A new collection from the Poet Laureate of Ohio

“Dothead” by Amit Majmudar (Knopf, 105 pages, $26.95)

Can you name the official Poet Laureate of Ohio? Did you answer that it is Amit Majmudar? If you knew his name then I’m very impressed. Okay, here’s a more difficult question; can you name the person who held that title before he did?

Did I stump you with that second question? Don’t worry about it if you could not answer it because it was actually a trick question. You see Dr. Majmudar was officially designated as the Poet Laureate of Ohio on Jan. 1 of this year. While many other states have been honoring poets in this way Ohio had never done so before now. He is the first person to receive this honor in Ohio.

Dr. Majmudar is a nuclear radiologist in Columbus. He has just published “Dothead,” a new collection of his poetry. As I perused this enchanting book, I was struck by the fact that he is a poet who comfortably mingles and melds modern poetic forms with poetry that has deep roots in the classics.

Some of his poems are autobiographical. Others actually rhyme. Majmudar is of Indian descent. In his poem “T.S.A.” he recounts his experiences passing through airport security. Here’s how the poem ends:

“How polite of the screeners to sham paranoia

when what they really want

is to pick out the swarthiest, scruffiest of us

and pat us top to toe,

My fellow Ahmeds and my alien Alis,

Mohammed alias Mo-

my buddies from med school, my doubles partners,

my dark unshaven brothers

whose names overlap with the crazies and God fiends,

ourselves the goateed other.”

This is poetry that rolls off the tongue. His language is delightful. The longest poem in the book is “Abecedarian.” In this one, Majmudar has written a sub-poem for each letter in the alphabet. These are the sub-titles: Adam, Breath, Come, Duino, Eyes, Face, Gag, Head, Innocence, Job, Kiss, Lucifer, Mnmmn, No, O, Pull, Question, Rhythm, Self-Reflexive, Teeth, Urgency, Versailles, Wood, X, Yearning and ZZZ.

In “Dothead,” you can discover lines like: “hot pink frosting on my chocolate cupcake noggin….” and “feet on his feet, let the poet turning clockwise support a fruit bat on his head…” This is such a wonderful collection.

April is National Poetry Month, Dr. Majmudar has been doing a number of poetry readings from “Dothead” in Ohio this month. If you have the opportunity to hear him read from his work, you’re in for a treat. His scholarship in impeccable, his poems are magical and thoroughly entertaining. I had a chance to interview him recently. He recited some of his poems from “Dothead” and discussed how he balances his poetic identity with that of a physician. You can hear my interview with Amit Majmudar this Sunday morning at 10:30 on WYSO (91.3fm).

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