The Chameleon Couch

Picked up Yusef Komunyakaa’s newest book, The Chameleon Couch yesterday. I always expect a lot from him, as he’s one of the most consistently passionate and innovative poets out there, but this book blew me away. It’s hands down the best book of poetry I’ve read so far this year.

The thing that amazes me the most about Komunyakaa is just how Protean he can be. So many poets seem to find a groove and then get stuck in it, pumping out book after cloned book. But every one of Komunyakaa’s books is unique, whether he puts a formal pressure on himself (as in Talking Dirty to the Gods, in which every poem is made up of four unrhymed quatrains) or works around a single theme (growing up in Bogalusa Louisiana in Magic City, or his experience in Vietnam in Dien Cai Dau).

The man is just plain smart. Just straight up hip:

I know salt tinctures my song… I am the archheir of second chances… I know twelve ways to be wrong and two to be good… I know how to plead till a breeze erases the devil’s footprints… (from “Canticle”)

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