Excerpt from

Believing in Iron

The hills my brothers & I created
never balanced, & it took years
To discover how the world worked.
We could look at a tree of blackbirds
& tell you how many were there,
But with the scrap dealer
Our math was always off.

Yusef Komunyakaa at Internet Poetry Archive

Yusef Komunyakaa at Academy of American Poets

Yusef Komunyakaa at Modern American Poetry

Poetry is a kind of distilled insinuation. It's a way of expanding and talking around an idea or a question. Sometimes, more actually gets said through such a technique than a full frontal assault.

Conversation With Yusef Komunyakaa

You’ve been talking about how the poem comes from within you, how you’re inspired by the landscape around you; describe your process: how you come about inspiration, how you construct your poetry.

That’s an interesting question because I guess it has a lot to do with meditation. I am always meditating on what’s around me and I care about what’s around me. I think its what singles us out, as humans. How can we not be engaged? So that influences my poetry. A single image… I improvise a lot, like the jazz musician who has a melody and improvises on that melody. He or she travels here and back to the nucleus, to that tonal moment that’s necessary, that creates the shape of the piece. That’s why I too… well … I don’t even try. I don’t even try. It’s just a part of who I am at this moment in my life.

A word that you keep mentioning over and over again, even at the reading, is insinuation. What do you mean by that?

I’m thinking about some of the Blues musicians, I’m thinking about how they were able to insinuate in their very simple verse. Sometimes political situations, sometimes social situations, a lot of it is through saying something that is imagistically minute but at the same time it expands. I like to think about poetry as a celebration in confrontation. Each of us brings something different to a poem. I like poems that I can revisit again and again. We’re constantly changing as complex organisms. We visit an image or a poem and it’s different each time. And it’s the levels of insinuation that keep the image or the poem alive. Innuendo. Language is elastic in its meaning; it isn’t static.

"Facing It"

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