Fearless Laughter: Yusef Komunyakaa’s Advice to Young Poets

by    /  June 29, 2011  / No comments

Yusef Komunyakaa’s The Chameleon Couch, inhabits many musics: the delicate hymn in the book’s opening “Canticle,” the dark blues of a East Village club, and the haunting sound of a Japanese flute. In order to conjure these melodies and rhythms, Komunyakaa takes his poems through endless revisions, listening for “the music, that which comes from the body as opposed to that abstract mental space.”

In this video created by Sampsonia Way magazine and published also by Rattapallax, Komunyakaa describes his revision process, talks about the importance of silence in poetry, and dispenses advice for young poets.

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.


Watch Yusef Komunyakaa on Racism as a Mental Illness

Read Songs of Rage and Tenderness: The Poetry of Yusef Komunyakaa …

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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