Douglas Manuel's Trouble Funk is sharkskin and unfiltered cigs, blue-lit basements and sedans with wings, the bop and slow drag and every street corner where strangers lift their voices to make song. It's a preacher goodfootin' across the pulpit and blue screams from both sides of a closed door. Trouble Funk is the quintessential soundtrack for the era that scarred and blessed the best of us, it's a DJ spinning stanzas of fam, the trials of manhood, God's glory in the body, and the unquestioned ferocity of black love. As defined within its pages, Trouble Funk  "is funk. Is rock. Is blues. Is jazz. Is ragtime. Is work song. In short: is Black, always Black on both sides all the way down."

--Patricia Smith

Douglas Manuel’s Trouble Funk curates a compelling soundtrack for the lives of Damon and Denise, a couple living in Indiana from 1964 to 1987. This is a rich and original collection of documentary poetry, including artifacts of music, dress, and news––from Jheri curls and afros, bell bottoms, Pall Malls and roller rinks to the hostage crisis, the Klan, police brutality, drugs, and violence. With powerful rhythms and a multitude of vivid details, fragments, dialogue, and historical markers, Manuel bears clear-eyed and compassionate witness to hope and heartache, tragedy and reclamation.  Each poem is titled with a song and date, so you can be fully immersed in the experience, both reading and listening to the music. This is poetry that makes you care, poetry that: “Is funk. Is rock. Is blues. Is jazz. Is ragtime. Is work song. In short: is Black, always Black on both sides, all the way down.”

--Ellen Bass


In these stunning poems of love and longing, Douglas Manuel offers us richly textured lyrics inspired by three decades of Black music, refreshing nostalgic beats. This book is a playlist for Black joy and perseverance, each line smooth as Soul Train and studded with sonic delights. I will carry these playful, resonant poems with me--"lift and flit, lift and flit"--catching their sweet signal, like late-night radio in the wee hours.

--Kiki Petrosino

"In his breathtaking debut, Testify, Douglas Manuel charts the raw emotional complexities and the impossible daily reckonings that confront a young black man coming of age today in America. Faced at every turn with condescending, fixed assumptions about his 'proper' role in his community and culture, the speaker faces each indictment with a stunning and searing intelligence. Each powerful testimony in this collection stands as evidence of an eloquent and dramatic new voice in American poetry."

--David St. John

"In Douglas Manuel's Testify the act of witnessing is by turns burdensome and bittersweet, narrative and lyrical, ecstatic and irreverent. Here the holy words are the ones that offer no easy epiphanies yet grant us dazzling, off-kilter compassion and a strange, surprising grace. These potent poems testify to those ambivalent moments that might rend or right us, as when an interracial couple drive past a truck with a Confederate flag painted on its back windshield and from which a little boy turns to smile and wave: his 'blond hair // split down the middle like a Bible / left open to the Book of Psalms.'"

--Anna Journey, author of The Atheist Wore Goat Silk

A book of elegiac ambivalence, Testify's speaker often finds himself trapped between received binaries: black and white, ghetto and suburban, atheism and Catholicism. In many ways, this work is a Bildungsroman detailing the maturation of a black man raised in the crack-laden 1980s, with hip-hop, jazz, and blues as its soundtrack. Rendered with keen attention to the economic decline of the Midwest due to the departure of the automotive industry, this book portrays the speaker wrestling with his city's demise, family relationships, interracial love, and notions of black masculinity. Never letting anyone, including the speaker, off the hook, Testify refuses sentimentality and didacticism and dwells in a space of uncertainty, where meaning and identity are messy, complicated, and multivalent.

