A review of Yusef Komunyakaa’s reading by Shira Engel ’14.
You know you’re on a creative campus when you go from yoga to a club meeting to hearing a Pullitzer Prize-winning poet to meeting with your writing partner. Oh, wait – what did I just say? Pulitzer Prize-winning poet? A five minute walk away from my dorm? Yes.
On Wednesday, April 13, Yusef Komunyakaa read his poetry for a chapel filled with English majors and people who simply wanted to listen to beautiful words. He visited us from NYU where he is the Senior Distinguished Poet in the Graduate Writing Program. He was invited by the English Department as part of the Distinguished Writers series.
In this post, I could list the plethora of books he has written. I could knock off titles of his poems. I could name the impressive universities he has read and taught at. But when Komunyakaa came to Wesleyan, he shared individual poems to a mixed audience. Some – many of the English majors or students working towards the Writing Certificate – had read his poetry before while others were hearing his words for the first time.
He is what many poets aspire to be – a professional. On his way to work, he thinks of poems. He does not write them down until he gets to the office. It is a game he plays with himself. When he gets to work, he writes the poem he created mentally during his walk. Sharing this tidbit of his poetic process is just as valuable as sharing his actual poetry with Wesleyan students. When distinguished writers come to speak here, they share practical aspects of their creative processes. This takes creativity from the abstract to the intimate and paves the way for students to create the type of art they admire.
Komunyakaa’s visit to Wesleyan was part of the Russell House Series for Prose, Poetry, and Center for the Arts Music Series. The next event lined up is a reading for the Student Prize Winners on Wednesday, May 4.