Cover image for Pleasure dome : new and collected poems
Pleasure dome : new and collected poems
Komunyakaa, Yusef.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Middletown, Conn. : Wesleyan University Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xv, 445 pages ; 23 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3561.O455 P58 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Best known for Neon Vernacular, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1994, and for Dien Cai Dau, a collection of poems chronicling his experiences as a journalist in Vietnam, Yusef Komunyakaa has become one of America's most compelling poets. Pleasure Dome gathers the poems in these two distinguished books and five others--over two and a half decades of Komunyakaa's work. In addition, Pleasure Dome includes 25 early, uncollected poems and a rich selection of 18 new poems.

Author Notes

Yusef Komunyakka's eleven books of poems include Thieves of Paradise, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Neon Vernacular, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize. He teaches at Princeton University and lives in New York City.

(Bowker Author Biography) Yusef Komunyakaa, April 29, 1947 - Yusef Komunyakaa was born April 24, 1947 in Bogalusa Louisiana, the oldest of five children. He graduated from Bogalusa Central High School in 1965 and joined the U.S. Army soon after. During his tour with the Army, Komunyakaa received a Bronze Star for his work as a correspondent and managing editor of the Southern Cross. Upon his return from the war, Yusef received his BA from the University of Colorado in 1975. He received his MA from Colorado State University in !978, and his MFA from the University of California at Irvine in 1980.

After his graduation from UC, Komunyakaa taught poetry in the New Orleans public school districts and then creative writing at the University of New Orleans. In 1985, he became an associate professor at Indiana University at Bloomington, where he held the Ruth Lilly Professorship from 1989 til 1990. He co-edited the Jazz Poetry Anthology and co translated "The Insomnia of Fire". Komunyakaa has written 13 books of poetry. In 1999, he was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and he is also a professor in the Council of Humanities and Creative Writing Program at Princeton University.

Komunyakaa has won countless awards for his many poems. Among the most prestigious are The Dark Room Poetry Prize for "Dien Cai Dau", the San Francisco Poetry Award for "I Apologize for the Eyes in My Head", and a finalist position for the National Book Critics Circle Award for "Thieves of Paradise". As well as the William Faulkner Prize from the Universite de Rennes, the Thomas Forcade Award, the Hanes Poetry Prize and fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Louisiana Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Perhaps the greatest of all of these achievements is the honor of having the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry bestowed upon him for Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems 1977 - 1989, along with the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Pulitzer Prize^-winning poet Komunyakaa's second book in less than a year attests to the protean nature of his poetic imagination and skills, his fluent creative energy, and his passion for living the examined life. His last collection, Talking Dirty to the Gods [BKL Ag 00], is a brilliant and daring variation on a single form; this volume begins with a swinging set of new poems that take shape according to their subject and mood, as Komunyakaa ponders eroticism and race and portrays musicians as disparate as Michael Jackson and Elvin Jones. They're followed by a set of early, uncollected works--short, budlike poems packed with sensuality, vim, and promise--that lead into electrifying selections from 10 previous books in which Komunyakaa pursues his visions of racial and cultural conflict, the sanctity of art, the endless coded messages of the natural world, and the unanswerable questions of war. Currently at Princeton University, Komunyakaa is emerging as one of the major American poets of our time. Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

A professor in the council of the humanities and creative writing at Princeton University, a recently elected chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and a new addition to the Farrar, Straus & Giroux list, Komunyakaa certainly deserves this valedictory volume, collecting his work over a little more than 20 years for Wesleyan and including some new and previously uncollected work. The new poems here should not be confused with the speedy quatrains of Talking Dirty to the Gods, Komunyakaa's 11th book and his debut for FSG last September (Forecasts, July 17, 2000). In this 12th collection's compressed format, which does not break the page at the end of a poem before starting another, the new work takes up about 25 pages, but is really almost a short collection's worth of material. It's reminiscent of 1998's Thieves of Paradise with its heady mix of gothic foreboding, racial history and realpolitik, biblical and Attic allusion, and sexual longing. The previously "Early Uncollected" work (about 15 pages' worth) shows Komunyakaa's signature Olson/Ginsberg/Berrigan ampersand in place and clarifies a debt to the late '60s deep image school. But most readers will want this book for its alternatingly erudite and feral energy and its truth telling about Vietnam (see Dien Cai Dau and others) and America. (Mar.) Forecast: This volume replaces Neon Vernacular, Komunyakaa's 1993 selected, and seems designed to ride on the coattails of the poet's jump to trade visibility, which included a Poets & Writers cover profile last year. It will be a steady seller via creative writing and 20th-century literature syllabi and with readers who will be looking for previous collections after discovering Talking Dirty and future volumes. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

