ARC Fellows: D’mani Thomas


By D’mani Thomas, 2021/22 Poetry & the Senses Community Fellow

When approaching this idea of coexistence, I found my thoughts being magnetized towards nature. Ecological doom. Water wars. Resource scarcity/ hoarding. Anthropocentrism at its finest. After being in cohort with folks and after being given some space to pick through the ways coexistence exists…I started thinking about horror.

Yes, horror in the jump scare/ Freddy Krueger/ dark basement sense. Why horror? For some of us, horror isn’t a genre. It’s a status quo. I think horror is one of many genres that accurately represent the place we are at as humans. If we stop thinking about things by cinematically categorizing them (genre, tropes, etc…) then we arrive at concepts like racially motivated, or stereotypical. In short: if a trope from “The Birth of A Nation” (1915) still exists, then maybe we haven’t advanced as far as we’d like to believe.

With that in mind, we can look towards more organizational things like genre and tropes. I’ve been thinking a lot about some (large emphasis on some) of my favorite horror pieces: Buffy the vampire slayer & Freddy Krueger. (I actually hate Freddy Krueger as a character, but he’s interesting).

For those unfamiliar, Buffy the vampire slayer follows a teen girl, Buffy, and her journey discovering that she is a slayer: a supernatural being that is supposed to protect the world. I think about Buffy a lot, but in this instance, there are so many genres and subgenres present.

Vampire slayers
Teenage girls
Kids having to save the world
Falling in love with monsters

Buffy ends up falling in loving with a few vampires. How do you co-exist with the thing that you are chosen to kill? How do you save the world while taking classes? How do you enroll in a line of work that could kill everyone around you? If you replace Buffy with Black people, those questions are the same. If you replace Buffy with another marginalized group, those questions remain the same as well but obviously require some nuance in every instance.

I have more thoughts about this, but those might end up being a chapbook/ series of poems. I wrote a poem about vampires and their predatory behaviors. Maybe I’ll include a segment below

According to traditional understandings of queerness, Dracula is one of us
An opportunistic bi-sexual says blood is blood & plumes sex, so red 
we call him ember lips, I mean dior cape and latest Louii, either sir sucks 
a lot is         yanno or… he has a trust fund from his bat parents. 

A gaggle of feathers told me he yassed on some cutie last friday & last 
thursday & the night before. Mr. Count caught circling college dorms like
seagulls over marina bay. 

Now         i’m like 60% sure Mr. nocturnal is a nymphomaniac & 
after hearing his latest meal’s voice squeak, I ask , can an 18 year old 
consent when a 500 year old heart eyes hypnosis?

That’s all I have to say for now.

D’mani Thomas is a Black visual theorist, horror enthusiast, and writer from Oakland, California (Ohlone territory). D’mani has received fellowships from The Watering Hole, Foglifter literary journal, and Bakanal de Afrique via Afro Urban Society. When he’s not writing, find him watching horror movie trailers, drinking smoothies, or reading YouTube spoilers for movies he has no attention span for.  D’mani’s work has been published by The Auburn Avenue, The Ana, MARY: A Journal of New Writing, Shade Literary Arts, and his poem, “Survival Tactics” was recently shortlisted for the 2020 Penrose Poetry Prize. His current work obsesses over what it means to create intimacy under total surveillance.

Note: Over the course of the fall semester, each 2021-22 ARC Fellow will submit a short blog post relating to the theme coexistence. We hope you will enjoy these short readings! Poetry and the Senses creates meaningful opportunities for engagement, research, and collaboration. This multi-year initiative explores the relevance and urgency of lyrical making and storytelling in times of political crisis, and the value of engaging the senses as an act of care, mindfulness, and resistance. To learn more about the program, click here.