Blue Notes: Essays, Interviews, and Commentaries
Author: Yusef Komunyakaa
Editor: Radiclani Clytus
Publisher: University of Michigan Press (2000)
Blue Notes offers an assortment of poet Yusef Komunyakaa's writing on contemporary poetry and music. The book is arranged in four sections. The first gathers essays on the work of poets and blues and jazz musicians influential to Komunyakaa's work, from Langston Hughes and Etheridge Knight to Ma Rainey and Thelonious Monk; the second collects a gallery of Komunyakaa's poems and the poet's commentary about each of them. The third selects interviews that reveal the development of the poet's aesthetic sensibility. The final section consists of four artistic explorations that reflect the poet's current interests. Two of of these texts, "Tenebrae" and "Buddy's Monologue," have been recently performed.
As editor Radiclani Clytus makes clear in the volume's introductory essay, although Komunyakaa's poetry has its roots in the stylistic innovations of early twentieth-century American modernists, his writing often reflects his understanding that a "black" experience should not particularize the presentation of one's art. This volume, according to the editor, is an attempt to understand Komunyakaa's critical eclecticism within the context of his own words.
"Komunyakaa's story, as related in candid interviews and learned, loving tributes to writers like Langston Hughes and Etheridge Knight, is a concise and compelling education on poetry, as well as race, politics, gender issues and music....Most importantly, Komunyakaa opens his heart and mind when describing his compositional habits and techniques.... Here, in passionate and clear language, is the vital link between Komunyakaa's verse and his poetics, urgent proof that poets can still work with the body as much as the mind. Indeed, in both his prose and poetry, Komunyakaa consistently embraces the furious, sublime possibilities of the intellect and the flesh...."
–Michael Shannon Friedman