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This One Time, In ‘Nam…. Yusef Komunyakaa. By Alex Ferrer and Gillian Barta. Introduction. Yusef komunyakaa is one of the most prevalent American poets alive today.

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yusef komunyakaa

This One Time, In ‘Nam…


By Alex Ferrer and Gillian Barta

  • Yusefkomunyakaa is one of the most prevalent American poets alive today
background information
Background Information
  • Was largely shaped by his experiences in Vietnam and his child- hood
  • These became the main topics of his poems
  • He used poetry as an escape from his past
  • Born April 29th 1947 in Bogalusa, Louisiana
  • James William Brown
  • Oldest of 6 children
  • “Rustic and bucolic” childhood
  • Suffered racism (not allowed in library, KKK, racial violence, etc.)
  • Sent to Vietnam for war
  • Witnessed terrible events
  • Was sent back a changed man
  • Earned a bronze medal for his service
  • Graduated Magna cum Laude from the University of Colorado after his service (graduated in 1975, masters in 1978, and MFA at the University of California)
  • Now is a professor
  • Began to write poetry mainly about his experiences in Vietnam and after affects
komunyakaa s style
Komunyakaa’s Style
  • Dark, gloomy, depressing
  • Futile tone
  • Uses tactile, kinesthetic, and visual imagery
  • Themes of battle and after battle (memorial)
  • Alludes to Vietnam often
  • Very political- tends to allude to people or issues today
  • One stanza
  • Usually narratives
  • Never rhymes
  • 1st person
  • Enjambment
  • Personification is used throughout
we never know
We Never Know

He danced with tall grass

for a moment, like he was swaying

with a woman. Our gun barrels

glowed white-hot.

When I got to him,

a blue halo

of flies had already claimed him.

I pulled the crumbed photograph

from his fingers.

There\'s no other way

to say this: I fell in love.

The morning cleared again,

except for a distant mortar

& somewhere choppers taking off.

I slid the wallet into his pocket

& turned him over, so he wouldn\'t be

kissing the ground.

  • .
literary criticism
Literary Criticism
  • “Surprises”
  • “Fresh and Intriguing”
  • “Writes like a jazz musician”
  • “Confronts uncomfortable truths”
  • “Exhibits a pessimistic outlook on life”
literary criticism1
Literary Criticism
  • “Predictable”
  • “Tightly controlled format”
  • “Progressive and experimental”
  • “Powerful yet exquisitely sensitive”
  • “Evokes feelings of tenderness and hope”
we agree
We Agree
  • “Confronts uncomfortable truths”
  • “Powerful yet exquisitely sensitive”
  • “Evokes feelings of tenderness and hope”
facing it
Facing it

My black face fades,

hiding inside the black granite.

I said I wouldn\'t,

dammit: No tears.

I\'m stone. I\'m flesh.

My clouded reflection eyes me

like a bird of prey, the profile of night

slanted against morning. I turn

this way--the stone lets me go.

I turn that way--I\'m inside

the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

again, depending on the light

to make a difference.

I go down the 58,022 names,

half-expecting to find

my own in letters like smoke.


I touch the name Andrew Johnson;

I see the booby trap\'s white flash.

Names shimmer on a woman\'s blouse

but when she walks away

the names stay on the wall.

Brushstrokes flash, a red bird\'s

wings cutting across my stare.

The sky. A plane in the sky.

A white vet\'s image floats

closer to me, then his pale eyes

look through mine. I\'m a window.

He\'s lost his right arm

inside the stone. In the black mirror

a woman\'s trying to erase names:

No, she\'s brushing a boy\'s hair.

we disagree
We Disagree
  • “Predictable”
  • “Tightly controlled format”
  • “Exhibits a pessimistic outlook on life”

Fast breaks. Lay ups. With Mercury\'s

Insignia on our sneakers,

We outmaneuvered the footwork

Of bad angels. Nothing but a hot

Swish of strings like silk

Ten feet out. In the roundhouse

Labyrinth our bodies

Created, we could almost

Last forever, poised in midair

Like storybook sea monsters.

A high note hung there

A long second. Off

The rim. We\'d corkscrew

Up & dunk balls that exploded

The skullcap of hope & good

Intention. Bug-eyed, lanky,

All hands & feet . . . sprung rhythm.

We were metaphysical when girls

Cheered on the sidelines.

Tangled up in a falling,

Muscles were a bright motor

Double-flashing to the metal hoop

Nailed to our oak.

When Sonny Boy\'s mama died

He played nonstop all day, so hard

Our backboard splintered.

Glistening with sweat, we jibed

& rolled the ball off our

Fingertips. Trouble

Was there slapping a blackjack

Against an open palm.

Dribble, drive to the inside, feint,

& glide like a sparrow hawk.

Lay ups. Fast breaks.

We had moves we didn\'t know

We had. Our bodies spun

On swivels of bone & faith,

Through a lyric slipknot

Of joy, & we knew we were

Beautiful & dangerous.


where is he now
Where is he now?
  • In 1989, he married Mandy Sayer, lasting for 10 years
  • His new partner, ReetikaVazirani, killed herself and their child
  • After teaching at Indiana University and Princeton, he now teaches at New York University