Born in the rural community of Bogalusa, Louisiana, YUSEF KOMUNYAKAA served in Vietnam as a correspondent and editor of The Southern Cross and received a Bronze Star for his service as a journalist. He graduated magna cum laude from the University of Colorado in 1975, completed his master’s degree in 1978 at Colorado State University and earned an M.F.A. from the University of California at Irvine in 1980.
The author of nine collections of poetry, Komunyakaa won both the Pulitzer Prize and the Kingsley Tufts Prize for his book Neon Vernacular (Wesleyan, 1994). He has also been awarded the Thomas Forcade Award, the William Faulkner Prize, the Levinson Prize from Poetry magazine, the Hanes Poetry Prize, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, and the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1999, he was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and was awarded the Shelley Memorial Prize by the Poetry Society of America.
Komunyakaa has taught at Indiana State University, Washington University, University of California at Berkeley, and the University of New Orleans, and is currently Professor in the Council of Humanities and Creative Writing at Princeton University.