"You try to beat loneliness/ out of a drum, searching for a note/ of kindness." Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for Neon Vernacular, but perhaps best known for Dien Cai Dau, poems chronicling his experiences as a journalist in Vietnam, Komunyakaa is one of this generation's most remarkable poets. This hefty volume makes it clear just why, gathering 25 years of work, the matter of ten previous books, as well as new poems and heretofore uncollected pieces. Komunyakaa's poetry celebrates a wide range of ideas; he is well known for writing about his Southern roots, about the streets and the clouds on which he walks, about the war, and about music, especially jazz. What he writes about best, though, may be women: one or another from his past is often the touchstone for a poem, providing its core and essence. Lovers and friends, family and figments of fantasy, women picked up on the street, with or without their knowledge, all thread through these pages. Nearly every page of these collected poems will pull you from your expectations, tell you something you did not know, and leave you better off than you were. Highly recommended. Louis McKee, Painted Bride Arts Ctr., Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Excerpt     Providence I walked away with your face stolen from a crowded room, & the sting of requited memory lived beneath my skin. A name raw on my tongue, in my brain, a glimpse nestled years later like a red bird among wet leaves on a dull day. A face. The tilt of a head. Dark lipstick. Aletheia . The unknown marked on a shoulder, night weather in our heads. I pushed out of this half-stunned yes, begging light, beyond the caul's shadow, dangling the lifeline of Oh. I took seven roads to get here & almost died three times. How many near misses before new days slouched into the left corner pocket, before the hanging fruit made me kneel? I crossed five times in the blood to see the plots against the future-- descendent of a house that knows all my strong & weak points. No bounty of love apples glistened with sweat, a pear-shaped lute plucked in the valley of the tuber rose & Madonna lily. Your name untied every knot in my body, a honey-eating animal reflected in shop windows & twinned against this underworld. Out of tide-lull & upwash a perfect hunger slipped in tooled by an eye, & this morning makes us the oldest song in any god's throat. We had gone back walking on our hands. Opened by a kiss, by fingertips on the Abyssinian stem & nape, we bloomed from underneath stone. Moon-pulled fish skirted the gangplank, a dung-scented ark of gopherwood. Now, you are on my skin, in my mouth & hair as if you were always woven in my walk, a rib unearthed like a necklace of sand dollars out of black hush. You are a call & response going back to the first praise-lament, the old wish made flesh. The two of us a third voice, an incantation sweet-talked & grunted out of The Hawk's midnight horn. I have you inside a hard question, & it won't let go, hooked through the gills & strung up to the western horizon. We are one, burning with belief till the thing inside the cage whimpers & everything crazes out to a flash of silver. Begged into the fat juice of promises, our embrace is a naked wing lifting us into premonition worked down to a sigh & plea.     Water If only I could cleave myself from the water table below this two-step, from this opaque moan & tremble that urge each bright shoot up, this pull of the sea on fish under a pregnant moon. I sweat to buy water. It breaks into a dirge polishing stone. The oathtaker who isn't in hock to salt merchants & trinket kings, says, Drink more water, Mister Bones. The taste of azure. To rinse bile from the bony cup of regret, to trouble rivers till the touch of gold Columbus & his men killed the Arawak for floats up to ravenous light, to flush out every tinge of pity & gall--each of us a compass star & taproot down to what we are made of.     