Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Yusef Komunyakaa - Louisiana Native Poet

I discovered the poetry of Mr. Yusef Komunyakaa when he appeared at the annual Louisiana Book Festival in Baton Rouge a few years ago. I had never previously read his amazing poetry or even knew that he was a Louisiana native.

Mr. Yusef Komunyakaa was born on April 29, 1947 in Bogalusa, Louisiana. I own "Neon Vernacular" for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for Poety in 1994, and I share a few of my favorite poems from this book. I'm going to try to share Louisiana poets and authors at least once a week. I'm proud of my state and it's colorful, amazing heritage.

For anyone interested, the annual Louisiana Book Festival will be Saturday, October 17, 2009 at the beautiful State Capital grounds along the mighty Mississippi River in Baton Rouge. I'll be there! Here's the website listing the authors and poets who'll be attending:


By Yusef Komunyakaa

I take it back.
The crow doesn't have red wings.
They're pages of dust.
The woman in a dark room
takes the barrel of a .357 magnum
out of her mouth, reclines
on your bed, a Helena Rubinstein smile.
I'm sorry, you won't know your father
by his darksome old clothes.
He won't be standing by that tree.
I haven't salted the tail
of a sparrow.
Erase its song from this page.
I haven't seen the moon
fall open at the golden edge of our sleep.
I haven't been there
like the tumor in each of us.
There's no death that can
hold us together like twin brothers
coming home to bury their mother.
I never said there's a book inside
every tree. I never said I know how
the legless beggar feels when
the memory of his toes itch.
If I did, drunkenness
was then my god & naked dancer.
I take it back.
I'm not a suicidal mooncalf;
you don't have to take my shoelaces.
If you must quote me, remember
I said that love heals from inside.


By Yusef Komunyakaa

If an old board laid out in a field
or backyard for a week,
I'd lift it up with a finger,
a tip of a stick.
Once I found a scorpion,
crimson as a hibernating crawfish
as if a rainbow edged underneath;
centipedes & unnameable
insects sank into loam
with a flutter. My first lesson:
beauty can bite. I wanted
to touch scarlet pincers---
warriors that never zapped
their own kind, crowded into
a city cut off from the penalty
of sunlight. The whole rotting
determinism just an inch beneath
the soil. Into the darkness
of opposites, like those racial
fears of the night, I am drawn again,
to conception & birth. Roots of ivy
& farkleberry can hold a board down
to the ground. In this cellular dirt
& calligraphy of excrement,
light is a god-headed
law & weapon.


By Yusef Komunyakaa

Mama Mary's counting them
again. Eleven black. A single
red one like a drop of blood

against the sky. She's convinced
they've been there two weeks.
I bring her another cup of coffee

& a Fig Newton. I sit here reading
Frances Harper at the enamel table
where I ate teacakes as a boy,

my head clear of voices brought back.
The green smell of the low land returns,
stealing the taste of nitrate.

The deep-winter eyes of the birds
shine in summer light like agate,
as if they could love the heart

out of any wild thing. I stop,
with my finger on a word, listening.
They're on a powerline, a luminous

message trailing a phantom
Goodyear blimp. I hear her say
Jesus, I promised you. Now

He's home safe, I'm ready.
My traveling shoes on. My teeth
in. I got on clean underwear.

Dear Faithful Readers: I hope you enjoyed the poems. I tend to get in a rut and only post female poets or very old favorites of mine, so I'm trying to stretch myself and delve deeper into my 189 books of poetry. I'm too 'me' (scatterbrained) to go alphabetically or in any certain order, but I do love my home state and will try hard to educate you all on the poets and authors from my great state which I love. I'll leave you with a few quotes I found in an old journal of mine. Love, Blessings, and Peace,


"Please do not leave me when my moods make me a burden to you. I need to be heard and to be loved. Stay next to me and give me what I have never had." ~Elizabeth Peters

"We are all healed to the extent that we love ourselves as we are right now---blemishes, vulnerabilities and all---not as we wish we will be at some time in the distant future." ~Marsha Sinetar

"Lately it's occurred to me what a long strange trip it's been." ~from: "Truckin'" by the Grateful Dead

"Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself." ~Carl Jung


Pam said...

I absolutely LOVE his poetry! I MUST have that chapbook!!!!!

Rikkij said...

