What's your favorite Hathaway cut?
That’s a toss up. It’s a tie between “Thank You Master (For My Soul)” and “For All We Know.” The former is on his first album Everything is Everything, the latter is on Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway. “Thank You Master” gave me the title for the book. There’s a moment in the song that feels totally ad-libbed when he starts testifying with the familiar phrase “My bed was not my cooling board, my sheet was not my winding sheet.” When the music gets quiet and it’s just Donny on the piano delivering those words, you feel like you’ve witnessed the most private moment in the world. It’s not the kind of thing you can plan.
I'm real fond of "Be Real Black For Me" on that Roberta and Donny album. I think the title is a little corny, but there's a lyric, "Our time, short and precious/Your lips, warm and luscious/You don't have to wear false charms" that kills me every time. The "Thank You..." joint reflects how amazingly Donny could switch from gospel to secular.
What are you working on now?
I’ve got a manuscript of autobiographical family poems called stitch that is on its eighth or ninth life. I started working on that book before Cooling Board and I’ve continued to write new poems and revise it. Every time I think it’s done, I make another major change. We’ll see where it ends. I’ve also got two other projects I can’t say much about right now. Those works, in part, will be a return to persona poetry. One looks at an infamous death in the world of rock’n’roll, the other honors the life of an artist from my hometown,
Last, but not leastly, where do you poets get all that money from? And how can I be down?
Ha! You know there ain't no money in this!!! When folks start making movies after books of poetry, the world will be a better place (lol).
Mitchell is a low-key brother, and I knew he was going to try and play it cool, but Misstra Knowitall was at Jericho Brown's book release party during AWP and has actual visual evidence of all the dollars these poets are clocking!
From left: Jericho Brown, Mitchell Douglas, and Frank X. WalkerDang, I got to write me some poems.
This picture needs an appropriate caption. Ideas?