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Yusef Komunyakaa

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Biography

Yusef Komunyakaa (born April 29, 1947) is an American poet who currently teaches at New York University and is a member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers. Komunyakaa is a recipient of the 1994 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, for Neon Vernacular[1] and the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. He also received the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. Komunyakaa received the 2007 Louisiana Writer Award for his enduring contribution to the poetry world.

His subject matter ranges from the black general experience through rural Southern life before the Civil Rights time period and his experience as a soldier during the Vietnam War.

Komunyakaa was born in 1947 and given the name James William Brown, the eldest of five children of James William Brown, a carpenter. He later reclaimed the name Komunyakaa that his grandfather, a stowaway in a ship from Trinidad, had lost. He grew up in the small town of Bogalusa, Louisiana, before and during the Civil Rights-era. He served in the US Army from 1968–1971, serving one tour of duty in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War (1969–1970). He worked as a specialist for the military paper, Southern Cross, covering actions and stories, interviewing fellow soldiers, and publishing articles on Vietnamese history, which earned him a Bronze Star.

He began writing poetry in 1973 at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs Campus, where he was an editor for and a contributor to the campus arts and literature publication, riverrun. He earned his M.A. on Writing from Colorado State University in 1978, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of California, Irvine in 1980.

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