Majmudar’s humor, and use of unique images comes through: “Lunch was after / World History; that was was India – myths, / caste systems, suttee, all the Greatest Hits” (“Dothead,” lines 12-14). The poem continues by relaying the speaker’s struggle to explain his Indian culture to his white friends, and their subsequent reactions: “So wait, said Nick, does your mom wear a dot? / I nodded, and caught a smirk on Todd – / She wear it to the shower? And to bed? -” (lines 17-19). I like that the poem makes a statement about growing up as a minority, but does it in a way that is accessible and funny.
Watching Majmudar reading his work gives life to so much of his poetry. Rather than reading word for word from a page, Majmudar enjoys engaging his audience by performing his poems to them. Other than the poem “Dothead,” I really enjoyed the poem “The Boy Who Couldn’t Grow Up” which is about the speaker’s son facing medical complications at a young age: “my boy, my boy who isn’t going to grow / born with a holey heart, his lips blue-gray, / his body shivering at seven degrees” (lines 7-9). I love the emotional resonance of this poem, and the use of the three-line stanza.
Majmudar’s science background influences so much of his style. At the reading, he admitted that he has a love of form poems because of his medical background. The use of the sestina form in the poem “The Waltz Of Descartes and Mohammed” is impressive: “There is / No God / But God. / I think / Therefore / I am” (lines 1-6). On first read of the poem, I didn’t hear the amusing voice of Majmudar, but when he read this poem, many in the room grinned at the unique play on language and the philosophical conversation the poem engages itself in without taking itself so seriously.
Aside from the range of topics and styles you will find in Dothead, I think readers will enjoy Majmudar’s commentary about immigration and what it’s like to be a minority. One of my favorite poems in this collection (and also the poem he ended his reading on) is “T.S.A,” which tells about the speaker’s experience of being tagged at airports. It reads: “I dig out the keys from my jeans and do / my best Midwestern grin. / A O’Hare, at Atlanta, at Dallas/Fort Worth, / it happens every trip, / at LaGuardia, Logan, and Washington Dulles, / the customary strip” (lines 3-8). The poem “Immigration and Nauralization” also features the same theme.
Aside from Majmudar, Summit Artspace also brought young poets Ileana Horattas and Reem Azem. Both poets currently attend North East Ohio Medical University (NEOMED). Horattas and Azem were invited to read their work with Majmudar since they won the 2016 William Carlos Williams Poetry Competition. Majmudar is also a graduate of NEOMED, and also a recipient of the William Carlos William Poetry Competition. Horattas shared her poem “The Lilacs” and Azem shared her poem “Sweeter Than A Watermelon.”
Dothead features 103 pages of poetry. It is one long section, and the poems pack a lot, so this is a collection that took me a few days to get through. I think readers will enjoy the friendly tone of the poems, as well as what Majmudar has to say about growing up as an Indian-American.
Thanks to Summit Artspace for featuring this event.
Buy Dothead here.