The Farrar, Straus and Giroux Poetry Blog

April 07, 2008

We Surrender Skin, Hair, Sweat, & Fingerprints

I get nervous, more than you know, writing about these Pulitzer Prize-winning poets. I suspect that it is the same instinct that makes most of the people I know say things like,"I don't understand poetry," or "I don't know anything about poetry."

Poetry is so personal, so in-your-face with its emotions, that it can take time to absorb. I try on this blog not to be a teacher or to explain the poems to you, but rather to be someone who appreciates verse and enjoys the (digital) company of our poets.

This prelude is all to say: I think this poem today might take some time to absorb. That's okay--certain poems are short, I always tell people, so that you can read them--or listen to them--several times.

Yusef Komunyakaa reads for you today his poem "When our hands caress bullets & grenades." What I love about this is the change in the poem and Komunyakaa mimics that, draws attention to it, with the change in his voice. Listen. You can hear his voice become so melodic in the line "I touch your face, your breasts, the flower / holding a world in focus."

Is it intentional? I don't know, not for sure. Komunyakaa has a history of bringing musical rhythms into his verse, so I find it likely that it is. However, there's also something appealing in the thought that this may be what the poem requires of its reader--poetry with its own internal logic. I like that idea a lot.

You can listen to the recording here, or stream it in the player below.

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