Warhorses Poems

Yusef Komunyakaa

Farrar, Straus and Giroux



Trade Paperback

96 Pages



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A Booklist Editors’ Choice Best Book of the Year
This powerful new collection of Yusef Komunyakaa's poetry delves, with his characteristic allusiveness, intelligence, and intensity, into an age of war and conflict, both global and internal, racial and sexual. "Sweetheart, was I talking war in my sleep / again?" he asks, and the question is hardly moot: "Sometimes I hold you like Achilles' / shield," and indeed all relationships, in this telling, are sites of violence and battle. His line is longer and looser than in Taboo and Talking Dirty to the Gods, and in long poems like "Autobiography of My Alter Edo" he sounds almost breathless, an exhausted but desperate prophet. With the leaps and improvisational flourishes of a jazz soloist, Komunyakaa imagines "the old masters of Shock & Awe" daydreaming of "lovely Penelope / like a trophy." Warhorses is the stunning work of a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who never ceases to challenge and delight his readers.


Praise for Warhorses

"For the distinguished poet and teacher Yusef Komunyakaa, the best path to the essential core of things is not always straight. But the majority of the poems collected in Warhorses are notable for their directness and immediacy . . . One of the book's most powerful images occurs in the final poem of this section, called 'The Crying Hill,' in which the poet remembers 'that old man/ facing a silent field of land mines,/circled by barbed wire, calling/ his daughter's name over a loudspeaker/ on his crying hill near the Golan Heights' . . . Yusef Komunyakaa is a national cultural treasure, a poet whose depth of compassion and gift for the telling turn of phrase will guarantee him a distinguished place in the literary history of our times. Warhorses captures his powers at their peak."—Robert Boyd, The St. Louis Post Dispatch

“[Warhorses] is galvanizing in its fury and decisive in its rare power . . . Komunyakaa crafts metaphors and images of shocking precision and startling intensity.”—Donna Seaman, Booklist

Praise for Yusef Komunyakaa:

“[Komunyakaa] call[s] to mind Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman— the private gaze and the civic drum, purifying language, purifying history.”—Darryl Lorenzo Wellington, The Washington Post Book World

“Verses that practically sizzle and spark with intelligence . . . Komunyakaa thinks like a scholar and writes like a jazz musician. His poems wail and swing to the backbeat of African-American history, dropping knowledge with a wink and a nod to let you know, yes, this man knows a thing or two about what he’s talking about.”—John Freeman, The Philadelphia Inquirer

“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

Reviews from Goodreads



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Yusef Komunyakaa’s twelve books of poems include Taboo (FSG, 2004) and Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize. He teaches at Princeton University.
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  • Yusef Komunyakaa

  • Yusef Komunyakaa’s thirteen books of poems include Warhorses, Taboo, and Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize. He is also the winner of the American Academy of Poets’ Wallace Stevens Award and the Poetry Society of America's Shelley Memorial Award. He teaches at Princeton University.