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HAMMOND – Bogalusa native and Pulitzer Prize winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa will visit Southeastern Louisiana University Oct. 24 as part of the institution's fall Common Read program.
Sponsored by the Department of English and the Southeastern Writing Center, Common Read provides students and community members the opportunity to read the works and then meet an important contemporary author.
Events that day include student presentations on the author's work at 9:30 a.m., an 11 a.m. question and answer session with the author, a 2 p.m. presentation entitled Civil Rights in Southeast Louisiana: An Oral History, and a 7 p.m. public reading by Komunyakaa followed by a book signing and reception. All events are open to the public and will be held in the Student Union Theatre.
Born in Bogalusa as James William Brown, where he was raised during the beginning of the Civil Rights movement, Komunyakaa reclaimed his grandfather's family name that was lost in immigration from Trinidad to the United States. Komunyakaa served in Vietnam War with the U.S. Army and began writing poetry in 1973. After receiving his bachelor's degree from the University of Colorado Springs, his first two books of poetry – "Dedications & Other Darkhorses" and "Lost in the Bonewheel Factory" – were published. He later received his master's degree from Colorado State University and master of fine arts degree in creative writing from the University of California, Irvine.
"For several years now, we've sponsored a Common Read program, featuring a prominent, contemporary author, and it always serves as an exciting experience for our students," said Department of English Head David Hanson. "By meeting and talking with an author who they're studying intensively in class, students gain a rare opportunity to see deeply into an author's life of writing."
Komunyakaa has published more than a dozen collections of poetry. "I Apologize for the Eyes in My Head" won the San Francisco Poetry Prize, and his "Dien Cai Dau" was recognized with the Dark Room Poetry Prize. In 1994, he won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for "Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems."
Currently a professor of English and Distinguished Senior Poet at New York University, Komunyakaa started his teaching career in the New Orleans public schools and at the University of New Orleans. He has also taught at Indiana University and Princeton University.