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Warhorses: Poems Hardcover – September 30, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (September 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374286434
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374286439
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,977,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Komunyakaa (Taboo) 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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From Booklist

*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

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ann B. Keller on February 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Yusef Komunyakaa, does not disappoint. This riveting and emotional collection of poems dealing with the horror and destruction of war is incredibly moving. The images Mr. Komunyakaa describes plunge the reader into the midst of the conflict. Backpedaling in terror, I found myself wanting to set this book aside, but I could not. Like a soldier, I had to see the battle to its fateful conclusion.

I especially liked the ending segment, Autobiography Of My Alter Ego. This section read very much like a soldier's diary, organizing the writer's reflections of his home life with the bloody stench of war. Anyone who has ever gone into battle will easily envision himself or herself in this collection. The tragic destruction of human life painstakingly rendered in Warhorses will remain in the reader's mind long after the final page has been turned.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Reader on November 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is the most powerful book of poems I've read from an American poet this year. Alive, painful, beautiful. Komunyakaa is a master.
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you can't stand these poems down eye to eye in a staring contest. before you finish reading the first poem you are doomed, and you will have flinched, totally captured. these poems are not about staring contests. men die in these poems. in these poems men die in wars. love for the man returning from the battlefield can be as hard as the instruments of war, the instruments of personal destruction, the blade of the sword, the exploding grenade, the unflinching stone meeting the body.

the first section of Warhorses, Love in the Time of War, is a series of fourteen sonnets, tracking the history of the obduracy of love in war moments from the bible and the Iliad to the young widow's bedroom of the present.

the second section Heavy Metal is a history of flesh made thing. carnage of horses in battles becomes reflections and depictions of artists from the caves of lascaux to picasso's guernica.

in the title poem Warhorses clay horses of a Chinese army are excavated, a horse flies, and a centaur is born from stone, and finally the horse becomes horse power in the metal of an engine as instruments of destruction. Warhorses, the poem, is intended to be a performance piece with saw horses on the stage, a nod toward louis zukofsky's saw horses in his book A, the view of a saw horse seen from either end.

the third section, Autobiography of my Alter Ego, is a narrative of a young man who goes to war and returns home to leave home and live out his days in the hard company of his war ghosts, told in broken lines as though mocking the heroic of the couplet. the survivor as witness to war, returned home, wants not to flinch before the faces of love; yet flinching is what flesh, horse or human, does.
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