ABOUT ME

Douglas Manuel was born in Anderson, Indiana and now resides in Long Beach, California. He received a BA in Creative Writing from Arizona State University, an MFA in poetry from Butler University, and a PhD in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of
Southern California. His first collection of poems, Testify, won an IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award for poetry, and his poems and essays can be found in numerous literary journals, magazines, and websites, most recently Zyzzyva, Pleiades, and the New Orleans Review. He has traveled to Egypt and Eritrea with The University of Iowa's International Writing Program to teach poetry. A recipient of the Dana Gioia Poetry Award and a fellowship from the Borchard Foundation Center on Literary Arts, he is a Bayard Rustin Fellow at Whittier College and teaches at Spalding University’s low-res MFA program.  


CONTACT

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Writings

Poetry
Are You Single?
New Orleans Review
Read Here
Cosmic Slop
Indianapolis Review
Read Here
Weak at the Knees
Indianapolis Review
Read Here
Best of My Love, One Nation Under a Groove, Dazz, Make Up Your Mind, and Get up to Get Down
Konch Magazine
Read Here
Flashlight
Moria
Read Here
Slippin' into Darkness
Moria
Read Here
Fire
Moria
Read Here
My Brother Smoked Rocks With a Qur’an at His Feet
San Francisco Chronicle (Datebook)
Read Here
Loud Looks
Vandal Poem of the Day
Read Here
Testify
Poetry Foundation
Read Here
Washing Palms
Poetry Foundation
Read Here
Feels Like Rain | The First Time I See My Father's Blood Cleaned
Figure 1
Read Here
Whose Little Boy Are You? | Little Fires Left by Travelers
Superstition [review]
Read Here
Heading Down | Goodnight Baby
New Orleans Review
Read Here
Entreaties
MMM online, vol XI, 2014
Read Here
Prose
For Every Lie I Unlearn: Ode to a First Born Due (After Emily Dickinson)
Red Canary
Read Here
LA COVID Letter (Mine is below Victoria Chang's)
Zyzzyva
Read Here
Requiem for a Nest: L.A. Blueswoman Wanda Coleman
Spalding MFA Blog
Read Here
Three Poems of the Last Decade for the New Decade
Spalding MFA Blog
Read Here
Where Do Poems Come From?
Spalding MFA Blog
Read Here
If We Just Listen, We Can All Hear Ghosts
Poets & Writers
Read Here
Of Aging, Blackness, Lies, and Memory
Spalding MFA Blog
Read Here
Book Review: The Book of Lamenting By Lory Bedikian
The Los Angeles Review
Read Here
In the Between
Superstition Review
Read Here
The Trenchant Is Poetic: Notes On “Washing Palms”
North American Review
Read Here
Punchlist, Week Of 7/9/12
Punchel's
Read Here
“A poem is a type of prayer…”
Butler Blog
Read Here

Media

Featured

Poetry.LA Interview with Ron L. Dowell.

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Praise, Even in Fallibility: A Conversation with Dexter L. Booth and Douglas Manuel

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Poetry.LA interview with Ruth Madievsky

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Poetry.LA Interview with Diana Arterian

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Poetry.LA Interview with Michelle Brittan Rosado

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Poetry.LA interview with Will Alexander

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Conversation with Rebecca Byrkit about Testify

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Poetry Salon Podcast Series with Tresha Faye Haefner

I host a serial podcast discussing poetry with Tresha at the Poetry Salon
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Conversation with Dexter L. Booth and F. Douglas Brown

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Conversation with Jason Schneiderman and Ron Koertge

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Conversation with Ricardo Cortez Cruz

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Conversation with Jason Schneiderman and Ellen Bass

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Douglas Manuel Poetry Reading with Felicia Zamora

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Interviewed by Natalie Solmer at the Indianapolis Review

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Interviewed by Emmanuel Jones at the Quaker

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Douglas Manuel Reading and Panel for Gold Line/Ricochet Editions: Place, Body, Memory

I start reading at about 31:27, and there is a Q&A afterwards.
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Douglas Manuel Interview and Reading for Poetry.LA

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Black Voices: Kathryn H. Ross and Douglas Manuel in Conversation on What it Means to Be Black in America

