New York governor appoints CSU english alumnus official State Poet
English, English Grad | January 13, 2016
As appearing on the New York Governor website
Colorado State University English alumnus Yusef Komunyakaa has been appointed the 11th New York State Poet by Governor Cuomo.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the appointment of New York’s 11th State Author, Edmund White, and 11th State Poet, Yusef Komunyakaa. In celebration of Italian-American poet Joseph Tusiani’s lifelong dedication to the arts, Cuomo has also named him New York State Poet Laureate Emeritus.
Governor Cuomo said, “These talented, inspiring writers have each made remarkable contributions to the literary community in New York. Their work is a tremendous asset to us all and has served as a touchstone for many around the world. I look forward to their literature being shared and enjoyed for generations to come.”
Yusef Komunyakaa said, “I am honored to serve as New York State poet. I embrace this historical support of artists and I shall endeavor to cultivate this atmosphere where poetry and the lives of working people intersect.”
About Yusef Komunyakaa – New York’s 11th State Poet
Yusef Komunyakaa is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, including Dien Cai Dau (1988), which won The Dark Room Poetry Prize, Thieves of Paradise (1998), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems (1993), for which he received both the Pulitzer Prize and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. He received the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for “extraordinary lifetime accomplishments” from the Poetry Foundation in 2001, and the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets in 2011. Komunyakaa has taught at many universities, including the University of New Orleans, Indiana University, and Princeton University.
Born and raised in Bogalusa, Louisiana, Komunyakaa served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and earned a Bronze Star for his work as editor and correspondent for the military newspaper Southern Cross. He received a B.A. from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs in 1975, an M.A. from Colorado State University in 1978, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of California, Irvine in 1980.
His first book of poems, Dedications & Other Darkhorses, was published in 1977, followed by Lost in the Bonewheel Factory in 1979. In 1993, Komunyakaa published Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems, which included twelve new poems in addition to poems from Dien Cai Dau, Copacetic, and I Apologize for the Eyes in My Head.
Since then, he has published several books of poems, including Thieves of Paradise (1998) and Talking Dirty to the Gods (2000), both of which were finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His 2011 collection, The Chameleon Couch, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and was shortlisted for the 2012 International Griffin Poetry Prize. It was named a Best Poetry Book of 2011 by the Boston Globe.
Komunyakaa is a distinguished faculty member and Honorary Director of Cave Canem, a foundation, headquartered in Brooklyn that is committed to cultivating the artistic and professional growth of African American poets. His many honors include 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 was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 1999 and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2009. His latest collection of poetry, The Emperor of Water Clocks, was published in October 2015. Komunyakaa lives in New York City and is the Distinguished Senior Poet in the Creative Writing Program at New York University.
About the New York State Poet and Author
The State Poet and Author are selected for two-year terms by the NYS Writers Institute, located at the University at Albany, SUNY. The choice for State Author and Poet is based on a substantial body of work of notable literary merit.
William Kennedy, Executive Director of the New York State Writers Institute, and ex-officio chair of the review committee for the Edith Wharton Award for State Author of the State of New York, said, “Edmund White is a gifted writer whose body of work exists on a high literary plane. He has written in several genres – journalism, the essay, criticism, biography, and especially fiction, almost totally focused on gay consciousness and culture. The scope of his work, his insights into the era in which he lived and into his own life, his candor and courage, his keen intelligence, and the marvelous wit of his language, have made him an eminent and inspirational figure in American literature.”
Donald Faulkner, Director of the New York State Writers Institute, and ex-officio chair of the review committee for the Walt Whitman Award for State Poet of New York, said, “Seldom, if ever, have I found an American poet with such an amazing trajectory of talent and sense of subject regarding culture and morality: from Viet Nam to jazz, from Black experience to surreal lyricism. Yusef Komunyakaa is surely among our very best.”
The NYS Writers Institute of the State University of New York, located at the University at Albany, was established as a permanent state-sponsored organization through legislation signed into law in 1984. The Writers Institute provides a milieu for writers, both renowned and aspiring, from all over the world to come together for the purpose of instruction and creative exchange.
In 1985, Governor Mario M. Cuomo and State Legislature empowered the Institute to award the Edith Wharton Citation of Merit for Fiction Writers (State Author) and the Walt Whitman Citation of Merit for Poets (State Poet) to authors whose career achievements make them deserving of New York State’s highest literary honors.
Upon the recommendation of two advisory panels of distinguished writers convened under the aegis of the Institute, the governor awards the citations every two years to one fiction writer and one poet of distinction. Throughout their two-year terms the State laureates promote and encourage fiction writing and poetry throughout New York by giving public readings and talks within the state. The award carries an honorarium of ten thousand dollars.
NYS Authors and their terms of service are listed below.
· Alison Lurie, 2012-2014
· Mary Gordon, 2008-2010
· Russell Banks, 2004-2008
· Kurt Vonnegut, 2001-2003
· James Salter, 1998-2000
· Peter Matthiessen, 1995-1997
· William Gaddis, 1993-1995
· Norman Mailer, 1991-1993
· E. L. Doctorow, 1989-1991
· Grace Paley, 1986-1988
NYS Poets and their terms of service are listed below.
· Marie Howe, 2012-2014
· Jean Valentine, 2008-2010
· Billy Collins, 2004-2006
· John Ashbery, 2001-2003
· Sharon Olds, 1998-2000
· Jane Cooper, 1995-1997
· Richard Howard, 1993-1995
· Audre Lorde, 1991-1993
· Robert Creeley, 1989-1991
· Stanley Kunitz, 1986-1988
For more information on the NYS Poet and Author, and the NYS Writers Institute, please visit: http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst/