... distinctive music, a sometimes mellifluous, sometimes cacophonous polyphony ... The poetry he has published in the past couple of decades is pleasingly diverse and adventurous. At the same time, Komunyakaa, 74, has achieved a distinctive, recognizable and unifying style. The poems in this new book engage in various formal and thematic experiments—and yet the works embody the same spirit and sing with the same voice. Komunyakaa’s poems are as contemporary as poems can be: Some of them feel as if they were written a day, a year or a decade from now. At the same time, they draw liberally on historical, mythical or biblical sources ... Komunyakaa tends to reach peak intensity in longer works that afford him the space to stretch out, gather momentum and amplify resonances ... To praise Komunyakaa’s longer pieces is not to minimize the accomplishment of his shorter poems ... In an era when there is great temptation to offer consoling sentiments, Komunyakaa dares to disturb.
Komunyakaa can elicit a startling wealth of resonances from a single word. He continues to do so in this book, though most of the newest poems bring his familiar subjects and techniques into a slightly more subdued, pared-down register ... Music pours through ... This new selected continues to bear out that no one has described conflict and all its collateral as probingly as Komunyakaa ... Komunyakaa’s bracing range of interrelated subjects...often change register and perspective not just between pages but between sentences—much as what is in one’s brain can change from second to second ... In Komunyakaa’s hands, quatrains can snap into epigrammatic closure or wheel about into a new direction[.]
Was it John Coltrane who said, 'I don’t play jazz I play John Coltrane'? You are not simply writing 'jazz poems' at this point, you are writing 'Yusef Komunyakaa' ... Everyday Mojo Songs of Earth got me thinking about the continuous motion between learning and knowing ... I’ve learned to look forward to the things I don’t know—the room left inside a Yusef poem ... Debates over the key Komunyakaa poem always include 'Facing It,' 'Venus’s-flytraps,' 'Anodyne.”'This new book only makes the debate more impossible to resolve. And the poem 'Fortress' is reason enough to reread everything I’ve read before. How did I miss that poem? I shudder to think how much beauty is covered by blind spots ... The work of the hands was to be part of whatever path opened before your clairvoyantly counseled fifteen-year-old self. I rejoice that they make such poems.
Yusef Komunyakaa crafts his poetry so precisely that every word evokes transformation. Poem after poem excites like treasure chests, with every word a precious gem ... Komunyakaa’s poems read like meditations. Images flow and weave into elegant narratives. Line breaks are refined reinforce cadence. Subjects such as war, terrorism, sex, and nature are transformed into profound sentiments, with each poem creating new feeling. He is also skilled at shaping poems to reflect content ... This is a very thorough collection from a Pulitzer Prize winner. Everyone will find poems to remember and adore.
The nimble verses of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa...brim with erudition. But Komunyakaa’s vast scholarly interests—ancient myths, historical figures and botanical studies—intersect with the mundane and vernacular ... His childhood memories of the segregated South account for some of the book’s strongest poems ... Komunyakaa often returns to the tension between learned knowledge and the intuitive knowing that comes from one’s earthly experience ... Some of these riveting verses join intimacy with death ... [a] clipped, rhythmic style ... When pared down, as in the war sonnets...such musicality takes on a more somber, dirge-like tone ... poetry’s highest calling isn’t truth-telling, after all, but instead stirring our empathic imagination.
It is always a pleasure to read the poems of a writer who has an ear for language and an eye for form, a voice of their own, and an interest in a world beyond the reach of their own person. I suppose this should be a commonplace expectation for any contemporary poet, but it’s actually a rare combination these days. And so this new collection from Komunyakaa is heartening: it simultaneously satisfies and challenges the reader to move outward ... Each section has its own distinctive character ... The jazz and pop of his lines, the erudition of his references, the breadth of his vision, resonate with echoes of Walt Whitman’s multitudes.
A generous selection ... The poet exercises his distinctive ability to unite past with present, the personal with the universal ... Komunyakaa’s economical mode of expression nevertheless gives full play to the weight, depth, and musicality of his subjects ... For those unfamiliar with Komunyakaa, this volume offers a rich sampling of his postmillennial work. For his fans, it further enforces his reputation as an important and necessary American poet.
Redolent with references and deep with imagery, Everyday Mojo Songs of Earth...is the kind of rich and challenging work readers have come to expect from the internationally known poet. The newest poems traffic beautifully in the language of the body, of blood and sweat and what it means to work, the toll labor takes, and the lives we construct as time passes us ... if you are considering this publication solely for new work, the book has little to offer ... If you are new to Komunyakaa, though, this is an excellent primer on one of the most important working American poets.
... an impressive new volume by Pulitzer Prize–winner Komunyakaa. The new work ushers the reader into the rhythmic meditations on topics that include racial violence, memory, and the duality of moments that are both ephemeral and timeless ... These new works are followed by a solid representation of the last two decades of the poet’s rich oeuvre, replete with his signature, striking, unexpected imagery and lyricism. Komunyakaa’s gift for beautifully revealing the godly alongside the earthly, the realistic alongside the surreal, is superbly showcased in this well-curated and essential collection.
... this dazzling collection makes a definitive case for the Pulitzer Prize–winning Komunyakaa as a monumental and singular American voice. A jazzy master of enjambment and arresting opening lines, Komunyakaa synthesizes natural history, myth, and wide-ranging intellectual curiosity into sensory acts of witness. Rarely has lyrical precision felt this muscular ... His connoisseurship of blues, soul, and jazz is vividly rendered ... In this roving survey of history and nature, violence often meets beauty, but Komunyakaa never forgets how 'The body remembers/ every wish one lives for or doesn’t.'