Marion-I could never even pronounce his name (or her)
from Lousiana? I like the poetry. very thoughtful and contemplative. Love the quotes too, though not sure they would all be thrilled to be grouped with Jerry G. I'm gonna come back when I'm not so tired. I really like the poems. Take care, good friend~rick

Woman in a Window said...

OK, that last one especially speaks my language: Fig Newtons, enameltop tables, birds and clean underwear. I'm set now for a journey of my own.

HA! And as I stood at my kitchen sink 20 minutes ago I said aloud to my husband, "What a long strange trip it's been." He was on the telephone with an old friend who we haven't heard from in a decade. Now he is divorced, remarried and has another child. And here we are on the precipice of divorce and renewal. Long strange trip indeed. And you know, I started a family scrapbook years ago...before children with that quote on the inside cover. I never put much in that book, just piled the detritus around, as though I never intended on putting that book together anyway. Huh. Strange.

LOVE the Sinetar quote! Now, not the future. Yes!

Linda S. Socha said...

Ah Marion dear
You hit every bell tonight. I love the new author you introduced to me.

How could one go wrong with Jung and
the Grateful Dead? Elizabeth Peters is a favorite of mine.

Your blog is a breeze with lilacs blowing across the wind. Thank you. I have been gone way too long.. visiting the summer heat and becoming listless with it. For me, glad Fall is on the way!

Marion said...

Pammie, you will love that book. It's actually bigger than a chapbook, it's 178 pages of wonderful poetry. Thanks for stopping by. Hugs and Blessings!

Rick, the poet is a man. I can't pronounce this name either but I think some of his poetry is at YouTube so I'll look it up and see how to pronounce it for y'all. Ah, old Jerry's up on heaven tokin' on a cigar-sized doobie laughing his ass off to be grouped with such a strange group of poets! And maybe he planned the synchronicity of Erin's saying that quote, who knows? Love & Blessings, friend of my heart...

Erin, there are no accidents, right? I laughed when I read your post. It totally made my day about that Garcia quote and the synchronicity of you saying it. It was in my journal along with those other quotes I posted, so I just put it in. Now I know why. I wish you love, luck and peace in your journey, my dear friend. Love & Blessings!!!!

LINDA! It's so GREAT to see you again! I know, it's been a long, hot summer here, too. I get as fat, slow and lazy as a slug in August, not wanting to leave the A/C to even go outside and water my plants or pick a few tomatoes. I've even had my fill of 'maters this year! (No, RICK!) I'm so glad you enjoyed the poetry. I'm longing for Autumn, too, and cool, rainy days. Come back again soon. I miss your writing, too!!! Love, Peace & Blessings!

kj said...


Wine and Words said...

"I stop, with my finger on a word, listening." That's what I do here Marion. And the Elizabeth Peters quote...I feel that aching need for acceptance in every conscious moment. Wish I didn't. I like all your moods Marion. You are fire; sometimes ember, sometimes flame, but always hot!

Kelly said...

I thought this was very interesting poetry. They were all good, but I especially liked the middle one.

Marion said...

Erin, thanks. You and I are two peas in a pod, for sure. (I feel that quote, too, and I often wonder why God made me this way. I've had so many 'friends' desert me who didn't take the time to understand me...) Sometimes when I read your poetry it's like looking into a mirror and seeing my soul in black and white and it startles the hell out of me (in a good way, of course), but it holds that awful loneliness at bay while I'm reading, for a little while. It's those moments that keep me keeping on. I'm so happy we met and have become friends. Every poet needs other poets to hold them up. You do that for me and I love you for it. Blessings, dear poet-friend of my heart....

Kelly, I'm glad you enjoyed the poems. It's hard for me to pick a favorite of his. Thanks for stopping by, girlfriend...Love & Blessings!

Renee said...

Marion it is always so powerful to come here.

Marion exactly. I agree with your comment completly on my post. Hypocrites the lot of them.

Love Renee xoxo

Marion said...

Thanks, Renee. I love you! Blessings---

Serena said...

Fabulous poetry! Sure wish I were going to the book fair with you. What a great experience that will be.

Marion said...

Thanks, SJ. I'm praying for good weather for it. You never know around here! I'm looking forward to making a fool of myself hugging on Rick Bragg again and taking photos. LOL! Blessings!