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Poet Yusef Komunyakaa to read in Spring Celebration of the Arts event April 20

Each spring, RIC’s Performing and Fine Arts Commission sponsors a Spring Celebration of the Arts presentation. This year, the commission honors creative writing with a reading by acclaimed poet Yusef Komunyakaa on Tuesday, April 20, at 7:30 p.m. in the Nazarian Center’s Sapinsley Hall.


Yusef Komunyakaa
Komunyakaa, the Senior Distinguished Poet in the Graduate Writing Program at New York University, is one of America’s most honored poets. He has written on subjects ranging from jazz and classical myth to the Vietnam War.

He won the Pulitzer Prize and Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award in 1994 for his book “Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems 1977-1989.” Among his other books of poems are “Pleasure Dome: New & Collected Poems, 1975-1999,” “Talking Dirty to the Gods,” and “Thieves of Paradise,” which was selected as a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

A collection of Komunyakaa's writing appears in the 2000 book “Blues Notes: Essays, Interviews & Commentaries,” edited by Radiciani Clytus. Komunyakaa also co-edited “The Jazz Poetry Anthology” and co-translated “The Insomnia of Fire” by Nguyen Quang Thieu.

He has been honored with the William Faulkner Prize from the Universite Rennes, the Hanes Poetry Prize, and the 2009 Jean Kennedy Smith NYU Creative Writing Award of Distinction. He received fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Mass., the Louisiana Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Komunyakaa was awarded the Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam, where he served as a correspondent and managing editor of the “Southern Cross.”

In 1999, he was elected a chancellor of The Academy of American Poets.

Poet Toi Derricotte has written of Komunyakaa: “He takes on the most complex moral issues, the most harrowing ugly subjects of our American life. His voice, whether it embodies the specific experiences of a black man, a soldier in Vietnam, or a child in Bogalusa, Louisiana, is universal. It shows us in ever deeper ways what it is to be human.”