Yusef Komunyakaa wins Lanier Prize

Yusef Komunyakaa wins Lanier Prize


“I close my eyes and can see men drawing lines in the dust. America pushes through the membrane of mist and smoke, and I’m a small boy again in Bogalusa.”

It is poetry like this that earned Yusef Komunyakaa the Sidney Lanier Prize for his contribution to Southern writing. Since 2012, Mercer has annually awarded an author for his or her high quality prose or poetry and the impact that it has made.

The Sidney Lanier Prize is an honor that signifies a poet’s career contributions to Southern writing in drama, fiction or poetry. The award was named after Sidney Lanier, who was born in Macon, Ga.

Dr. David Davis, chair of the Lanier Prize Committee, said that the writers whom they select deserve their recognition.

“The Sidney Lanier prize recognizes career contribution to Southern writing,” Davis said. “Each year, a panel of Southern literature scholars and members of the Macon community deliberate about writers and their works and how they shaped the course of Southern culture.”

Davis also said that the authors selected are major figures in their genres, and as such are major contributors to American literature.

Komunyakaa was born in Bogalusa, La., and he began writing poetry when he was a student at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. He has studied at multiple universities, and he has a Master of Fine Art in creative writing.

Davis said that Komunyakaa is famous for his ability to write lyrically about difficult topics.

“In poems such as ‘Tu Do Street’ and ‘Facing It,’ he writes about the complicated memory of the Vietnam War, and in poems such as ‘My Father’s Love Letters’ and ‘Jasmine,’ he writes about himself and his complicated relationship with the South and the past,” Davis said. “His ability to eloquently vocalize complexity is astonishing.”

Komunyakaa has taught poetry in New Orleans and Indiana, and he now is a Global Distinguished Professor of English at New York University.

The Sidney Lanier prize also gives scholarships to high school juniors who are high-achieving in the realms of writing. The juniors are invited to submit works of fiction or poetry to the scholarship committees.

The scholarship funding can award up to $20,000 to students who enroll to Mercer University.

Komunyakaa said that he is thankful for all of the people who have faith in his work. He also said it will be an honor to visit Mercer University.

The ceremony presentation for Komunyakaa will take place on Saturday, April 25 at 1 p.m in the President’s Dining Room.