Shadows & Ghosts

Alright, Komunyakaa loves talking about shadows & ghosts (& he really loves ampersands- by the way).

“Gray-blue shadows lift/ shadows onto an oxcart.” (Starlight Scope Myopia 1-2)
“unaware our shadows have untied/ from us, wandered off/ & gotten lost.” (A Greenness Taller Than God 20-23)
“We’re men ready to be fused/ with gost pictures, trying” (Seeing in the Dark 14-15)
“with a platoon of shadows” (The Edge 7) also, not techinically a shadow/ghost, but still: “to the charred air, silhouettes of jets” (27)
“Ghosts share us with the past & future” (Jungle Surrender 1)
“Sometimes I wrestled their ghosts” (Short-timer’s Calendar 14)

& the list goes on…

I’m not sure what point I’m trying to make, but I guess I’m just wondering what you make of this repetition. Obviously, I can understand why ghosts & shadows would appear in a collection of poems about war, but I feel like Komunyakaa has to be more brilliant than this. Beyond lost souls what do you think these figures represent?

another burning question…

Garrett mentioned to me the other day that Vollmer used the ampersand exclusively and that he had meant to ask her about why she made this choice. Now, I can’t help but notice that Komunyakaa also uses the ampersand exclusively. I really want to know whether this was an editor’s choice or if this was the poet’s preference and their reasoning. What do you think?

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2 Responses to “Shadows & Ghosts”

  1. Arrrbuckles says:

    I think Komunyakaa’s use of the ampersand also has to do with pacing (I love ampersands, by the way, so I was wondering this, too!), but more than that, I think that it provides a visual element to the poetry that it otherwise wouldn’t have. It’s kind of like in shaking up usage of traditional punctuation, Komunyakaa casts a typograpical “shadow” over the layout of the poem– and it, to me, is very effective in changing how we read it, whether aloud or in our minds.

  2. mscanlon says:

    In Vollmer’s case, it is her choice, and she does use the word “and” sometimes also. She told one of Emerson’s classes after a Q about it that it is a rhythm and pace thing, and she thinks of the ampersand almost like a swallowed or glottal noise, not a fully sounded word in terms of pace.