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Slam, Dunk, & Hook

A breath-taking poem about a boy shooting a ball into a hoop. It is cool

Suzanne White

on 27 March 2014

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Transcript of Slam, Dunk, & Hook

Slam, Dunk, & Hook
Author's Biography
Yusef Komunyakaa was born in Bogalusa, Louisiana, on April 9, 1947.
Historical Context
African Americans were segregated from sports with white players
Nat Clifton became first African American to play in the NBA
Sports teams were slowly integrated
The young players could be targets for Ku Klux Klan violence
Represent a new breed of young African Americans who refuse to be oppressed any longer
Poem Summary
Lines 1-10
-Allusion towards Mercury
-Allusion towards labyrinth
Lines 11-20
-11-17 Describes basketball shots by other players
-Players look at young women in line 18
Lines 21-30
-Religious part of basketball net
-Line 24 says a player's mother just died.
-Line 29 is describing the way they are playing
Lines 31-40
-Line about white police.
-Lunches of black men, find joy in jumps
Poem Text
Fast breaks. lay ups. With Mercury's
Insignia on our sneakers,
We outmaneuvered to 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. Lanky, all hands
& feet... sprung rhythm.
We were metaphysical when girls
Cheered on the sidelines.
Tangled up in falling,
Muscles were a bright motor

Published his first chapbook in 1977, and his second in 1979
Themes: Power
Physical Power
Throughout the poem, Komunyakaa shows how the young players have strength in their muscles and bones. They have to be able to slam dunk and shoot the long shoots.
Served as a correspondent and editor of Southern Cross
Motif- a recurring image, subject, symbol, or detail that unifies a creative work
Writers uses this to develop his thematic concerns
Komunyakaa uses the motif of basketball
Sprung rhythm, developed by Gerard Hopkins, uses irregular feet comprised of one accented syllable alone
Komunyakaa adapts Hopkins' sprung rhythm to his characteristically short lines
He avoids the end stop and chooses instead to carry meaning and meter across lines
Poem is written in first-person plural point of view.
Gives reader knowledge of how the boys felt playing their favorite sport
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 rolled the ball off
Our fingertips. Trouble
Was there slapping a blackjack
Against an open palm.
Dribble, drive to the inside
, & 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.
Themes: Grief and Anger
dat pit though
Cultural Power
The final lines of the poem point to another kind of power. The players are beginning to understand the importance of teamwork to achieve goals. Just as in basketball they use strength and stratgey to win the game, the coming fight for civil rights in the United States for all people will require courage, strength, and strategy.
motha frekin ball in mid air
Published "Slam, Dunk, & Hook" in 1991
Taught at a number of universities, including Princeton.
Won the Pulitzer prize, the Kingsley Tufts Award, and the William Faulkner award

Komunyakaa introduces a young man named Sonny Boy who has just lost his mother. His response to his mother's death is to continuously keep playing basketball.

He plays so hard and his pounding shots end up shattering the wooden board behind the net.

His outlet is the basketball court, where in the fast-paced movement of feet, hands, and muscle he finds a language to express his rage and grief.

Sonny Boy plays with the emotional force that drives him from his mom's recent death.
"Therefore, while "Slam, Dunk, & Hook" is surely about a poem about rage, grief, fear, pride, danger, and beauty, set in a historic period in the South, it is also a poem that can be fruitfully discussed in terms of technique." - Diane Andrews Henningfeld.
In this poem, the author, Yusef Komunyakaa, has two strong influences in his writing. One is jazz and the other is the sounds of the basketball game.
After graduating from high school, Komunyakka enlisted in the United States Army.
Works Cited
Ruby, Mary K. "Slam, Dunk, & Hook."
Poetry for Students. Presenting Analysis, Context and Criticism on Commonly Studied Poetry.
Detroit: Gale, 1999. 175-184. Print
"Slam, Dunk, & Hook by Yusef Komunyakka."
. N.p.,n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.
Full transcript