From Publishers Weekly
) achieved his genuine national eminence with poems about his service in the Vietnam War and about the African-American culture of the rural South; his recent work has turned his spare, bluesy inflections to subjects from world history and myth. This strong, often harrowing 14th collection brings his own memories and his global aspirations together through the grim lens of current events, especially the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pulitzer-winner Komunyakaa opens with sonnets about conquests ancient and modern, fought on horseback or with bullets & grenades. Poems in the center of the volume continue the sad look at warriors, victims and international conflict throughout history, from the Cossack gunner// trying to light the cannon fuse to a careful poem whose shape imitates the twin towers. The most ambitious, longest and least guarded poem comes last: Autobiography of my Alter Ego is a confessional poem spoken by a fictional Vietnam veteran: a bartender at the Chimera Club/ for twenty-some-odd years, this alter ego delivers, in syncopated two-part lines, a clutch of profound statements about America, history, memory, guilt and experience that are at once personal and national. Late in the sequence, the poem considers Abu Ghraib: here's the skin/ growing over a wound,/ & this is flesh interrogating a stone. (Oct.)
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*Starred Review* Pulitzer Prize winner Komunyakaa has been one of our greatest war poets ever since his service in Vietnam, writing with supple imagination, offhanded erudition, and steely intent. In this piercing collection, he aligns the deep past with the surging present to take measure of humanity’s insistence on war and willingness to inflict and suffer the deep and abiding wounds of combat generation after generation. But there are no platitudes here. Komunyakaa crafts metaphors and images of shocking precision and startling intensity that reveal unexpected connections and brutal ruptures. In writing about the valor and fate of warhorses, and of a dolphin trained to carry explosives, Komunyakaa traces the insidious ripple effect of our military habit. In the section titled “Love in the Time of War,” he writes of the mysterious interplay of violence and love, the paradoxical pairing of pain and beauty. In “Heavy Metal,” Komunyakaa gauges the ever-evolving machinery of war and its never-changing results, describing the bizarre yet archaic drama of riding into Baghdad in tanks like “bloated replicas of horned beetles.” Concluding with the magnificent and harrowing soldier’s story, “Autobiography of My Alter Ego,” Komuyakaa’s sixteenth book is galvanizing in its fury and decisive in its rare power. --Donna Seaman