Poem of the Month

April 1, 2013

Ecstatic by Yusef Komunyakaa

Filed under: Uncategorized — EShipley @ 11:00 am

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Joy, use me like a whore.
Turn me inside out like Donne
Desired God to do with him.
Show me some muscle,

Sunlight on black stone.
Coldcock me about the head
Till I moan like a bell, low
As the one Goya could hear

Through the walls of
Quinta del Sordo.
Tie me up to the stocks those Puritans
Handled so well in Boston streets.

Don’t let me down. I beg
You to use all your know-how
In one throttle. Please, good God,
Put everything into your swing.

Well, now, here’s a poem that should stop you from whatever else you’re doing to listen hard and well. For Komunyakaa, peaceful contentment has nothing to do with joy. Satisfaction is pallid compared with the fresh, high experience of ecstasy. He’s got to be made new, compelled to feel alive. “Ecstatic” is a prayer, consisting not of pieties but of passionate pleas: “Use me,” “Turn me inside out,” “Coldcock me,” “Tie me up.”

And here’s a real lesson for writers, whether students or professionals. Komunyakaa’s language and his rhythms are new, but the matter of “Ecstatic” is as old as time. “Jacob and the Angel” is the biblical story of a man who emerges wounded but renewed from a wrestling match with a divine power. Marianne Moore (1888-1972) saw that “satisfaction is a lowly thing, how pure a thing is joy.” And John Donne (1572-1631) insisted, “Batter my heart, three-person’d God; for you/ As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend.” Donne prayed for the true faith, Komunyakaa for ecstasy. Perhaps they’re one and the same.

Grace Schulman
Distinguished Professor, English

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20 Comments »

  1. Here is a man who is dying for some excitment.

    Joy simply will not do it for him. It’s the adrenaline rush that he seeks. Maybe even lust for! Joy is just a cheap ripoff of the latter.

    It seems violence will do the trick as he proclaims when he said, “Coldcock me about the head Till I moan like a bell, low As the one Goya could hear Through the walls of Quinta del Sordo.”

    He goes on to say, “Tie me up…….,” as he indulges in the passionate fury he is feeling.

    An in one final effort, he says, “Please, good God,
    Put everything into your swing.”

    This poem seems very direct and easy to dissect, but it isn’t. You must read carefully as Professor Grace Schulman points out (to which I agree). I love the Professors take on this poem.

    Van Phillips

    Comment by Van Phillips — April 24, 2013 @ 3:08 pm

  2. Komunyakaa shows a very rigid and direct statement in his poem, especially when he stated “Don’t let me down I beg you to use all your know-how in one throttle.” He seems to be joyful and full of excitement. But I wonder why did he named this poem as Ecstatic. Is it because he is a person subject to fit ecstasy or it’s simply an expression of how joyful a person could be (using ecstasy for enjoyment). Surprisingly, professor schulman described ecstatic as “a prayer, consisting not of pieties, but of passionate pleas.” The characteristic of a person being like an ecstasy is clearly pictured in his poem, which one may be very attractive, addictive, and pricey. It totally depicts characteristic of a whore. Nevertheless, professor schulman pointed out many intuitive views of the writers. Yet I couldn’t disagree more that “peaceful contentment has nothing to do with joy”, since we have to seek for joyfulness and not vice versa.

    Comment by Hanz Limavady — April 28, 2013 @ 12:53 pm

  3. Wow is my first reaction after reading this poem. The title is very much appropriate for this poem. Komunyakaa expresses a strong feeling of joy and adrenaline rush. I believe this poem is a representation of how Komunyakaa chose to live his life. A life filled with adventure and fearlessness. For example, he begs to be tied up in the “quinta del sordo” like the puritans did during their times of witch hunting back in 18th century Massachusetts. I loved how each stanza is filled with metaphors that further accentuate his strong sense of joy such as comparing his moaning to the sounds of bells. His use of words such as “tie me up”, “use me like a whore” also play a large part in showing that powerful urge for the adrenaline rush that is described

    Comment by Joseph Madera — May 16, 2013 @ 9:10 am

  4. When I first read the poem,especially the line that says “Joy, use me like a whore” I thought the poem was referring to a sexual experience. But as I read further, I began to think that Komunyakaa is referring maybe to a bigger topic overall. I think the fact that he referred to God really showed his enthusiasm and belief in finding excitement. Even reading each stanza I feel the passion that Komunyakaa is feeling. He longs for the feeling of excitement, and this is seen especially in the line where he asks to be tied up in the “quinta del sordo.” The poem is somewhat simple to read, but when deeply analyzed it carries a lot more meaning than it seems.

