Yusef Komunyakaa grew up in the deep South during the dawn of the Civil Rights movement. He served a tour of duty in Vietnam, where he was also a writer and the managing editor for the military newspaper, the Southern Cross. He began writing poetry several years after he returned to the United States. By 1979, at the age of 32, Komunyakaa had earned a BA, an MA, and an MFA, and had published two collections of poems, Dedications & Other Darkhorses and Lost in the Bonewheel Factory. The poet Toi Derricote wrote of Komunyakaa: "He takes on the most complex moral issues, the most harrowing ugly subjects of our American life. His voice, whether it embodies the specific experiences of a black man, a soldier in Vietnam, or a child in Bogalusa, Louisiana, is universal. It shows us in ever deeper ways what it is to be human." Komunyakaa won the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for Neon Vernacular. He is the Senior Distinguished Poet in the Graduate Writing Program at NYU.
To read this and other poems by Yusef Komunyakaa, as well as biographical information about the poet, please visit the Poetry Foundation Web site.