Visiting Writers Series brings Pulitzer-winning poet to OSU


CORVALLIS - Yusef Komunyakaa, one of America's most powerful poets and winner of the 1994 Pulitzer Prize, will give a reading on Sunday, May 16, at 7:30 p.m. in LaSells Stewart Center at Oregon State University. It is free and open to the public.

Komunyakaa, whose love of the blues and jazz rhythms permeates his poetry and performance, is the author of 10 books of poetry, including "Thieves of Paradise," "Neon Vernacular," for which he won the Pulitzer, and "Magic City."

He also co-edited "The Jazz Poetry Anthology" and co-translated "The Insomnia of Fire," by Nguygen Quang Thieu.

Born in 1947 and raised in rural Louisiana, Komunyakaa was one of many young African American men drafted into service during the Vietnam War. His poems - many of them based on memories of childhood and of his experiences in Vietnam - have been praised by critics for their tough wit and "bop frenzy."

Critic Edward Skoog writes that while Komunyakaa's style "has evolved from a soul bare blues to an intellectually syncopated jazz, his core obsessions remain the same: his poems provide gritty testimony of the Vietnam War, a history of community and lo neliness in African America, and, elusively, a complex document of human consciousness."

The Washington Post Book Review calls him "a poet of the human heart, in all its joys and horrors."

In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, his honors include the William Faulkner Prize, the Thomas Forcade Award, the Hanes Poetry Prize and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

He was awarded the Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam, where he served as a correspondent and the editor of the Southern Cross. He is professor of creative writing at Princeton University.

Komunyakaa's appearance at OSU is co-sponsored by the OSU English Department's Visiting Writers Series and the Mountain Writers Series.