Conversations with Yusef Komunyakaa brings together over two decades of interviews and profiles with one of America's most prolific and acclaimed contemporary poets. Yusef Komunyakaa (b. 1947) describes his work alternately as ""word paintings"" and as ""music,"" and his affinity with the visual and aural arts is amply displayed in these conversations. The volume also addresses the diversity and magnitude of Komunyakaa's literary output. His collaborations with artists in a variety of genres, including music, dance, drama, opera, and painting have produced groundbreaking performance pieces. Throughout the collection, Komunyakaa's interest in finding and creating poetry across the artistic spectrum is made manifest.For his collection Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems, 1977-1989, Komunyakaa became the first African American male to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Through his work he provides keen insight into life's mysteries from seemingly inconsequential and insignificant life forms (""Ode to the Maggot"") to some of the most compelling historical and life-altering events of our time, such as the Vietnam War (""Facing It""). Influenced strongly by jazz, blues, and folklore, as well as the classical poetic tradition, his poetry comprises a riveting chronicle of the African American experience.
Shirley A. James Hanshaw is assistant professor of English at Mississippi State University. Her work has been published in Thirty Years After: New Essays on Vietnam War Literature, Film, and Other Arts, as well as The Literary Griot: International Journal of Black Expressive Studies and Journal of the African Literature Association.