    Comment by Marissa Wong — May 16, 2013 @ 11:03 am

  5. Komunyakaa’s poem is well written as he starts off with very strong words “Joy used me like a whore”. With an intro like that it would capture any readers attention and make you want to read further on. He selects his words wisely as they carry very sexual undertones. This poem feels like they are two in one as the first part he speaks of abstract things and highlights some historical events/figures like “Goya”. I feel like the meat of this poem is half way through where he informs us that great now I have your attention this is what I really wanted to say, “Now here is a poem”. I thought to myself, then what was I just reading? He describes himself in a third person point of view and informs us that he is peace has nothing to do with joy. He searches for something more than just satisfaction “ecstasy” does it. He wants to witness the ultimate high. He is writing to teach all who are willing to learn of who he is. He is a different kind of person with his own style or language is “ecstatic” as he uses to describe himself, the word maybe old but it fits his character.

    Comment by Joel De La Cruz — May 16, 2013 @ 11:22 am

  6. After i finished reading the poem, i feel like this is a religous peom. Its about someone who is searching or praying to God. The words such as , “I beg You”, “good God”,”prayer”,”biblical story “,”divine power”,”seeke”,and “true faith” had drawing my attention. Bring me into a world where people are so little, weak and sinnfulness. And the only way in order for them to be save is through The good, mercyful God, that has divine power. We can also see that from the sentence “Please, good God,Put everything into your swing.”

    Comment by (simon)shilei chen — May 16, 2013 @ 7:19 pm

  7. Feeling extremes as a path to ecstasy seems to be the theme of this very arresting poem by by Yousef Kommunyakaa. The poet is not looking for a contemplative life but rather one that involves direct and metaphorical violence against him as a means to truly feel fully alive. It is a very unusual poem. The images created in one’s mind by phrases such as “use me like a whore”, “coldcock me about the head”, “Tie me up to the stocks”, are very strong and affecting.

    Comment by Lina Lloyd — May 17, 2013 @ 6:28 am

  8. Ecstatic by Komunyakaa is centered around a character in pursuit of redemption. The lines “Turn me inside out like Donne, Desired God to do with him,” is in reference to a John Donne poem in which a character lusted moral purity from God by any means necessary. I believe this poem illustrates a character who seeks redemption no matter the cost. The following lines seem to validate this view as he states “Tie me up to the stocks those Puritans Handled so well in Boston streets,” and “Don’t let me down. I beg You to use all your know-how.” The last line “Please, good God, Put everything into your swing,” further parallels “Ecstatic” to John Donne as it exemplifies a character seeking intervention from God.

    Comment by Michael Lee — May 17, 2013 @ 11:39 pm

  9. After reading this poem,I find this poem to be excessively sexual. The language that Komunyakaa used “whore, “coldcock”, “tie me up to the stock”, “moan like a bell”, it is as though he is writing about his extreme pleasant that he felt from his sexual experience. The title, too, goes well with the content as that ecstatic is an extreme from of joy, that which may have been experienced in that manner.However, I feel what the poem has more to it that sexual experience. There is a lot of religious reference such as “god” and “Donne”. It may be written in telling god not to hold back from loving us, embrace us in his arms. However, I might be wrong, that may be pleasure is what he has seen as his god, or that god may referred to a woman that he desired. There is multiple ways in interpreting the poem.

    Comment by Shing Yuk Chun Samual — May 18, 2013 @ 4:36 am

  10. Reading the first few lines of the poem I got a sense this about was about something sexual. It seems like the author was talking about this particular god who had the power to do anything. It might probably have a meaning of goodness of love or Jesus. The words I beg you and truth faith got me thinking it might be a religious poem as well. On the other hand, this god had the extreme form of joy and the desires of sexual pleasure. You are able to tell he likes to have sexual intercourse from the following line, “tie me up”, and “use me like a whore”. It really shows his true characteristics.

    Comment by Johnny Li — May 18, 2013 @ 5:05 am

  11. He is trying to find excitement. In the lines “Joy, use me like a whore”, he expresses how badly he desires joy. The way that he shows his emotion is by using pretty strong words like “whore”. His words get violent as the poem goes on, “Coldcock me about the head”, “Tie me up”. He also uses metaphors throughout the poem to try to get to that joy that he most desires, “Till I moan like a bell”. The overall theme of the poem is going to an extreme to reach joy.

    Comment by Lina Garzon — May 18, 2013 @ 8:33 am

  12. I feel like this poem is a prayer. In the first stanza, “Show me some muscle”, the poet is asking for strength from God where he is in now in depression seeking for happiness. In the last stanza it is also very clear that the poet is begging for God’s goodness to help him and protect him, “ In one throttle. Please, good God, put everything into your wing”.In addition to that, he is surrendering everything he has into God’s hand. Ultimately, the main theme for this poem sounds like that he is looking for help from God to find joy.

