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As part of Lafayette College's celebration of National Poetry Month, Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet Yusef Komunyakaa will host the MacKnight Black Poetry Reading at 8 p.m., Thursday, April 15, at the Williams Center for the Arts.

The event, sponsored by the department of English and the American Studies program, is free and open to the public. This year's winners of the annual MacKnight Black Poetry Competition, open to Lafayette seniors, will read their prize-winning pieces. Komunyakaa, who served as guest judge for the competition, will follow with readings from his own works.

Christian Rose of Binghamton, N.Y., took top prize in this year's competition, while Natalie Papailiou of Middletown, N.J., Scott Rosen of West Milford, N.J., and Mark Sokoloff of Eastchester, N.Y., earned honorable mention.

The competition is named for MacKnight Black, a 1916 graduate of Lafayette, who at the time of his death in 1931 was one of America's most significant poets.

“I really feel honored to have been chosen by such a decorated and gifted poet as Yusef Komunyakaa,” says Rose, who penned his prize-winning poem, “Fish,” last summer. He has also earned the praise of Lee Upton, an accomplished poet and critic who is professor of English and the first Lafayette faculty member to hold the title writer-in-residence.

“Christian Rose writes poetry that is marvelously complex and compelling,” Upton says. “The images that he creates are haunting and resonant.”

The 1994 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems (1993), Komunyakaa is a prolific author whose work borrows thematically from jazz and the Vietnam War. He is the author of ten books of poetry including Thieves of Paradise (1998); Dien Cai Dau (1988), the winner of The Dark Room Poetry Prize; and I Apologize for the Eyes in My Head (1986), winner of the San Francisco Poetry Center Award.

Komunyakaa was born in Bogalusa, La., in 1947. He holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Colorado, a master's degree from Colorado State University, and a master's in fine arts from the University of California, Irvine. He is the recipient of several honors, including the William Faulkner Prize from the Universite de Rennes in Rennes, France, and fellowships from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Mass., and the National Endowment for the Arts. Komunyakaa, a professor of creative writing at Princeton University, earned a Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam where he served as a correspondent and editor for The Southern Cross, a military newspaper.

For more information call Upton, 610-330-5250.

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