A daredevil poetic achievement from a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Yusef Komunyakaa's Talking Dirty to the Gods was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award
. . . A god isn't worth
A drop of water in the hell of his good
Imagination, if we can't curse
Sunsets & threaten to forsake him
In his storehouse of belladonna,
Tiger hornets, & snakebites.
from "Meditations in a Swine Yard"
No turn in any life cycle is taboo as Yusef Komunyakaa examines the primal rituals shared by insects, animals, human beings, and deities in Talking Dirty to the Gods. From "Hearsay" to "Heresy," these 132 poems, each consisting of four quatrains, are framed by innuendo and lively satire. Komunyakaa looks to nature and configures his own paradigm, in which an event as commonplace as the jewel wasp laying an egg in a cockroach becomes every bit as grand as Zeus's infidelity. The formally rigorous collection is itself a design for a systematic cosmos, a world compressed but abundant in surprise and delight.
|Publisher:||Farrar, Straus and Giroux|
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.38(h) x 0.34(d)|
About the Author
Yusef Komunyakaa was born in Bogalusa, Louisiana, in 1947. His books of poems include Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize. He is a professor in the Creative Writing Program at Princeton University.
Read an Excerpt
Yes, they say if you shave a monkey
You'll find a pragmatist, the president
Of a munitions plant, a tobacco tycoon,
Or a manufacturer of silicone breasts
Who owns a medieval château
Decorated with Picasso's Weeping Women
& Madonna's underwear. Disguised
In silver-winged motorcycle boots,
He plucks a guitar with his teeth
& teaches the peacock songs to draw the hawk
To its nest. Injected with enough steroids
To supernova into an overnight
Star, he's the sperm bank's
Most valuable donor. But contrary
To what you may have heard, this
Bellerophon, he isn't a great lover.
After pissing around his gut-level
Kingdom, he builds a fire & hugs
A totem against his chest.
Cheetahs pace the horizon
To silence a grassy cosmos
Where carrion birds sing
Darkness back from the hills.
Something in the air, quintessence or rancor,
Makes a langur bash the skull
Of another male's progeny.
The mother tries to fight him off,
But this choreographer for Jacob
& the Angel knows defeat
Arrives in an old slam dance
& applied leveragethe Evening Star
In both eyes, something less than grace.
the First Goddess
Mottled with eyes, she's a snag
Of silk from a blood orange
Kimono. This moth, a proto-
Goddess, flits about as if grafted
To an uneasy moment. A little machine
Inside, she coaxes every male to deposit
Sperm, & weighs each with an unholy
Exactitude. She can correct
A mistake with metabolic
Absolution. Only the biggest is
Fertilized, & all the others grow
Into nutrients for her. Food
Defines them. Otherwise,
They depend on promiscuous
Wings to beat till their world
Turns into light & sap.
Shape-changer caught in the middle
Of rehearsal, here between beast
& man, like a young Chiron,
You pretend birthright,
Hoping Atalanta's arrow
Finds you on a lost path
In bloom. Yes, sometimes,
You can be loony as a drunken
Stunt man in Paradise, a bit
Of Theocritus's sad metaphysics
In your bones. One half tortures
The other for the romantic songs
Crooned at sunset. Unholy
Need & desire divide the season,
As you eat sugar from a nymph's palm,
Before she mounts & rides you into a man.