Yusef Komunyakaa

Start Free Trial

How does Yusef Komunyakaa convey the speaker's attitude toward basketball in "Slam, Dunk, and Hook"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Komunyakaa employs a lot of playful, joyful structural (formal) and stylistic choices in this poem to express the speaker's joy in basketball.

Regarding the poem's style, Komunyakaa uses bright, playful, and movement-heavy language: "bad angels," "a high note hung there for a long second," "muscles were a bright motor," "swish of strings like silk," "a lyric slipknot of joy." Komunyakaa also uses a lot of body and animal imagery to describe the raw physicality of this game: "storybook sea monsters," "glide like a sparrow hawk," "glistening with sweat," and "swivels of bone and faith." The playful, movement-heavy language and the animal imagery tell us that the speaker finds uninhibited freedom and joy in the movement and the raw physicality of basketball. 

Also regarding style, Komunyakaa uses a lot of alliteration and assonance to create a musical, rhythmic quality to the poem. This musical rhythm helps drive the poem forward and also gives the speaker a sense of joy: "swish of strings like silk," "a high note hung," "dribble, drive to the inside & glide," "bodies spun on swivels," etc.

Regarding the structure, or form, the poem has relatively short lines, which help the poem move faster down the page, much like how a basketball player moves quickly across the court. Komunyakaa also uses a lot of very concise sentence fragments, or caesurae, in the middle of his poetic lines to create a lurching, staccato, stop-and-go kind of rhythm, especially in the poem's opening line: "Fast break. Lay ups." These midline caesurae once again mirror the way a basketball player might move across the court—dribbling the ball, turning, moving forward, stopping, doubling back—and convey the joy, freedom, and powerful self-expression the speaker finds in basketball.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial