Another major feature of Komunyakaa’s style is what has been labeled his montage technique.By this means, he builds many of his poems by superimposing one image upon another in order to create a single, complex, thematically related word picture.Indeed, the poet’s evolving vision became increasingly marked by a rich interplay of past and present, of the history and culture of the United States and those of other lands.
To Komunyakaa, the poem is a mechanism for self-discovery, a means by which both the poet and the reader can probe the outer layers of any experience with the intention of arriving at some core meaning.
Indeed, much of Komunyakaa’s work focuses on this desire to get at the heart of the matter, whether it is who humans are or where they find themselves at any given moment in their lives.
What results is the “neon vernacular” that Komunyakaa refers to in the title of his first edition of collected poems, a poetic language that illuminates meaning by expanding the linguistic options, the word choices, at the poet’s disposal.
Furthermore, Komunyakaa is adept at incorporating in his generally spare poems references, especially to musical culture, that amplify meaning through rich associations.
At the beginning of his poetic career, Komunyakaa’s vision was rooted most often in his race and gender, but even in his earliest work, there is evidence of his desire to incorporate the perspectives of other people.
This tendency to seek the universal expanded over time as Komunyakaa studied and traveled.
The tone of the poem is very emotional, combining the speakers fear and sadness for what was and what could have been as he reads the names on the wall. I’m flesh.”(Line 5), he is comparing two things that are very different to one another.
His vulnerability is illustrated as he says “I said I wouldn't, dammit: No tears. Stone is perceived as a strong, indestructible object where as flesh is easily penetrated and weak.
The typical Komunyakaa poem is often marked by a juxtaposition of apparently opposite elements.
For example, the more formal diction derived from the poet’s advanced education and extensive reading is often set against the regionalisms of the rural South or the jargon of soldiers and jazz musicians.