cover image \blak\ \al-fƏ bet\

\blak\ \al-fƏ bet\

Mitchell L.H. Douglas. Persea (Norton, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-0-89255-421-8

Haunted by questions of contemporary blackness, this second book by Douglas is packed with risk and conflict, but also beauty. “Admit it,” he begins “Passing Negro Mountain,” “you read the title & thought/ Here we go again—/ another race poem, (aren’t we Post-Black?)” But he packs a lyric punch: “Does this explain the heart? How/ one finds another, families/ intertwined like crops// on farms standing root to root.” In an explanatory epilogue to this formally various collection, Douglas writes, “My plan was for the book to have a series of poems dedicated to the Alabama sharecropping days of my grandfather and his brothers…. Would I be accused of mining a subject that had been seen too often from a black poet? Did it matter? After all, this was a true history of my family.” Douglas invents and analyzes his invented form, the Fret, which features a six-lined stanza inspired by the guitar, but with only a handful in the finished book, a reader can be left wondering what all the fuss is about. Douglas imaginatively explores many facets of racial conflict—from birth certificates reprints to Bops, to free-verse lyrics; when the resulting collage gets caught up in chronicling of narrative particulars, the poems can become more muddled than satisfyingly fragmentary. (Feb.)