YUSEF KOMUNYAKAA was born in Bogalusa, Louisiana, in 1947. His eleven books of poems include Talking Dirty to the Gods (2000); Thieves of Paradise (1998), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems (1993), for which he received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award; Magic City (1992); Dien Cai Dau (1988), which won the Dark Room Poetry Prize; I Apologize for the Eyes in My Head (1986), winner of the San Francisco Poetry Center Award; Copacetic (1984); and Taboo (2006), winner of the Poetry Society of America’s Shelly Memorial Award. He also co-translated The Insomnia of Fire, by Nguyen Quang Thieu (with Martha Collins, 1995), and co-edited The Jazz Poetry Anthology (with Sascha Feinstein, 1991). His prose was collected and published in February 2000, as Blue Notes: Essays, Interviews, and Commentaries. Komunyakaa has collaborated with the composer T. J. Anderson on a libretto, Slip Knot, commissioned by Northwestern University, and with jazz musician John Tchicai on the CD Love Notes from the Madhouse.
For his poetry, Mr. Komunyakaa was awarded the Poetry Society of America’s 2004 Shelley Memorial Award, the 2001 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, 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 received the Bronze Star for his service as a correspondent in Vietnam. In 1999 he was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. He teaches at Princeton University and lives in Trenton, New Jersey.