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  March 26, 2001

Poetry Festival to Feature Pulitzer Prize-Winner

Pulitzer prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa will read from his works and present awards to students during the University's 38th Annual Wallace Stevens Poetry Program on April 4-5.

The April 4 program will take place at 8 p.m. in the Konover Auditorium of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. The program on April 5 will be given at noon in the Charter Oak Cultural Center, 21 Charter Oak Ave., Hartford. Admission to both events is free.

The program on April 4, which is sponsored by UConn's English department, with support from The Hartford and assistance from The Hartford Friends and Enemies of Wallace Stevens, will also feature readings by students who won the Wallace Stevens Poetry Contest. Students from three Hartford high schools will attend the April 5 reading as special guests of the University.

Komunyakaa is the author of 13 books of poems, including Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1994. Other works include Talking Dirty to the Gods, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2000; and Thieves of Paradise, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1998. His book, Pleasure Dome: New and Collected Poems, will be published this spring. He has also published a book of essays, Blue Notes: Essays, Interviews, and Commentaries.

Komunyakaa has completed a libretto, Slip Knot, which was commissioned by Northwestern University, and several CD recordings.

Born in 1947, Komunyakaa spent his childhood in Bogalusa, La., listening to music on his mother's radio that connected him to the world outside his rural town. The jazz and blues he heard as a young boy influenced his poetry. He served in Vietnam as an information specialist and as editor for the military newspaper, The Southern Cross, and received a Bronze Star for his service.

His work offers glimpses into his childhood years, his African-American identity and his experiences in Vietnam.

A Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets, Komunyakaa holds honorary degrees from Harvard University, the University of Colorado, and Lycoming College. Besides the Pulitzer Prize, he has won the Kingsley Tufts Award for Poetry, the Levinson Prize, the Morton Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the William Faulkner Prize, and The Dark Room Poetry Prize.

Komunyakaa is a professor in the Council of Humanities and Creative Writing Program at Princeton University and was previously a professor of English and Afro-American Studies at Indiana University.

Sherry Fisher