Here’s Yusef Komunyakaa’s advice to young poets:
And here’s what Jasmine has to say about him:
Yusef Komunyakaa was born in Bogalusa, Louisiana, on April 29 of 1947. He was born with name James William Brown, but took the name Komunyakaa after his grandfather. He grew up in the center of the Civil Rights Movement and served in the Vietnam War. He started writing poetry in the early 70’s at the Colorado State University. In 1985, he married Mandy Sayer, an Australian novelist. They divorced ten years later. He later began dating poet Reetika Vazirani who, in 2003, committed suicide after murdering their infant sun Jehan. He is currently a professor in the writing program at NYU.
One of his latest books, Warhorses, has a lot to do with war and human nature. He derived a bit of his inspiration towards approaching these poems from the Civil War poems of Walt Whitman. He’s also a big fan of Pablo Neruda and Plato. A lot of his poems retell the stories of his childhood and the dynamic of the relationship between his parents. He is often inspired and landscape and what is around him. “I think it all connects to image. I rely heavily on an image,” he mentions in an interview with the Tufts Observer.
He’s very nostalgic. There’s usually an underlying emotion beneath his poems, but most of them are pretty easy to understand. As mentioned above, he is influenced by Walt Whitman, and he names him as one of the great poets. He heavily relies on image, and often a single image can be the inspiration for an entire collection of poems, as he did with the poem “Venus Fly-Traps” and the collection Magic City.