Thieves of Paradise

Thieves of Paradise

by Yusef Komunyakaa
     
 

The collection centers on the disorienting experiences of the returning soldier, experiences that reverberate through the 'Quatrains for Ishi,' a personal address to the sole survivor of an ancient race, and 'The Glass Ark,' a conversation between male and female paleontologists working in the glass observation room at La Brea Tar Pits.  See more details below

Overview

The collection centers on the disorienting experiences of the returning soldier, experiences that reverberate through the 'Quatrains for Ishi,' a personal address to the sole survivor of an ancient race, and 'The Glass Ark,' a conversation between male and female paleontologists working in the glass observation room at La Brea Tar Pits.

Editorial Reviews

New Yorker
The central subjects of Komunyakaa's poetry — his experiences in the Vietnam War and as an African-American male — have always been made compelling in his hands, and equally compelling has been the moodily energetic, jazz-inspired improvisatory technique that he employs with increasing mastery. But what is most graftifying about Komunyakaa's surrealist riffs, with their almost hallucinatory lushness, is their power to convince us that the individual imagination is more than equal to the most excruciating historical burden.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this first collection since his Pulitzer Prize-winning Neon Vernacular: New & Selected Poems, Komunyakaa brings his lush, propulsive, myth-making language to a wide range of subjects: Charlie Parker and Ishi; the California Indian; the wildlife of Australia and South Africa. All are the title's 'thieves,' casing the joint and then snatching the bliss brought to us by the senses: 'the lips,/salt & honeycomb on the tongue.../ how everything begs/ blood into song & prayer/ inside an egg.' Such pleasures are found and taken despite the lingering pain of Vietnam, where 'the earth swings on a bellrope, limp as a body bag tied to a limb, and the moon overflows with blood,' and the dark history of Western culture. 'The Tally,' a brilliant reckoning of 18th-century trade, reveals the taint even intellectual history bears: 'They're counting nails,/ barrels of salt pork,/ sacks of tea and sugar.../ They're uncrating hymnals,/ lace, volumes of Hobbes,/ Rousseau & kegs of rum./ ...They're counting women/ & men.' But Komunyakaa, a Princeton professor, also finds resonance in that culture, invoking Pascal, Goya and 'The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam' as sources of meaning and joy, along with 'Cracker Jacks' and 'Art Tatum's keys.' Here, as in the work of kindred spirits the Beats, a deliberately raw poetry is fruitfully thrown in with the cooked. The resulting vision of paradise -- 'the same feeling that drives/ sap through mango leaves,/ up into the fruit's sweet/ flesh & stony pit' is a compelling one.
The New Yorker
The central subjects of Komunyakaa's poetry -- his experiences in the Vietnam War and as an African-American male -- have always been made compelling in his hands, and equally compelling has been the moodily energetic, jazz-inspired improvisatory technique that he employs with increasing mastery. But what is most graftifying about Komunyakaa's surrealist riffs, with their almost hallucinatory lushness, is their power to convince us that the individual imagination is more than equal to the most excruciating historical burden.
From the Publisher

"What is most gratifying about Komunyakaa's [poems] . . . is their power to convince us that the individual imagination is more than equal to the most excruciating historical burden." —New Yorker

"Komunyakaa is a poet of the human heart, in all its joys and horrors, fiercely present as it pounds awy at the center of every human being's consciousness. He enlarges our idea of what poetry is, challenging us to go beyond our own narrow definitions . . . Buy it now, find your own peaceful corner of our shared and imperfect paradise, and prepare yourself to be robbed of all you thought you knew, to experience criminal bliss." —Washington Post Book World

"Komunyakaa's heroic attempt to reconcile so many different cultural manifestations, tendencies, and influences reveals nothing short of a desire to heal, through both confrontation and empathy, the wounds of history ."—American Book Review

"In this first collection since his Pulitzer Prize-winning Neon Vernacular: New & Selected Poems (1994), Komunyakaa brings his lush, propulsive, myth-making language to a wide range of subjects: Charlie Parker and Ishi; the California Indian; the wildlife of Australia and South Africa.... Here, as in the work of kindred spirits the Beats, a deliberately raw poetry is fruitfully thrown in with the cooked. The resulting vision of paradise -- 'the same feeling that drives/ sap through mango leaves,/ up into the fruit's sweet/ flesh & stony pit' -- is a compelling one."—Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780819563309
Publisher:
Wesleyan University Press
Publication date:
03/13/1998
Series:
Wesleyan Poetry Series
Pages:
136
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.69(d)

Meet the Author

YUSEF KOMUNYAKAA is a professor in the creative writing department at New York University. He has won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and many other awards for poetic achievement, including the 2001 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the 2004 Shelley Memorial Award, the Hanes Poetry Prize, the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, the Levinson Prize from Poetry Magazine, and the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

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