Fearless Laughter: Yusef Komunyakaa Advises Young Poets

by Elizabeth Hoover    /  May 25, 2011  / No comments

Video editing and production by Glen Wood

Yusef Komunyakaa’s richly sonorous poetry is forged over hundreds of painstaking revision as the poet compresses his language down what is most essential.

In these lines from “The Whistle,” you can hear the pure music of Komunyakaa’s poetry.

The seven o’clock whistle
Made the morning air fulvous
With a metallic syncopation
A key to a door in the sky—opening
& closing flesh. The melody
Men & women built lives around.

In this interview, conducted with Sampsonia Way while Komunyakaa was in town for City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s Jazz Poetry festival, he explains his writing and revision process, gives advice to young poets, and discusses the importance of silence in making his work.

Watch Komunyakaa’s interview on racism in America history.

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.

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