Majmudar, Amit

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poetry

Annotated by:
Kohn, Martin
  • Date of entry: Jan-06-2017
  • Last revised: Jan-06-2017


Dothead is Amit Majmudar’s 5th book (and 3rd collection of poetry). It is far-ranging in its reach and style, perhaps best described by the heading of its table of contents, “Kedgeree Ingredients.” Kedgeree, as one unfamiliar with the word (like me) discovers on the page facing the table of contents (in a photocopy of a dictionary page), is “a mess of rice cooked with butter and dal….” Among other (con) textual surprises in this book are an opening epigraph from Dr. Seuss- “It is fun to have fun/But you have to know how,” a passport photo of the author at about age 3 above his book jacket biosketch, and the title of the final poem in the collection, “Invocation.”  Front and center in a number of poems is the issue of identity, perhaps most tellingly in the title poem, “Dothead,” where an Indian-American teenager confronts his white classmates. In “T.S.A.” the poem’s speaker faces off against the airport screeners claiming solidarity with :
             "my dark unshaven brothers
whose names overlap with the crazies and God fiends,
             ourselves the goateed other”  (p.5)
His identity as a poet is beautifully expressed through “Steep Ascension,” a poem “for John Hollander” (the epigraph unfortunately is not included in this volume) that ends:
          “But John, I told him, beauty is a fire
                    those who burn hardest labor coldly for

and I for one will hold your labors dear,
          the music of meaning, the artistry that dares
                    to conjure walls that it might conjure doors” (p.25). 

Among his “political” poems, are two about children: one gunned down ("Lineage")  and one abused (“Invocation")” that begins:
“The arms I sing. Forget the man. there is
no other epic. Sing the arms of kids,
the ones with pustules all along their veins” (p. 100).
The longest poem, a prose poem, is “Abecedarian” that weaves together Adam and Eve and the speaker’s discovery of oral sex.  


Majmudar is a writer who happens to be a physician (a diagnostic nuclear radiologist) who lives in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio. He is critically acclaimed for his prose (2 novels, literary criticism and essays) and for his poetry (appearing in The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The Atlantic Monthly, Poetry Magazine, The Antioch Review and The Best of the Best American Poetry 1988-2012.) His second poetry collection, Heaven and Earth, won the 2011 Donald Justice Prize. In 2016 he became the first Poet Laureate of Ohio. There are a few “medical poems” in this volume including “Stem Cells” and “Radiology,” but for sheer beauty, I’d recommend “Holy” and for joyful reading, I’d recommend, “Recombinant Fairy Tale.”


To read the full version of Invocation
To read the full version of T.S.A.
To read the full version of Steep Ascension


Alfred A. Knopf

Place Published

New York