    Comment by Timothy — May 18, 2013 @ 9:10 am

  13. I think the title for this poem “Ecstatic” is very appropriate because I think this is what Yusef Komunyakaa wants to feel in life. You can see through this poem that he points out extreme situations “Tie me up , “coldcock me” “turn me inside out” it seems as though he wants to feel his heart beating he wants to feel so alive and such pure joy and excitement. I believe Komunyakaa is asking god to give him all he has and throw every situation at him in life and basically he wants god to help him experience everything in life

    Comment by tasmina.sharmi — May 18, 2013 @ 9:47 am

  14. This poem brought a lot of emotions through my mind. It seems that this is a person that will not settle for just being happy but wants much more. He seems as if he wants excitement and to be over powered. The statements, “use me like a whore” and “coldcock me about the head till I moan like a bell,” drew me straight to an image of a man who was very strong but wanted to be overpowered. He is dieing for excitement. It seems to me like this man is only happy when he has an adrenaline rush. I enjoy poems like this as they can have many different interpretations.

    Comment by Edward Krumholz — May 18, 2013 @ 9:48 am

  15. i think Ecstatic is what Yusef Komunyakka has beem searching for in his life. He had it once, but he wants more. He wants to feel the overwhelming happiness that he can longer get. It feels like he doesn’t like the reality, he wants to be trapped in the Ecstatic, like “Tie me up…”? I think happiness is what everyone is looking for in life, but for Yusef Kounyakka, its the happiness that make him loose the sense of reality. Overall I enjoy this poem because I want to feel ecstatic too.

    Comment by Xin Chen — May 18, 2013 @ 10:07 am

  16. This poem has two parts. The first two verses have sexual contents. Yusef Komunyakaa uses words like “whore” and “moan”. These words match the title “Ecstatic”. The last two verses are religious. Komunyakaa indicates the conflict between sex and being religious. In the end, he probably wants the god to accept his sin(sexual activity).

    Comment by Kahing — May 18, 2013 @ 12:56 pm

  17. This is the poem I read of Yusef Komunyaaka and he simply drew all my attention from the very beginning– ” Joy, use me like a whore.” Right away, I said to myself “Yes, that’s life.” We use ourselves like whores in our “jocund” moments. The first line defines and builds the background story why it is named as “ecstatic”.

    The 16 comments with Prof. Schulman’s points help me know different views though all my attention was still wandering with “Joy, use me like a whore”. The fourth stanza brings “Don’t let me down. I beg..” and the poem turns into a prayer. But is it really a prayer or just the realization of truth after “ecstatic” is over?

    Comment by Ashraf Talukder — May 19, 2013 @ 12:13 am

  18. I think the poem “Ecstatic” by Komunyakaa is sexual and religious. I really like the way he started the poem “Joy, use me like a whore” I think it is great attention grabber. From the beginning it catches readers attention guessing what will come next. I feel like the fist stanza is all about sex. It is the words he uses give it away “Turn me inside out like Donne” it sounds like he wants to be taken advantage of. 
 The last stanza is all about the religion. When he says “ Don’t let me down. I beg
You to use all your know-how
In one throttle. Please, good God,
Put everything into your swing” I feel like he is depressed and lost, he is praying for guidance. It sounds to me that God is his last hope.

    Aliya Adelman

    Comment by Aliya Adelman — May 22, 2013 @ 10:49 pm

  19. The title is very much appropriate for this poem. Komunyakaa expressed a strong feeling of joy. This poem is an illustration of how Komunyakaa chose to live his life. A life filled with adventure and courage. For example, Komunyakaa’s poem is well written as he starts off with very strong words “Joy used me like a whore”. With an introduction like that it would hold any reader’s attention and make reader want to read further on. I loved how each stanza is occupied with descriptions that further emphasize his strong sense of joy such as comparing his complaining to the sounds of bells. All his life he is searching for happiness that he can enjoy more. He does not wants to be depressed at all. He likes to be lost with his happiness. The most excitement ever he could get from everything. He basically describing how possibly he can live his life. Maybe he has to travel from a lot of difficulties which makes him sad. Therefore he needs such kinds of excitement so that he can overcome. He is even express his excitement to whore. His way of expression remind me that he is looking for the way to escape from all the sadness.

    Comment by Avijit Roy — May 23, 2013 @ 8:46 pm

  20. So after reading “Estatic” by Yuseef Kumunyakaa, My first impression was that this is a very direct and straight forward. I thought I was going to understand it very easily. I was reading it, the poem was more complex then simple. I feel that he is describing “joy” (which is traditionally a good feeling), and making it seem like something evil. I had to read this poem many times to get a descent idea of what Kumunyakaa message could be. Following numerous time of reading and analyzing, the possible message can be don’t trust joy, he might let you down. This is also a poem that is not a rhyming poem either

    Comment by Rashad Dauda — May 24, 2013 @ 9:11 pm

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