The Chameleon Couch (Komunyakaa)

I’ve so often heard poets talk in reverent tones about Komunyakaa that I finally had to discover him for myself. And. . . they were right. What amazing words. His poems are compact and powerful. I am trying to find a way to formulate a description of his style. It’s not that he moves from the specific and the general, so much as he moves between them. And ‘general’ is not right. Perhaps it’s the way he moves between the small moment and the larger issue. And it is definitely the way he can capture absolute truth in such a succinct way: “Sometimes / we all wish we could put words back into our mouths” (“A Voice on the Answering Machine”). Or, “[I]n the final analysis, / a good thought is the simplest food” (“Begotten”). Or the self-awareness of “When it comes to defending love, / I can make a lyre drag down the moon & stars / but it’s still hard to talk of earthly things – / ordinary men killing ordinary men, / women, & children” (“Orpheus at the Second Gate of Hades”).

There are worlds in these poems; find them.


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