Jasmine I sit beside two women, kitty-corner to the stage, as Elvin's sticks blur the club into a blue fantasia. I thought my body had forgotten the Deep South, how I'd cross the street if a woman likes these two walked towards me, as if a cat traversed my path beneath the evening star. Which one is wearing jasmine? If my grandmothers saw me now they'd say, Boy, the devil never sleeps. My mind is lost among November cotton flowers, a soft rain on my face as Richard Davis plucks the fat notes of chance on his upright leaning into the future. The blonde, the brunette-- which one is scented with jasmine? I can hear Duke in the right hand & Basie in the left as the young piano player nudges us into the past. The trumpet's almost kissed by enough pain. Give him a few more years, a few more ghosts to embrace--Clifford's shadow on the edge of the stage. The sign says, No Talking . Elvin's guardian angel lingers at the top of the stairs, counting each drop of sweat paid in tribute. The blonde has her eyes closed, & the brunette is looking at me. Our bodies sway to each riff, the jasmine rising from a valley somewhere in Egypt, a white moon opening countless false mouths of laughter. The midnight gatherers are boys & girls with the headlights of trucks aimed at their backs, because their small hands refuse to wound the knowing scent hidden in each bloom.     The Whispering Gallery She's turning away, about to step out of the concave cuddle of Italian tiles before walking through the grand doorway to cross 42nd Street to glance up at The Glory of Commerce as she hails a yellow taxicab when he whispers, I love you, Harriet. Did he say something to himself, something he swore he'd never think again? Or, was she now limestone like Minerva, a half-revealed secret, her breasts insinuating the same domed wisdom? Maybe his mind was already heading home to Hoboken-- his body facing hers--his unsure feet rushing to make a connection with Sinatra's ghost among a trainload of love cries from the Rustic Cabin to Caesar's Palace. Hugged there under the curved grandeur, she says, I love you, too, Johnny.     Tuesday Night at the Savoy Ballroom Entangled in one motion    of hues stolen from innuendo,   their exulted limbs couple & uncouple till the bluish    yellow fuses with three   other ways of looking at this. With a touch of blood    & congealed tempera,   black & white faces surge through a nightlife    sweating perfumed air.   Their moves caught by brush strokes    force us to now feel   the band on an unseen stage. Bedazzlement    & body chemistry ...   eyes on each other break the law. They work    hard for fun, twirling   through sighing loops of fray & splendor,    watering down pain till naked   hope glimmers in a shot glass.     Doppelgängers I wait outside the Beacon Hotel    for a taxicab to La Guardia,   & dead ringers from Memnon slink past. Here's another.    Wasn't Aurora's son   killed fighting in Troy for the Trojans?    His look-alikes stroll   through glass towers & waylay each other's shadows.    How many southern roads   brought their grandparents here? Why so many chalk-lined bodies mapping departure routes? The Daylight Boys haunt these footsteps tuned    to rap & butterfly   knives that grow into Saturday-night specials    tucked inside jackets   ensigned with Suns, Bulls ... Ice. Ecstasy. Crack.    Here's another young,   bad, good-looking one walking on air solid    as the Memnon Colossi,   & may not be here at dawn.     Somewhere I was on the corner when she paused at the crosswalk. If a cobra's in a coil, it can't    take back its strike. Her   purse was already in my hands when the first punch landed.    She kept saying, "You won't   take nobody else's money no more." Her voice was like    Mama's. I couldn't   break free. Women & kids multiplied before me.    At least thirty or forty.   Everywhere. Kicking & biting. I kept saying, "I give    up." But they wouldn't   stop aiming at my balls. The sky tumbled. I was a    star in a late-night movie   where all these swallows--no, a throng of boys swooped    like a cloud of birds   & devoured a man on a lonely beach    in Mexico, & somewhere   outside Acapulco that damn squad of sunflowers    blazed up around me.   What I heard the stupid paramedics say scared me    to death, as the bastards   worked on my fucking heart. Copyright (c) 2001 Yusef Komunyakaa. All rights reserved.