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Black Lives Matter: Writers Talk Back

Red Hen Press and the USC Dornsife Department of English will host a virtual roundtable conversation titled Black Lives Matter: Writers Talk Back, featuring authors and poets Ishmael Reed, Danzy Senna, and Douglas Manuel moderated by Dana Johnson.
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Red Hen Press Poetry Hour: The Broad Stage at Home

I go on a little after the 41 minute mark.
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Douglas Manuel Reading at Los Angeles Writers Resist 2020

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25 Year Anniversary of Red Hen Press Article

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Douglas Manuel Interview for The Poetry Saloncast

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Douglas Manuel Interviewed by Moira Literary Magazine

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Douglas Manuel Reading Hillsides Student Work and His Poem"Heading Down"

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Douglas Manuel Reading "This Poem Isn't Black" at the Poetry Circus

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Douglas Manuel Reading "Entreaties" at Method and Mystery Book Launch

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Douglas Manuel interviews Percival Everett

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"Are You Ready to Help the Parents of this Child in their Duty as Christian Parents?"

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Archive

Douglas Manuel on being a Sensitivity Reader

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International Writing Program Eritrea Article 2

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International Writing Program Eritrea Article 1

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The International Writing Program Lines & Spaces 2018 Egypt/Eritrea Tour

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PEN America Podcast Interview

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Windward School Article about Douglas Manuel Teaching

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Fear No Lit. Tour Grind: Douglas Manuel Interview

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IBPA article: Getting There: Why Indie Publishers are Well-Positioned to Satisfy the Need for Diverse Voices

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Douglas Manuel on Poets Cafe

Audio and full transcript of my Poets Cafe interview.
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IBPA Benjamin Franklin Poetry Award Acceptance Speech

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Enclave To-Read Pile

Some of my must read books for April 2018.
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Poets Cafe KPFK Interview 2/4/18

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Eugene Weekly Best of 2017 List for Poetry (Testify on page 17)

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Daily Trojan Interview (Summer 2017)

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KMSU Weekly Reader Interview (Spring 2017)

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Writers Resist: Los Angeles (I go on at 1:28:32ish in the video)

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Douglas Manuel interviews the poet Ginny Wiehardt

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Celebrating Collaboration

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Events

Upcoming

No Upcoming Events

Past

Poetry Reading at 6 PM

Bel Canto Books in Long Beach
December 13, 2019
2122 E. Fourth St. Long Beach, CA 90814
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Book Signing from 4-5 PM

Book Soup Bookstore
December 14, 2019
8818 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069
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Poetry Reading at 1 PM

Beyond Baroque
January 19, 2020
681 Venice Blvd, Venice, CA 90291
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Poetry Reading and Lecture at 4:30 PM

California State University Bakersfield - Antelope Valley Campus
February 19, 2020
43909 30th St W, Lancaster, CA 93536
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Poetry Reading at 7:30 PM

Barrio Barista
March 4, 2020
3735 Culebra Rd. San Antonio, Texas
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Poetry Panel at 12:10 PM

AWP 2020
March 6, 2020
Room 217C, Henry B. González Convention Center, Meeting Room Level
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Poetry Panel at 1:45 PM

AWP 2020
March 6, 2020
Room 206A, Henry B. González Convention Center, Meeting Room Level
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Poetry Reading at 6:30 PM

Freetail Brewing Co.
March 6, 2020
2000 S Presa St, San Antonio, TX 78210
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Poetry Reading at 4:30 PM

University of Southern California
March 12, 2020
Taper Hall 111
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Poetry Reading at 3 PM

Red Hen Press (The Hen House)
April 4, 2020
1540 Lincoln Ave, Pasadena, CA 91103
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Poetry Reading and Salon at 12:30 PM

Whittier College
April 13, 2020
13406 E, Philadelphia St, Whittier, CA 90602
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