Yusef Komunyakaa’s ‘The Towers’ in light of Juliana Spahr

Yusef Komunyakaa “The Towers” is a part of his book entitled “Warhorses” written in 2009. The poem “The Towers” is a direct response to the events of September 11, 2001 and has Juliana Spahr written all over it.

What’s interesting about Komunyakaa writing about war is that he is a veteran of war. Reading his poetry about combat is very different than reading Spahr’s works on war. Although both are Komunyakaa and Spahr are writing about the same war, their opinions are naturally very different.

As a veteran of the Vietnam War, Yusef Komunyakaa , neither condemns nor condones war throughout his poetry. Rather, he presents moments into the private lives of different soldiers in war, or after war. In “The Towers” Komunyakaa recalls two separate stories, in two separate columns that act as word art to represent the twin towers that were destroyed on 9/11. The first column, or tower, recalls what the people within the tower were doing at the time in which the plane crashed into it. As the poem progresses the reader is opened to individuals trying to understand and make sense of the events. The questions are much like Spahr’s – opposite, yet connected. “How can I forgive him?” connected with “Why does the dog bark when someone turns the doorknob?” Komunyakaa is memorializing the lives of those who fell victim in 9/11 in this poem. The poem within the next column brings us back to the awful memories of the rubble, the rescue dogs sniffing through the remains with a false hope of finding survivors, the people evacuating shuffling dazed and overwhelmed towards the Brooklyn Bridge.

Together, connected by their topics, both columns of “The Towers” work to remember and honor the victims. The victims are all shown to be connected to everyone else; the opposites are positioned right next to one another. Komunyakaa makes connections to Antiquity and the battles that took place there. He emphasizes a sort of attempt to escape fate. He reminds us that all of our lives were so quickly interrupted, never to be the same. Spahr might remind us that any loss of human life is an atrocity and indeed Komunyakaa makes this his point in his “The Towers”.

**Unfortunately, I was unable to find a copy of “The Towers” on the internet. If anyone stumbles across one please feel free to ad the link to the comment portion of this post. Thank you!

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