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Award-Winning Poet to Read During Wallace Stevens Poetry Programs
(Released: 02/23/01)

By Sherry Fisher, Office of University Communications

STORRS, Conn. -- Pulitzer prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa will read from his works and present awards to students during the University of Connecticut's 38th Annual Wallace Stevens Poetry Program on April 4-5.

The April 4 program will take place at 8 p.m. in the Konover Auditorium of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. The program on April 5 will be given at noon in the Charter Oak Cultural Center, 21 Charter Oak Ave., Hartford. Admission to both events is free.

Sponsored by UConn's English department, with support from The Hartford and assistance from The Hartford Friends and Enemies of Wallace Stevens, the program on April 4 will also feature readings by students who won the Wallace Stevens Poetry Contest. Students from three Hartford high schools will attend the April 5 reading as special guests of the University.

Komunyakaa is the author of 13 books of poems, includingNeon Vernacular: New andSelected Poems, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1994. Other works includeTalking Dirty to theGods, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2000;Thieves of Paradise, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1998;Magic City, 1992;Dien Cai Dau, l988; andCopacetic, 1984. His book,Pleasure Dome: New and Collected Poems, will be published this spring. He has also published a book of essays,Blue Notes: Essays, Interviews, and Commentaries.

Komunyakaa has completed a libretto,Slip Knot, which was commissioned by Northwestern University, and several CD recordings. These includeTestimony, based on a poem dedicated to saxophonist Charlie Parker, an 18-song work composed and arranged by Sandy Evans in Australia;Thirteen Kinds of Desire, a collection of his lyrics performed by jazz vocalist Pamela Knowles; and Love Notes from the Mad House, a collaboration with jazz saxophonist John Tchicai and an ensemble.

Born in 1947, Komunyakaa spent his childhood in Bogalusa, La., listening to music on his mother's radio which connected him to the world outside his rural town. The jazz and blues he heard as a young boy influenced his poetry. He served in Vietnam as an information specialist and as editor for the military newspaperThe Southern Cross and received a Bronze Star for his service. His works offers glimpses into his childhood years, his African-American identity and his experiences in Vietnam.

A Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets, Komunyakaa holds honorary degrees from Harvard University, the University of Colorado and Lycoming College. Besides the Pulitzer Prize, he has won the Kingsley Tufts Award for Poetry, the Levinson Prize, the Morton Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the William Faulkner Prize, and The Dark Room Poetry Prize.

Komunyakaa is a professor in the Council of Humanities and Creative Writing Program at Princeton University and was a professor of English and Afro-American Studies at Indiana University.

February 2001 Releases
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