Yusef Komunyakaa

photo of Yusef Komunyakaa

Yusef Komunyakaa was born in 1947 in Louisiana, where he was raised during the beginning of the Civil Rights movement, and later served in the United States Army in the Vietnam War. His first book of poems, Dedications & Other Darkhorses, was published in 1977. Komunyakaa first received wide recognition in 1984 for his publication of Copacetic, a collection of poems built from colloquial speech which demonstrated his incorporation of jazz influences. His other books of poetry include Taboo: The Wishbone Trilogy, Part I ; Talking Dirty to the Gods ; and Neon Vernacular: New & Selected Poems 1977-1989 for which he received the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. About his work, the poet Toi Derricotte wrote, “He takes on the most complex moral issues, the most harrowing ugly subjects of our American life. His voice, whether it embodies the specific experiences of a black man, a soldier in Vietnam, or a child in Bogalusa, Louisiana, is universal. It shows us in ever deeper ways what it is to be human.” He lives in New York City where he is currently Global Distinguished Professor of English at New York University.

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Yusef Komunyakaa with Michael Silverblatt, (Events)

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