The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet offers 12 new poems and selections from his celebrated collections published over the last 20 years, addressing subjects such as war, race, music, Greek mythology and every day miracles.
... 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.
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.
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[.]