Yusef Komunyakaa | 2018 Featured Poet

Click Here to Read Samples of Yusef Komunyakaa’s Poetry

Celebrating Our 20th Year!
Poet Yusef Komunyakaa will be on campus Wednesday, April 04, 2018.

lostwordskomunyakaaMorning reading and conversation about writing process.

Evening public reading preceded by an open mic and followed by Q&A and book signing.

All events will take place in the Kerr McGee Auditorium of the Meinders School of Business, Oklahoma City University, at NW 27th and N. McKinley. Copies of the poet’s book will be offered for sale on site by Full Circle Books.

Yusef Komunyakaa was born and raised in Bogalusa, Louisiana and educated, informally, in the Vietnam War and, formally, in Colorado and California. Long before he took advantage of the G.I. Bill to seek his formal education, he was introduced to the power and poetry of language as a child hearing the sounds of the Old Testament and the ways in which the “cadence” of scriptural language influenced the speech of the Trinidadian elders in his family. The poetic voices that eventually came to influence his work, however, come from the English and American poetic traditions. He considers himself an heir of Walt Whitman in his love of vernacular American language, while critics also call his complex imagery and philosophical approach to poetry “Wordsworthian.”

Komunyakaa is the author of 16 books of original poetry, has edited several anthologies of poetry, co-translated a book of Vietnamese poetry, wrote a libretto, and created a verse-play version of Gilgamesh. Among his notable poetry collections are Copacetic (1984); I Apologize for the Eyes in My Head (1986); his collection dealing with war experiences, Dien Cai Dau (1988); 1994 Pulitzer Prize winner Neon Vernacular; and the 2011 National Book Award Finalist The Chameleon Couch. He has also appeared in the PBS programs American Experience: Walt Whitman and Poetry Everywhere. He is best known for his jazz-syncopated line style, his exploration of the human experience via war, and his depictions of both historical and autobiographical elements of African American life. His most anthologized poems are “Facing It,” about visiting the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., and “The African Burial Ground,” about the historic graveyard in lower Manhattan. His most recent collection, The Emperor of Water Clocks (2015), explores, reimagines, and retells stories from classic mythology. Critics praise the book as “big, full of characters, pleasant, and global in scope.”

The National Book Foundation calls Komunyakaa “one of our preeminent poets.” In addition to his National Book Award Nomination and Pulitzer Prize, he has received many accolades for his work, including the Wallace Stevens Award, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, 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 served as Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1999-2005 and is currently a senior faculty member in the Creative Writing Program at New York University.

Please plan to be at Oklahoma City University for the 20th Annual Thatcher Hoffman Smith Poetry Series on April 4, 2018: Conversations with Yusef Komunyakaa. The Center for Interpersonal Studies through Film & Literature sponsors this event in collaboration with the Petree College of Arts and Sciences, the OCU English Department, The Oklahoma Humanities Council, the Oklahoma Arts Institute, the Oklahoma Writing Project, Full Circle Bookstore, and other groups to make these events possible.