Yusef photo Distinguished alumni award goes to Pulitzer prize winning authorImage of

Distinguished alumni award goes to Pulitzer prize winning author

This year’s College of Liberal Arts distinguished alumni award will be given to Yusef Komunyakaa, M.A., Creative Writing, ’81.

Yusef Komunyakaa was born and grew up in the small town of Bogalusa, La., before and during the civil rights era. During the Vietnam War, he served a tour of duty in the Army as a journalist for the military paper, covering major actions, interviewing fellow soldiers, and publishing articles on Vietnamese history and literature. Upon his return to the states, he turned to poetry, eventually becoming one of the most popular and important American writers of his generation. Komunyakaa obtained his bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, in 1975, an M.A. in creative writing from Colorado State University in 1978, and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of California, Irvine, in 1980.

Komunyakaa’s books of poetry include Taboo, Dien Cai Dau, Neon Vernacular (for which he received the Pulitzer Prize), The Chameleon Couch, and the forthcoming The Emperor of Water Clocks. He has been the recipient of numerous awards including the William Faulkner Prize (Université Rennes, France), the Kingsley Tufts Award for Poetry, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Memorial Award, and the 2011 Wallace Stevens Award. His plays, performance art, and libretti have been performed internationally and include Slipknot, Wakonda’s Dream, Nine Bridges Back, Saturnalia, Testimony, The Mercy Suite, and Gilgamesh (a verse play) with Chad Gracia. He is Global Distinguished Professor of English at New York University.

To read more about Yusef’s life and career, check out this Boston University article.