Yusef Komunyakaa

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Yusef Komunyakaa was born in Bogalusa, Louisiana. He earned a BA from the University of Colorado Springs on the GI Bill, an MA from Colorado State University, and an MFA from the University of California-Irvine. Komunyakaa’s early work includes the poetry collections Dedications & Other Darkhorses (1977) and Lost in the Bonewheel Factory (1979). Widespread recognition came with the publication of Copacetic (1984), which showcased what would become his distinctive style: vernacular speech layered with syncopated rhythms from jazz traditions. His next book I Apologize for the Eyes in My Head (1986) won the San Francisco Poetry Center Award; Dien Cai Dau (1988), a book that treated his experience in the Vietnam War in stark and personal terms, won the Dark Room Poetry Prize. It is regularly described as one of the best books of war poetry from the Vietnam War. Komunyakaa’s Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems (1994) won the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Komunyakaa's other works include Warhorses (2008); Taboo: The Wishbone Trilogy, Part 1 (2006); Pleasure Dome: New & Collected Poems, 1975-1999 (2001); Talking Dirty to the Gods (2000); and Thieves of Paradise (1998), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His most recent collections of poetry include The Chameleon Couch (2011), Testimony: A Tribute to Charlie Parker (2013), Emperor of Water Clocks (2015), and Everyday Mojo Songs of the Earth (forthcoming). He is the author of the verse play Gilgamesh: A Verse Play (2006) and in collaboration with composer T.J. Anderson the opera libretto Slip Knot. In 2011 Komunyakaa was awarded the Wallace Stevens Award. He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards including the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the William Faulkner Prize from the Université de Rennes, the Thomas Forcade Award, the Hanes Poetry Prize, and fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Louisiana Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He served as Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1999-2005. He has taught at numerous institutions including University of New Orleans, Indiana University, and Princeton University. Currently he serves as Distinguished Senior Poet in New York University’s graduate creative writing program. Source

You and I Are Dissapearing

The cry I bring down from the hills

belongs to a girl still burning

inside my head. At daybreak

 

she burns like a piece of paper.

 

She burns like foxfire

in a thigh-shaped valley.

A skirt of flames

dances around her

at dusk.

 

We stand with our hands

 

hanging at our sides,

while she burns 

 

like a sack of dry ice.

 

She burns like oil on water.

She burns like a cattail torch

dipped in gasoline.

She glows like the fat tip

of a banker's cigar,

 

silent as quicksilver.

 

A tiger under a rainbow

    at nightfall.

She burns like a shot glass of vodka.

She burns like a field of poppies

at the edge of a rain forest.

She rises like dragonsmoke

    to my nostrils.

She burns like a burning bush

driven by a godawful wind.

Published:

1988

Length:

Regular

Literary Movements:

Contemporary

Anthology Years:

2022

Themes:

Doubt & Fear

Violence & War

Womanhood

Literary Devices:

Anaphora

a figure of speech in which words repeat at the beginning of successive clauses, phrases, or sentences

Imagery

visually descriptive or figurative language, especially in a literary work

Metaphor

a comparison between two unrelated things through a shared characteristic

Sensory Detail

words used to invoke the five senses (vision, hearing, taste, touch, smell)

Simile

a comparison between two unlike things using the words “like” or “as”