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The Chameleon Couch: Poemsby Yusef Komunyakaa
Synopses & Reviews
A Boston Globe Best Poetry Book of 2011
A new and intimate collection from one of America's most important poets
The latest collection from one of our preeminent poets, The Chameleon Couch is also one of Yusef Komunyakaa's most personal to date. As in his breakthrough work, Copacetic, Komunyakaa writes again of music as muse—from a blues club in the East Village to the shakuhachi of Basho. Beginning with “Canticle,” this varied new collection often returns to the idea of poem as hymn, ethereal and haunting, as Komunyakaa reveals glimpses of memory, myth, and violence. With contemplations that spring up along walks or memories conjured by the rhythms of New York, Komunyakaa pays tribute more than ever before to those who came before him.
The book moves seamlessly across cultural and historical boundaries, evoking Komunyakaas capacity for cultural excavation, through artifact and place. The Chameleon Couch begins in and never fully leaves the present—an urban modernity framed, brilliantly, in pastoral-minded verse. The poems seek the cracks beneath the landscape, whether New York or Ghana or Poland, finding in each elements of wisdom or unexpected beauty. The collection is sensually, beautifully relaxed in rhetoric; in poems like “Cape Coast Castle,” Komunyakaa reminds us of his gift for combining the personal with the universal, one moment addressing a lover, the next moving the focus outward, until both poet and reader are implicated in the book's startling world.
The Chameleon Couch is a finalist for the 2011 National Book Award for Poetry.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning Native Guard explored Natasha Tretheweys relationship with her black mother. Now, her new collection, Thrall, takes on the uneasy relationship between her and her white father. It charts the intersections of public and personal history that determine the roles to which a mixed-race daughter and her white father are consigned.
The stunning follow-up volume to her 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning Native Guard, by Americas new Poet Laureate
Natasha Tretheweys poems are at once deeply personal and historical—exploring her own interracial and complicated roots—and utterly American, connecting them to ours. The daughter of a black mother and white father, a student of history and of the Deep South, she is inspired by everything from colonial paintings of mulattos and mestizos to the stories of people forgotten by history. Meditations on captivity, knowledge, and inheritance permeate Thrall, as she reflects on a series of small estrangements from her poet father and comes to an understanding of how, as father and daughter, they are part of the ongoing history of race in America.
Thrall confirms not only that Natasha Trethewey is one of our most gifted and necessary poets but that she is also one of our most brilliant and fearless.
About the Author
Yusef Komunyakaas thirteen books of poems include Warhorses (FSG, 2008), Taboo (FSG, 2004), and Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize. He teaches at New York University.
Table of Contents
Miracle of the Black Leg 9
On Captivity 13
1. DE ESPAÑOL Y DE INDIA PRODUCE MESTIZO 16
2. DE ESPAÑOL Y NEGRA PRODUCE MULATO 19
3. DE ESPAÑOL Y MESTIZA PRODUCE CASTIZA 22
4. THE BOOK OF CASTAS 24
Kitchen Maid with Supper at Emmaus; or, The Mulata 27
The Americans 33
1. DR. SAMUEL ADOLPHUS CARTWRIGHT ON
DISSECTING THE WHITE NEGRO, 1851 33
2. BLOOD 34
3. HELP, 1968 35
Mano Prieta 37
De Español y Negra; Mulata 39
1. NOSTOS 41
2. QUESTIONS POSED BY THE DREAM 42
3. SIREN 43
Torna Atrás 48
Bird in the House 50
How the Past Comes Back 72
On Happiness 74
Vespertina Cognitio 75
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