Yusef Komunyakaa Essays

Yusef Komunyakaa Essays-6
He also co-edited The Jazz Poetry Anthology and co-translated The Insomnia of Fire by Nguyen Quang Thieu.His honors include the William Faulkner Prize from the Universite Rennes, the Thomas Forcade Award, the Hanes Poetry Prize, fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Louisiana Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam, where he served as a correspondent and managing editor of the Southern Cross.

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He creates this rich and complex rhythm with deceptively simple language: “On Fridays he’d open up a can of Jax / after coming home from the mill,” “You’re at the edge of azaleas,” and “These yellow flowers / Go on forever / Almost to Detroit / Almost to the sea.” With remarkable concision, he summons entire landscapes for readers to explore: Landscapes of the rural South, the jungles of Vietnam, and even ancient Persia.

They are landscapes of hidden violence and buried history, but they are also places of unexpected acts of compassion.

He may read some lines quickly, so that they seem to run together and are punctuated by the consonants’ staccato.

Other times, he reads slowly so that each line seems to hang in the air, as the listener is suspended in the silence at the end of the line, waiting for the next image the poet will conjure.

In 1999, he was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Yusef Komunyakaa is a senior faculty member in the NYU Creative Writing Program.His other honors include the William Faulkner Prize from the Université de Rennes, the Thomas Forcade Award, the Hanes Poetry Prize, and fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Louisiana Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts.He was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 1999 and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2009.Yusef Komunyakaa captivates his audience with his distinct reading style.It’s not showy; he reads quietly, yet his sonorous voice fills the room with a distinct cadence.After graduating from high school in 1965, he enlisted in the Army and served in Vietnam as an information specialist.In addition to covering major combat operations, he wrote a column for the Army newspaper on Vietnamese literature and culture.It was also a place of stark segregation and racial violence.In “Dark Waters,” he describes how the disparity between the white marble monuments dedicated to southern generals and the makeshift graves of African-Americans near the festering town dump “was analogous to the town’s psyche.” Writing for the in 2009, he said of his childhood, “It was impossible not to have known and lived within the social and political dimensions of skin color.” However, for him Bogalusa was also a place of stunning natural beauty where “yellow flowers/go on forever” and “slate-blue catfish” swimming under a pond’s surface cause swamp orchids to “quiver under green hats.” He grew up surrounded by the rich musical and storytelling tradition of the Deep South., Ta-Nehisi Coates called Komunyakaa “probably my favorite living poet,” and said, “No one else taught me more about how important it was to think about how words make people feel.It’s not enough for people to know something is true.

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