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The Chameleon Couch: Poems

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  146 ratings  ·  16 reviews
A new and intimate collection from one of America's most important poets

The latest collection from one of our preeminent poets, The Chameleon Couch is also one of Yusef Komunyakaa's most personal to date. As in his breakthrough work, Copacetic, Komunyakaa writes again of music as muse--from a blues club in the East Village to the shakuhachi of Basho. Beginning with "Cantic
Paperback, 128 pages
Published March 27th 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published March 15th 2011)
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James Murphy
It's been a while since I read any poetry by Yusef Komunyakaa. I thought The Chameleon Couch more abstract and slippery than I remembered his poetry being, or anticipated. I found it difficult. He addresses the past here, I think. He writes about our shifting perspectives of personal histories. Some of his themes are classical. He acknowledges that such figures as Fortuna, Pan, and Mercury and the ideas of them exist, as do our interpretations of the past, because we're looking at them. If we lo ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Finalist for the 2011 National Book Award. These are smart poems about life and identity, but I really gravitated toward those with music imagery.

This is my favorite:

Ode to the Guitar

The strings tremble & traverse
back up through that other
strong muscle singing blood
& guilt. Press a finger down,
& the message changes into blame
& beauty, into the scent of a garden
rising from peat moss & brimstone...
the frets & shaped neck worked
& caressed into a phantom limb
of hope. Doe
Diann Blakely
I agree with R. T. Smith that this is Komunyakaa’s best book since his Pulitzer-winning *Magic City* (1992), which, followed the next year by *Neon Vernacular* (, was released Wesleyan University Press.Why? Komunyakaa is our most Antaeus-like poet, gathering strength as he moves toward native ground, metaphoric or literal. In “Blue Dementia,” for example, he pushes back, back, back to the Deep South, until he becomes almost a reincarnation of Robert Johns ...more
The Chameleon Couch by Yusef Komunyakaa — broken into three sections — challenges the mind and the internal rhythm of our souls. It challenges our preconceptions about everything from music to what it means to be an African American. In the form of aubades and odes, Komunyakaa evokes song throughout the collection, which have readers very focused on how the rhythms of the poems impact them beyond the words spoken. The poet is striving to reach not only the logical mind here, but something deeper ...more
Craig Werner
At his best, Komunyakaa's probably the strongest voice in contemporary American poetry, but it's been a while since he's published a collection that matches Dien Cau Dau, Copacetic, Magic City or Thieves of Paradise. The Chameleon Couch maintains a higher level throughout than his last several collections--War Horses, Taboo, Talking Dirty to the Gods, Totem. But it faded in and out on me a bit, especially in the poems that feel like continuations of personal conversations I don't have enough inf ...more
“The Chameleon Couch,” is the latest book by award winning author Yusef Komunyakaa. Komunyakaa is from Bogalusa, LA who is known for writing books about the African American experience before the Civil War. This particular book is no different from his past works, as he continues to write about black southerners. “The Chameleon Couch” is a collection of works that can be described as beautiful work accompanied by well-maintained rage.

Poetry is known for giving the audience an experience. It bec
The Qualifier

Poetry cannot be judged by the same good versus bad qualifiers as general literature: plot and character developement. For in poetry we see only what we know, feel, and experience. It is personal. The great poets of the past 200 years, Keats, Frost, Sandburg, Naruda, and Whitman to name a few, are not universally enjoyed. It is not because their words are not beautiful or poignant, rather we all live our life just a bit different. It is true enough that we all have shared experience
Isla McKetta
I loved getting lost in this world-crossing volume filled with fresh images and Komunyakaa's signature rhythm.
This is my first Komunyakaa collection to read, and I was only familiar with a few of his poems like "Facing It" and "Slam, Dunk, & Hook" going into this book. Both of these poems are fairly concrete and easy to understand. I thought I would get more like them in The Chameleon Couch. Boy, was I wrong. Maybe I'm not smart enough to appreciate all the allusions in these poems. Or maybe I just like my poetry a little more straightforward.

My only favorites:
Ode to the Chameleon
The Beautifu
Sarah Liu
These poems are beautifully dangerous. They can only be read in small doses. I suffered physical pain from the intensity of the poems. I could only read them say 4 or 5 at a time without growing short of breath. I will have much more to say, after I go purchase the entire Komunyakaa canon and consume it, slowly.
Donald Armfield
I'm a fan of Yusef, this being more of his personal work. Not a solid 4 star for my liking but enjoyable poetry from the author. My favorites;

-Eclogue at Midnight
-Ignis Fatuus
-Dead Reckoning
-Conceived in a Time of War
-Unlikely Claims
-The Beautiful Quickness of a Street Boy
-Last of the Monkey Gods
Mella Ann
Why did it take me so long to read works other than "Facing It" from Komunyakaa? I did the quiet poetry "oh my god" after so many lines, stanzas, and poems of this book. He blends Greek mythology, personal history, and blues into a stunning canticle.
Carol Stephen
Excellent book by Komunyakaa, selected as a finalist in this year's Griffin International Awards. Komunyakaa often surprises with his phrasing and timing. This is my favourite of his books that I've read.
April Pearson
Komunyakaa is one of my favorite poets. I own several of his books. I think this one was inspired by a trip to Europe. Beautiful language and strong subject matter as is his forte.
An amazing collection of poetry. Both moody and dark as well as lighthearted. All intelligent poems. Beautiful.
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Yusef Komunyakaa (born April 29, 1947) is an American poet who teaches at New York University and is a member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers. Komunyakaa is a recipient of the 1994 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, for Neon Vernacular and the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. He also received the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. Komunyakaa received the 2007 Louisiana Writer Award for his enduring contribut ...more
More about Yusef Komunyakaa...
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“Years ago you followed someone
here, in love with breath
kissing the nape of your neck,
back when it was easy to be
at least two places at once.”
“A goddess of dawn
scooted under a zing of barbed wire
to witness your birth.”
More quotes…