Everyday Mojo Songs of Earth: New and Selected Poems, 2001–2021

Image of Everyday Mojo Songs of Earth: New and Selected Poems, 2001-2021
Release Date: 
June 15, 2021
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Reviewed by: 

“Komunyakaa’s poems read like meditations. Images flow and weave into elegant narratives.”

Crafting poetry is not easy. Poets must consider content, structure, and beyond for readers to harness metaphors and cherish sentiment. Poems must transform images to emotions. Yusef Komunyakaa crafts his poetry so precisely that every word evokes transformation. Poem after poem excites like treasure chests, with every word a precious gem.  

Everyday Mojo Songs of Earth: New and Selected Poems, 2001–2021 contains selected poems from Komunyakaa’s collections from the past 20 years. From Talking Dirty to the Gods to Requiem, along with a sampling of new poems, the selections showcase profound, intense, and historic imagery to create metaphors for poetry of permanence. His poems are permanent and will be remembered by all.

Here are some lines from “Ode to the Maggot”: “Brother of the blowfly / & godhead, you work magic / Over battlefields, / In slabs of pork // & flophouses. Yes, you / Go to the root of all things. / You are sound & mathematical. / Jesus Christ, you’re merciless . . .” Komunyakaa personifies a tiny insect, and then personifies it with “Master of earth, no one gets to heaven / Without going through you first.”

The ode proves senses of disgust, hope, and anticipation, showing that tiny creatures change worlds by digesting death and processing it to heaven. He transforms maggots to life’s cleaning crew.

Komunyakaa transforms silk into a vessel of ecstasy in a war-torn landscape in “A Translation of Silk.” Here are some lines: “One can shove his face against silk / & breathe in centuries of perfume / on the edge of a war-torn morning / where men fell so hard for iron / they could taste it . . .”

The translation then teaches humility with the following: “that one of the smallest creatures / knows how to be an impressive god . . . / Humans crave immortality, but oh, / yes, to think worms wove this / as a way to stay alive in our world.” He juxtaposes the elegance of silkworms with grit of war to force us to appreciate how innocent creatures are able to thrive and be resilient the face of adversity. And we are to learn.

Komunyakaa’s poems read like meditations. Images flow and weave into elegant narratives. Line breaks are refined reinforce cadence. Subjects such as war, terrorism, sex, and nature are transformed into profound sentiments, with each poem creating new feeling. He is also skilled at shaping poems to reflect content, as shown in two columns in “The Towers.”

This is a very thorough collection from a Pulitzer Prize winner. Everyone will find poems to remember and adore. The poems capture time and place, so all are permanent memories; they are clear. All of Komunyakaa’s collections belong in home libraries, and this is yet another treasure.