From Publishers Weekly
A professor in the council of the humanities and creative writing at Princeton University, a recently elected chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and a new addition to the Farrar, Straus & Giroux list, Komunyakaa certainly deserves this valedictory volume, collecting his work over a little more than 20 years for Wesleyan and including some new and previously uncollected work. The new poems here should not be confused with the speedy quatrains of Talking Dirty to the Gods, Komunyakaa's 11th book and his debut for FSG last September (Forecasts, July 17, 2000). In this 12th collection's compressed format, which does not break the page at the end of a poem before starting another, the new work takes up about 25 pages, but is really almost a short collection's worth of material. It's reminiscent of 1998's Thieves of Paradise with its heady mix of gothic foreboding, racial history and realpolitik, biblical and Attic allusion, and sexual longing. The previously "Early Uncollected" work (about 15 pages' worth) shows Komunyakaa's signature Olson/Ginsberg/Berrigan ampersand in place and clarifies a debt to the late '60s deep image school. But most readers will want this book for its alternatingly erudite and feral energy and its truth telling about Vietnam (see Dien Cai Dau and others) and America. (Mar.)Forecast: This volume replaces Neon Vernacular, Komunyakaa's 1993 selected, and seems designed to ride on the coattails of the poet's jump to trade visibility, which included a Poets & Writers cover profile last year. It will be a steady seller via creative writing and 20th-century literature syllabi and with readers who will be looking for previous collections after discovering Talking Dirty and future volumes.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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From Library Journal
"You try to beat loneliness/ out of a drum, searching for a note/ of kindness." Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for Neon Vernacular, but perhaps best known for Dien Cai Dau, poems chronicling his experiences as a journalist in Vietnam, Komunyakaa is one of this generation's most remarkable poets. This hefty volume makes it clear just why, gathering 25 years of work, the matter of ten previous books, as well as new poems and heretofore uncollected pieces. Komunyakaa's poetry celebrates a wide range of ideas; he is well known for writing about his Southern roots, about the streets and the clouds on which he walks, about the war, and about music, especially jazz. What he writes about best, though, may be women: one or another from his past is often the touchstone for a poem, providing its core and essence. Lovers and friends, family and figments of fantasy, women picked up on the street, with or without their knowledge, all thread through these pages. Nearly every page of these collected poems will pull you from your expectations, tell you something you did not know, and leave you better off than you were. Highly recommended. Louis McKee, Painted Bride Arts Ctr., Philadelphia
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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