Poetry for Today—and Every Day
By Yusef Komunyakaa
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
"I may have learned to articulate the silence of silk falling, but I cannot teach my shadow to stop limping three paces behind when I take a bow..."
In The Chameleon Couch, there does not seem to be a road Komunyakaa's mind hasn't traveled. The poems in this collection encompass a global and historical expanse, from antiquity to the present, from Europe to Asia.
Growing up in small-town Louisiana, Komunyakaa experienced the lush multilingual, multi-dialect grate and grind of the English language. His poems in The Chameleon Couch, like his earlier poetry, exude this Creole of common speech. He hears the cadences of the slave, of the aesthete, of the child, the matron and the master. All voices are rendered in a music not expressed in the English language since Yeats and Tennyson and Browning. But there's more to Komunyakaa than just beauty of linguistic delivery. Komunyakaa is a poet of language and ideas, something we yearn for. He writes, "We dream of going from one desire to the next. But in the final analysis a good thought is the simplest food."
There's plenty of food in The Chameleon Couch, a book as wise as any we've seen in recent years in America. Global, thoughtful, philosophical, political, personal, responsible, it is a noble addition to the oeuvre of one of the greatest living American Poets
—Eric Miles Williamson
For the complete text of this article, see the National Book Critic's Circle blog, The Critical Mass.