Cover image for Taboo : poems
Taboo : poems
Komunyakaa, Yusef.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, [2004]

Physical Description:
viii, 132 pages ; 22 cm.
Lingo -- Imhotep -- Aghribat al-Arab -- Henry the Navigator -- Other worlds -- Bacchanal -- Astraea's footnotes -- Queen Marie-Therèse & Nabo -- Lament & praise song -- Sunset in Surinam -- Monticello -- Unframing a triptych -- Captain Amasa Delano's dilemma -- Before the windows -- Double exposure -- King of the octave -- The price of blood -- The quadroon's masque ball -- Antebellum silhouettes -- Tobe's blues -- Othello's robe -- Jeanne Duval's confession -- Hagar's daughter -- Chiaroscuro -- Nude study -- Trueblood's blues -- Satchmo, USA -- Cante jondo -- The house -- To beauty -- Daddy Red -- Twilight seduction -- Homage to a bellhop -- Forgive & live -- Séance & shadowplay -- Lustration -- Lucumi -- Oil -- At the Red Sea -- In line at the bank -- Troubling the water -- Netherworlds -- Lingua franca -- The archivist -- Desecration -- Outside the Blue Nile.
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3561.O455 T33 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The Paint-Box artists color in Adam & Eve, using every hue & cry of temptation. Because God blends into the darkness the faces keep coming off. --from "Chiaroscuro" With the allusive leaps and improvisational chops of a jazz soloist, Yusef Komunyakaa is our great poet of connectivity--the secret blood that links slave and master, explorer and native, stranger and brother. InTaboohe examines the role of blacks in Western history, and how these roles are portrayed in art and literature. In taut, meticulously crafted three-line stanzas, Rubens paints his wife looking longingly at a black servant; Aphra Behn writesOroonoko"as if she'd rehearsed it/for years in her spleen"; and in Monticello, Thomas Jefferson is "still at his neo-classical desk/musing, but we know his mind/is brushing aside abstractions/so his hands can touch flesh."Taboois the powerful first book in a new trilogy by a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet whose work never ceases to challenge and delight his readers.

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

Komunyakaa, a master of restraint, uses form to concentrate deep emotions, and the ancient stories of Greece, Rome, and Africa, as well as works of art, to reveal the lineage of our own tragedies. In his last collection, Talking Dirty to the Gods (2000), he limited himself to poems constructed of four-line stanzas. Here, in the first volume in his planned Wishbone trilogy, he writes in electrifying tercets as he pays homage to men and women caught in the cruel paradoxes of racism and the grinding wheels of history. Komunyakaa offers no background information, leaving it up to the reader to puzzle together carefully arranged shards, fragments, and remnants to discern the identities of the historic figures he portrays, which include Monticellan Sally and Jeanne Duval, the beloved, respectively, of Jefferson and Baudelaire; the artist Edmonia Lewis; Thomas McKeller, an elevator operator who posed for John Singer Sargent; Ralph Ellison; and Satchmo. Glinting mosaics, Komunyakaa's poems--potent works of empathy, scholarship, and imagination--poignantly reclaim those who braved the treacherous borderland between white and black. --Donna Seaman Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

A much-honored poet faces a global canvas in this lengthy, information-rich if sometimes repetitive sequence (the first in a promised trilogy), whose poems consider interracial contact, conflict and misunderstanding in the African diaspora, from Herodotus, ancient Greece and Egypt to modern (not to say modernist) New York. Phillis Wheatley, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Faulkner's Miss Emily, Perseus, Othello, Anne Frank and several giants of jazz stand among the many whose legacy (evil, praiseworthy or both) prompts at least one poem. The large cast makes the book feel at times exhilaratingly expansive, at other times simply crowded-no poet has used this much history, this many figures and famous names, since Robert Lowell (himself another character here). Komunyakaa won a Pulitzer for 1993's Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems, which featured his extraordinarily skillful jazz-inspired short lines. Those lines here serve off- balance three-line stanzas that bear tremendous weights of raw information, and finally carry the book. The best poems either tell unfamiliar stories (Benedict the Moor, in the volume's moving finale) or eschew proper nouns for personal reflection ("In Line at the Bank"). If other verse tells more than it can show, or sounds more reportorial than lyrical, the whole sequence testifies to a skill, and an ambition, that will surely continue to merit national attention. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The latest from Pulitzer Prize winner Komunyakaa is a personalized, interior mosaic of black history and culture. In poems composed of spare, descending tercets, he assimilates the spirits of mythic heroes, ancient kings and queens, slaves, writers, artists, and musicians-some household names, some obscure-into his own urban present: Imhotep averts a possible suicide in New Orleans; Benedict the Moor asks for spare change on a city sidewalk. Komunyakaa's muscular verbs ("names tumored under new languages"; "cops blackjack/ the night till it confesses") lend some sense of immediacy, as does the occasional topical reference ("Now, when I hear Horace/ Silver's `Baghdad Blues'/ the sandy sky blooms// smart bombs"). Though many personae are invoked, as channeled through the poet they speak in virtually the same cadence, and despite the blizzard of allusions and references, the encyclopedic reach, the staccato cross-cutting from past to present, and the mix of first-, second-, and third-person narration, Komunyakaa's cool tonal modulation and too-firm sense of closure sometimes conspire to flatten the narratives and limit their emotional range. For larger poetry collections.-Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.