November 5, 2024
3 b&w halftones
9.00 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
$50.00 USD, £36.95 GBP
v2.1 Reference
Paperback / softback
November 5, 2024
3 b&w halftones
9.00 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
$24.95 USD, £18.50 GBP
v2.1 Reference

Dear Yusef

Essays, Letters, and Poems, For and About One Mr. Komunyakaa

Edited by John Murillo
Anthology of new work honoring the legacy of a celebrated African American poet

This carefully and generously curated mosaic of essays, letters, and poems reveals the profound impact that poet Yusef Komunyakaa has had on poets, educators, and readers worldwide. The anthology brings together creative and critical offerings from fellow poets, former students, literary entities, and other admirers. There are emerging and established voices—from previously unpublished writers to Pulitzer Prize winning poets. Together these pieces honor one of the most influential writers of the last half century, one, it turns out, who is as beloved for his teaching as he is celebrated for his creative work. Contributors include Terrance Hayes, Sharon Olds, Carolyn Forché, Toi Derricotte, and Martín Espada, among others. Dear Yusef affirms Komunyakaa's transformative influence, showcasing how his mentoring has ignited creativity, nurtured passion, and fostered a sense of belonging among countless individuals. Through the artistry of these testimonials, we witness the transformative power of poetry and the enduring legacy of a true literary icon.

Sample Poem:

from "Reading Yusef," by Major Jackson

Over powdered beignets,
over a demitasse of chicory
near Royal, I came to grips I am the lonely sort
for I am ever seeking potions,
my head sideways, a book winged
in my hand, its words from the chitlin circuit,
fried dough going cold and congealing,
passing tourists drowned out,
a sullen look on my face. It is when I most
want to make love.

Dostoevsky was a way out of my confusion,
as was Baraka whom I gave my reverence freely.

Nothing I believed stayed, and thus, my melancholy
deepened though banjos and clarinets played
the streets through late afternoon rain, maybe
Black Bottom Stomp, eucalyptus and live oaks
aging against arpeggio-runs.

from "The Forty-Fourth Poem," by Jennifer Grotz
The first student in my correspondence course who completed the final lesson on Dien Cai Dau was, like many students in that course, incarcerated in the Indiana State Penitentiary. In his essay, he wrote that Dien Cai Dau was the first book of poems he'd ever read. He'd been so taken with the experience that he'd proceeded to read poems from it aloud to his fellow inmates, after which they'd exchanged stories about being in the military, about Vietnam. He wrote about what it was like to witness violence. About what it was like to be numb, or to want to be numbHe also wrote about appreciating beauty, especially natural beauty, and of an awareness of gratitude for some grace that had nonetheless kept him alive, about how the poems still gave him hope. Dien Cai Dau had had a profound effect on him.

from "Dear Yusef," by Emily Jungmin Yoon
The framework of your class was always care. Because you cared for us, we cared for one another. From then on, my poetry was always about love, even when it spoke through ugly histories, because I wanted to love the people in those narratives.

About the Author

JOHN MURILLO is the author of the poetry collections, Up Jump the Boogie and Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry. Among his honors are the 2021 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, the Four Quartets Prize from the Academy of American Poets and the TS Eliot Foundation, and the Poetry Society of Virginia's North American Book Award. Currently, he serves as associate professor of English at Wesleyan University. NICOLE SEALEY is the author of The Ferguson Report: An Erasure (2023), an excerpt from which was awarded the Forward Prize for Best Single Poem, Ordinary Beast (2017), finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and the PEN Open Book Award, and The Animal After Whom Other Animals Are Named (2016), winner of the Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry Prize. She was the Executive Director at Cave Canem from 2017–2019. She teaches in the MFA Writers Workshop in Paris program at New York University.


"It should not be this rare to have such a rich offering, wherein a chorus of voices that a writer has fostered, both as a teacher and poet, is gathered to sing with erudite, heart-filled admiration. How lucky we are, then, to have this testament to Yusef's profound reach on the deepest practitioners of the art, his ever-unfolding grace and generosity through the years made manifest in their letters. It's the best kind of party, this book, where the music is low and the voices rise over it all—and every word counts."—Ocean Vuong, author of Time is a Mother

"This celebration of poet and teacher Yusef Komunyakaa aggregates memory, critical consideration, and tribute poems, giving testimony to the impact he has had on those who have had the good fortune to encounter him. Dear Yusef is a bountiful bouquet of deep love, and this poet deserves every last rose."—Lauren K. Alleyne, Executive Director, Furious Flower Poetry Center

"Dear Yusef reminds me of the tiger under a rainbow at nightfall in one of Komunyakaa's poems. These essays and letters and poems glow like that rainbow under which chuffs one of the great poets of the last hundred years. This book testifies to his enormous influence upon countless writers. Like his magical poems, this book is a talisman. It's a black cat bone, a mojo, and a John the Conqueror root"—Toms Q. Morn, author of Machete

November 5, 2024
$50.00 USD
Paperback / softback
November 5, 2024
$24.95 USD

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