Everyday Mojo Songs of Earth: New and Selected Poems, 2001-2021
by Yusef Komunyakaa
(FSG, June 2021, 288 pp., $35)
One aspect crucial to understanding the importance of Yusef Komunyakaa’s poetry of the last twenty years is its fastidious attendance to histories and mythologies both familiar and obscure. As Komunyakaa acknowledges, the poet’s role is like that of “a magpie collecting every scrap / of song.” For Komunyakaa, poetry not only preserves the past, it creates it. Poetry recalls often forgotten traditions and beliefs, offering these not as alternatives, not as supreme fictions, but as talismans against forgetting. The Great Migration, the Hindu Trimurti, Chet Baker huffing gasoline, the birth of the centaurs, Saint Kinga’s cathedral of salt, Napoleon’s penis, Christ and Mohamed—each figure gets shuffled through the divination deck of this book, which follows Komunyakaa’s first “New & Selected,” Neon Vernacular (1994), as well as Pleasure Dome: New & Collected Poems, 1975-1999 (2001). It makes for essential reading.