New York University has appointed Yusef Komunyakaa, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning poet, its Distinguished Senior Poet. Komunyakaa will be part of the faculty in NYU’s Graduate Creative Writing Program, which includes E. L. Doctorow, Paule Marshall, Sharon Olds, Breyten Breytenbach, and Philip Levine. Komunyakaa’s appointment begins in the fall of 2006.
“We have found a worthy successor to Galway Kinnell,” said Catharine Stimpson, dean of NYU’s Graduate School of Arts and Science. “All of the University will benefit from Yusef Komunyakaa’s immense talents and presence.”
Kinnell, the Erich Maria Remarque Professor in Creative Writing and founder and former director of NYU’s highly ranked creative writing master’s program, retired in the spring of 2005 after teaching for nearly half a century at NYU. The winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (1982), the National Book Award for Poetry (1982), and a MacArthur Fellowship (1984-1989), Kinnell is considered one of America’s most influential poets of the last 50 years.
“We are deeply honored and happy that Yusef will be making his writing home at N.Y.U.!” added Olds. “His brilliant poems, his devoted teaching, and his dedication to the worldwide poetry community—we are cheering about the addition of these gifts to our Creative Writing Program family.”
Komunyakaa’s books of poems include the following: Taboo : The Wishbone Trilogy, Part 1 (2004); Pleasure Dome: New & Collected Poems, 1975-1999 (2001); Talking Dirty to the Gods (2000); Thieves of Paradise (1998), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Neon Vernacular: New & Selected Poems 1977-1989 (1993), which won the Pulitzer Prize and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award; Magic City (1992); Dien Cai Dau (1988), which won The Dark Room Poetry Prize; I Apologize for the Eyes in My Head (1986), winner of the San Francisco Poetry Center Award; and Copacetic (1984).
Komunyakaa’s prose appears in Blues Notes: Essays, Interviews & Commentaries (University of Michigan Press, 2000). He also co-edited, with J. A. Sascha Feinstein, The Jazz Poetry Anthology (1991) and co-translated, with Martha Collins, The Insomnia of Fire by Nguyen Quang Thieu (1995).
He has received numerous honors and awards, including the William Faulkner Prize from the Université de Rennes, the Thomas Forcade Award, and the Hanes Poetry Prize as well as fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Louisiana Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1999, he was elected a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
Komunyakaa is currently a professor in the Council of Humanities and Creative Writing Program at Princeton University.
Komunyakaa was born in Bogalusa, Louisiana, in 1947. After graduating from Bogalusa’s Central High School in 1965, Komunyakaa enlisted in the United States Army and served a tour of duty in Vietnam, where he was a correspondent and editor of the military newspaper, The Southern Cross. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his work with the paper.
Komunyakaa obtained his bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado in 1975, an M.A. in creative writing from Colorado State University in 1978, and an M.F.A. in creating writing from the University of California, Irvine in 1980.
New York University, which was established in 1831, is one of the largest and most prestigious private research universities in the U.S. It has more international students than any other U.S. college or university. Through its 13 schools and colleges, NYU conducts research and provides education in the arts and sciences, law, medicine, dentistry, education, nursing, business, social work, the cinematic and performing arts, public administration and policy, and continuing studies, among other areas.