Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems

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An award-winning poet's testimony of the war in Vietnam.
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Overview

An award-winning poet's testimony of the war in Vietnam.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This collection is comprised of poems from seven of Komunyakaa's previous collections. A master at interweaving memory and history to shape his experiences into narratives, Komunyakaa enriches his poems with details: ``His fingernails are black/ & torn from blows,/ as if the hammer/ declares its own angle of reference.'' Music has its special force with a rhythm that seems to enforce meaning: ``Heartstring. Blessed wood/ and every moment the thing's made of:/ ball of fatback/ licked by fingers of fire.'' As an African American, Komunyakaa defines a culture with striking imagery that is often misunderstood by mainstream readers. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries. --Lenard D. Moore, United Arts Council of Raleigh & Wake Cty., N.C.
Pat Monaghan
Selections from seven earlier books together with a dozen new poems make this a valuable addition to the contemporary poetry shelf. Komunyakaa is drawn to formal experiment. Many of his poems invent their natural form as they go along, and that form expresses the content; e.g., a compressed double-column of verse captures two women dancing together, a dimeter line draws in the blues in a "hoodoo chant." What remains most vivid in Komunyakaa's work, over his many collections, is his compassion, whether it be for a raped stepchild, a gangbanger, or even an enemy soldier. Collected, this work shows its strength.
From the Publisher
“Quite simply, Komunyakaa is one of the most extraordinary poets writing today…He takes on the most complex moral issues, the most harrowing ugly subjects of our American life. His voice, whether it embodies the specific experiences of a black man, a soldier in Vietnam, or a child in Bogalusa, Louisiana, is universal. It shows us in ever deeper ways what it is to be human.”—Toi Derricotte, Kenyon Review

“Yusef Komunyakaa is a poet whose work, over ten years and many books, continues to grow in complexity and beauty, Neon Vernacular includes some of the best Vietnam testimony, in verse or prose, that I’ve ever read. Komunyakaa’s whole oeuvre explores and re/members the double consciousness at work in the construction of African-American male identity.”—Marilyn Hacker, The Nation

“This collection is comprised of poems from seven of Komunyakaa’s previous collections. A master at interweaving memory and history to shape his experiences into narratives, he enriches his poems with details . . . As an African American, he defines a culture with striking imagery that is often misunderstood by mainstream readers. Highly recommended”—Library Journal

“Komunyakaa’s best poems are jazzy and improvisational, razor-sharp pieces that tell us more about our culture than any news broadcast”—Bloomsbury Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819522085
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 4/30/1993
  • Series: Wesleyan Poetry Series
  • Pages: 188

Meet the Author

YUSEF KOMUNYAKAA is a professor in the Council of Humanities and Creative Writing at Princeton University. He is the author of seven Wesleyan titles including Pleasure Dome: New and Collected Poems (2001), Thieves of Paradise (1998), Magic City (1992), and Dien Cai Dau (1988).

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2000

    Some real gems

    I saw the author present one of the poems in this collection, 'Blue Light Lounge Sutra...' at a reading. He performed it with the gusto and passion you might find in a rock star singing his best song on a night when everything seems to come together. He read the poem from memory without pausing in his speech except to enhance its jazz-like rhythm. Immediately afterwards, the audience broke its habit of staying subdued and silent until the end of a reading to applaud spontaneously. This, I think, best describes the feelings Komunyakaa conjures when he is at his best. Although there are many strong poems in this collection, even on the page 'Blue Light Lounge Sutra...' obviously stands out. Other notables include 'Chair Gallows' and 'You and I Are Disappearing.'

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