cover image Everyday Mojo Songs of Earth: New and Selected Poems

Everyday Mojo Songs of Earth: New and Selected Poems

Yusef Komunyakaa. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $35 (304p) ISBN 978-0-374-60013-6

With 140 poems, including 12 new works, this dazzling collection makes a definitive case for the Pulitzer Prize–winning Komunyakaa as a monumental and singular American voice. A jazzy master of enjambment and arresting opening lines, Komunyakaa synthesizes natural history, myth, and wide-ranging intellectual curiosity into sensory acts of witness. Rarely has lyrical precision felt this muscular; Komunyakaa likes to invoke a reader’s senses “as the mind/ runs to keep up.” His connoisseurship of blues, soul, and jazz is vividly rendered: “An echo of Sam Cooke hangs/ in bruised air, & for a minute// the silence of Fate reigns over/ day & night.” Frequent evocations of battle—informed by his own experience of war—provide subtle moral commentary: “After a nightlong white-hot hellfire/ of blue steel, we rolled into Baghdad,/ plugged into government-issued earphones,/ hearing hard rock,” finding echoes in the microcosmic “Slaves Among Blades of Grass”: “The Amazon ants dispatch/ Scouts armed with mandibles/ Sharp as sabers.” In this roving survey of history and nature, violence often meets beauty, but Komunyakaa never forgets how “The body remembers/ every wish one lives for or doesn’t.” (Mar.)