Yusef Komunyakaa on Racism as a Mental Illness

by Elizabeth Hoover    /  January 24, 2011  / No comments

Video editing and production by Glen Wood

“All of our heroes have blood on their hands,” the poet Yusef Komunyakaa muses in this interview about the history of racism in the United States.

Over his more than 20-year career as a poet, Komunyakaa has investigated the dark places of the American psyche, the snarls where racism, violence, history, and identity tangled together.

In Callaloo magazine, the poet Toi Derricotte writes,  “Komunyakaa takes on the most complex moral issues, the most harrowing subjects of our American life. His voice…shows us in ever deepening ways what it is to be human.”

Komunyakaa is the author of 13 volumes of poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize winning Neon Vernacular. His most recently work, Chameleon Couch, is due out from Farrar, Straus & Giroux in April.

Sampsonia Way associate editor Elizabeth Hoover interviewed Komunyakaa in City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s House Poem.   Komunyakaa stayed in the House Poem while he was in Pittsburgh for COA/P’s Jazz Poetry concert.

Read Elizabeth’s bio.

About the Author

Elizabeth Hoover earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Indiana University, where she received a Project on African Expressive Traditions grant and the Won-Joon Yon Scholarship for Racial Tolerance. She has written for American Heritage, Life, and Poets and Writers. Her criticism has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She has published poetry in The Adirondack Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and the Atlanta Review. Recently, New Letters nominated her for a Pushcart Prize. Hoover is a former associate editor at Sampsonia Way.

View all articles by Elizabeth Hoover

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