University of Vermont

College of Arts and Sciences

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Poet Yusef Komunyakaa to Give Reading

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa will give a short reading from his work and discuss his poetry and life on Friday, Sept. 20 at 1 p.m. in John Dewey Lounge on the third floor of Old Mill. Major Jackson, Richard A. Dennis Green & Gold Professor, will moderate the discussion. The event is free and open to the public.

Komunyakaa began his writing career as a journalist for the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. His experiences on the battlefield, as well as coming of age as an African American in the rural South during the civil-rights era, provide the inspiration for much of his poetry. Komunyakaa’s work also delves into art, jazz, literature, history and memory.

“I excavate history,” he told the New York Times in a 2004 profile. “I look at lives buried under too much silence. Periods of time, like slavery, have to be revisited, reimagined, so we can move through them.”

Among Komunyakaa's books of poetry are The Chameleon Couch; Taboo: The Wishbone Trilogy, Part One; Talking Dirty to the Gods; Thieves of Paradise; Dien Cai Dau; and Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems, for which he received both the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award.

His prose has been collected as Blue Notes: Essays, Interviews and Commentaries and his dramatic works include Gilgamesh: A Verse Play and Slip Knot, a libretto in collaboration with Composer T. J. Anderson. Among his many prizes, Komunyakaa won the prestigious Wallace Stevens Award in 2011 and he currently holds the title Distinguished Senior Poet in New York University’s creative writing program.

The event is part of the English Department’s Writers Workshop, which features award-winning poets, fiction and nonfiction writers and playwrights. Komununyakaa’s visit is also sponsored by the Office of Human Resources, Diversity, and Multicultural Affairs.

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