Debra Kang Dean reviews Cooling Board: A Long Playing Poem

Mitchell Douglas Cooling Board: A Long Playing Poem. Red Hen (CDC, dist.) $19.95 (112p) ISBN 978-1-59709-140-4

Cooling Board, Mitchell Douglas' debut collection, is a labor of love and gives expression to poetry's most intimate function: to save what we love. Beyond moving Donny Hathaway out from a corner and in toward the center of what came to be called soul music, this "long-playing poem" honors the essential mystery at the heart of one who heard voices–sometimes bedeviling ones but more often perfectly pitched angelic ones, to which his music points. That mystery is like the hole at the center of a long-playing album, a metaphor that gives shape to this beautifully conceived collection. Douglas knows where the grooves are, and with the delicacy and precision needed to set the needle down between tracks, he has honed then sequenced each poem, mindful of the advice given by Miss Martha, the gospel-singing grandmother who raised Hathaway: "Circles, baby. In circles." In his complex circlings in and through the difficult facts of Hathaway's life, Mitchell Douglas has succeeded in the nearly impossible task of surrounding the sublime ache for the ineffable with sound.