Pulitzer Prize-winning poet continues writers series

“He thinks like a scholar [and] writes like
a jazz musician,” Doug Mannual, part of the
Masters of Fine Arts program, said as he introduced
visiting writer, Yusef Komuyakaa,
Sept. 23 at 7:30 p.m. in the Krannert Room of
Clowes Memorial Hall.
Komunyakaa read several poems for Butler
University students, faculty and members
of the community at his poetry reading
last week.
Komunyakaa has won a Pulitzer Prize
and the $50,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award
for his work “Neon Vernacular: New and Selected
Poems.”
Stepping up to the podium, Komunyakaa
searched for his glasses. Once he put them
on, he began to read. Starting with a selection
of poems including, “With Eyes on Me”
and “Blue Dementia.”
He read aloud from “Blue Dementia”
saying, “In the days of nightriders when
life tongued a reed till blues & sorrow song
called out of the deep night: Another man
done gone. Another man done gone.”
As he flipped through his books, he said
he was “threatening to surprise himself”
with which poem he would read next, but he
said at this point it’s a little difficult.
Komunyakaa, is a Louisiana native and
Vietnam War veteran, where he worked as a
correspondent for Army publications during
the Vietnam War.
According to the Poetry Foundation, his
work is influenced by both of these aspects
of his life.
After his introductory poems, Komunkyakaa
went on to read more emotional
poems about his experiences in the war.
The poems were about dealing with fallen
men, direct combat and visits to the Vietnam
Veteran’s Memorial in Washington, D.C.
“Thanks for the tree between me and
the sniper’s bullet,” he read from the poem
“Thanks.”
Komunyakaa said it took him 14 years to
start writing about Vietnam.
In another poem titled, “Facing It,” he
wrote, “I go down the 58,022 names, halfexpecting
to find my own in letters like
smoke.”
Komunyakaa said, “Sometimes war and
love seemed to be linked,”about the experience
of being involved in and writing about
war.
Although it seemed that Vietnam was a
big influence in his writing, Komunyakaa
said his influences do go beyond the war.
“[The Vietnam War] is only one aspect of
a complicated existence,” he said.
Komunyakaa said music influences his
writing as well and when reading his lighter
poetry he used a song-like tone.
“I think language is music,” he said.
Komunyakaa said he believes reading
and writing are connected and he “loves the
physicality of work.”
“I do what I love,” he said. “I write everyday
and I read everyday, too.”

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