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yusef Komunyakaa
Yusef Komunyakaa

NYS Writers Institute, October 7, 2001

The Writer
PBS Series

Channel 17
Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa is a unique figure in American poetry and the author of eleven poetry volumes. Komunyakaa's poetry is celebrated for its short lines, its simple vernacular language, its jazzy feel, and its rootedness in the poet's experience as a Black child of the American South, and as a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War.

Komunyakaa's most recent collection is Talking Dirty to the Gods (2000, FSG), and his earlier collections include Thieves of Paradise (1998, Univ Press of New England), which was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award, Neon Vernacular (1993), which received the Pulitzer Prize, Magic City (1992) and Dien Cai Dau (1988).

Yusef Komunyakaa currently teaches at Princeton, where he is a professor in the Council of Humanities and the Creative Writing Program. In 1999, he was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. In addition to his many publications and poetry collections, he is coeditor (with Sascha Feinstein) of two volumes of "The Jazz Poetry Anthology:" from Indiana University Press. Komunyakaa was a visiting writer at the Writers Institute on March 8, 2001.

"In the pantheon of poetic stereotypes--the vitriolic, passionate drunkard is one; the wry, acerbic loner another--Mr. Komunyakaa. . .is more the dreamy intellectual, a Wordsworthian type whose worldly, philosophic mind might be stirred by something as homely and personal as a walk in a field of daffodils." - Bruce Weber in The New York Times

". . .a remarkable set of 132 four-quatrain poems that erase distinctions between nature, humanity and the divine. . .Life in all its spectacular variations inspires quirky ruminations on such earthy creatures as slime molds and hyenas, and such mythological beings as the centaur and Janus, the two-faced god." Kirkus Reviews said that "Here Komunyakaa comes across as a poet of both the small and the grand, a visionary who considers Eros and maggots with equal insight." - Booklist on Talking Dirty to the Gods

"Yusef Komunyakaa is a poet of the human heart in all its joys and horrors, fiercely present as it pounds away at the center of every human being's consciousness. He enlarges our idea of what poetry is, challenging us to go beyond our own narrow definitions." - The Washington Post Book World on Thieves of Paradise

For additional information visit www.albany.edu/writers-inst or contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620.