Past Issue: Yusef Komunyakaa


Spring 2018 | Yusef Komunyakaa | Vol. 1, Iss. 4

Welcome to The Fight & The Fiddle, a publication of the Furious Flower Poetry Center at James Madison University. Each issue gives you a 360-degree view of a Black poet, including an interview, new poems, a critical essay, and a writing prompt inspired by our featured poet. 


This quarter we bring you the legendary Yusef Komunyakaa. Born in Bogalusa, Louisiana in 1947, Yusef Komunyakaa is a son of the South. He served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, an experience that infused his creative career. Since writing his first poem in 1975, Komunyakaa has published nearly 20 books, including fourteen collections of poetry, anthologies he’s edited, a collection of prose writing, a translated volume, and two dramatic works. He has been awarded many major prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (1994), Kingsley Tufts Award (1994), William Faulkner Prize (1994), National Book Critics Circle Award (Shortlist, 1998), two Creative Writing Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1981, 1987), The Thomas Forcade Award (1991), The Hanes Poetry Prize (1997), Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets (1999), The Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1998), The Wallace Stevens Award (2011), and others.

  • The Interview: Yusef Komunyakaa converses with The Fight & The Fiddle editor Lauren K. Alleyne about what poems have taught him, and what they have to teach us.
  • Critical EssayMichael Collins looks at Komunyakaa’s Vietnam poetry in his critical essay “Lies the War Machine Told Me: Komunyakaa’s Vietnam Poetry”
  • Poems: Read “The Mountain” and “The Last Bohemian of Avenue A” by Yusef Komunyakaa.
  • Writing Prompts: What would your alter ego write about? Using Komunyakaa as a guide, we dare you to find out!

Cover design by Madalyn Peyton. Photo by Paul Sommers.