The wildly enchanting new collection from the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa
"If I am not Ulysses, I am / his dear, ruthless half brother." So announces Yusef Komunyakaa early in his lush new collection, The Emperor of Water Clocks. And Ulysses (or his half brother) is but one of the characters Komunyakaa conjures over the course of this densely lyrical book. Here his speaker observes a doomed court jester; here another recalls Napoleon as the emperor "tells the doctor to cut out his heart / & send it to the empress, Marie-Louise"; and here he is just a man, reflecting on why he'd "rather die a poet / than a warrior."
Through these mutations and migrations and permutations and peregrinations, there are constants: Komunyakaa's jazz-inflected rhythms, his effortlessly surreal images, his celebration of natural beauty and of love. There is also his insistent inquiry into the structures and struggles of power: not only, say, of king against jester but of man against his own desire, and of the present against the pernicious influence of the past.
Another brilliant collection from the man David Wojahn has called one of our "most significant and individual voices," The Emperor of Water Clocks delights, challenges, and satisfies.
Yusef Komunyakaa’s 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.
"A rich, multilayered book that combines threads of fable, literature, music and cultural references to create a new kind of mythology." --Elizabeth Lund, The Washington Post
"Yusef Komunyakaa is one of our period's most significant and individual voices . . . He has a near-revelatory capacity to give himself over to his subject matter and to the taut concision of his free verse . . . Dazzling." --David Wojahn, Poetry on Yusef Komunyakaa
"Probably my favorite living poet. No one else taught me more about how important it was to think about how words make people feel. It's not enough for people to know something is true. They have to feel it's true." --Ta-Nehisi Coates, The New York Times Style Magazine