The emperor of water clocks – Discovering a poet feels like discovering a treasure: in my case, I owe the discovery to a friend of exquisite poetic tastes. Yusef Komunyakaa is a unique and different voice: I know that the consensus is that this can be said of each and every poet, although I must simply disagree with this. Adrienne Rich, Thomas Tranströmmer, Seamus Heany are all in that category that Walt Whitman would preside over if it weren’t for the fact that Whitman’s voice is the exhalation of a different soul as well: what is distinct in Whitman is his person; his voice simply follows him beyond. Yusef has written like no other about war ); hearing him recite his poetry is an experience similar to hearing Homer recite the Iliad, only Homer was not in Troy. Komunyakaa’s muscles were drenched in Vietnamese sweat and horror, his mind plunged into the jungle and resurfaced. And then he wrote.
This most recent collection of his poems is different, and it goes to show that Yusef is an integral poet: he can write about anything. Some of these poems (Islands, dedicated to Derek Walcott, or Iron Work, and more) are directly perfect. Others are content to be interesting and mind-opening. If you’ve read enough, you’ll be able to grasp his references and get to the heart of the poem, and that, my friend, was the stated reason for Whitman’s greatest pride: to get to the heart of a poem.
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