NYS Writers Institute to host inauguration ceremony for new State Author and State Poet, February 11, 2016

Edmund White, newly named State Author; Yusef Komunyakaa, newly named State Poet

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New York State Author Edmund White Photo credit: Kathryn Hamilton

ALBANY, NY (01/27/2016)(readMedia)-- The newly-appointed New York State Author and New York State Poet will be inaugurated at a special ceremony on Thursday, February 11, 2016 at 8:00 p.m. in Page Hall, 135 Western Avenue, on the University at Albany's downtown campus. Fiction writer Edmund White will receive the Edith Wharton Citation of Merit for State Author, and poet Yusef Komunyakaa will receive the Walt Whitman Citation of Merit for State Poet. Following the ceremony, the new laureates will read from their work. Sponsored by the New York State Governor's Office, New York State Writers Institute, and University at Albany's Offices of the President and Provost, the event is free and open to the public.

Edmund White has been named New York's new State Author and Yusef Komunyakaa has been named New York's new State Poet for 2016-2018. The laureates were recently appointed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and will serve under the aegis of the New York State Writers Institute.

The State Author and State Poet awards were established in 1985 by the governor and state legislature to promote fiction and poetry within the state. Upon the recommendation of two advisory panels of distinguished writers convened by the New York State Writers Institute, the governor awards the citations every two years to one fiction writer and one poet of distinction.

In announcing the awards Governor Cuomo said: "I'm proud to name renowned writer Edmund White and acclaimed poet Yusef Komunyakaa for the prestigious positions of State Author and Poet. Their collective body of work has had a tremendous impact on the people of New York, those across the country and many around the world. I look forward to their literature being shared and enjoyed for generations to come."

Edmund White

William Kennedy, Executive Director of the NYS Writers Institute, and ex-officio chair of the review committee for the Edith Wharton Citation of Merit for State Author said: "Edmund White is a gifted writer whose body of work exists on a high literary plane. The scope of his work, his insights into the era in which he lived and into his own life, his candor and courage, his keen intelligence, and the marvelous wit of his language, have made him an eminent and inspirational figure in American literature."

Edmund White is the author of more than two dozen works of fiction, memoir, and criticism. As a fiction writer, White is perhaps best known for his trilogy of autobiographical novels: A Boy's Own Story (1982), The Beautiful Room Is Empty (1988), and The Farewell Symphony (1997). He is also the author of works including The Married Man (2000), a novel about love in the AIDS era, Hotel de Dream: A New York Novel (2007), which imagines the final days of the poet and novelist Stephen Crane, and Jack Holmes and His Friend (2013), which charts the unconventional relationship between two men, one gay, one straight, from their arrival in New York in the 1950s through the first stirrings of gay liberation.

Among his many awards, White is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Award for Literature from the National Academy of Arts and Letters, and was made Chevalier (and later Officier) de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 1993. White was a co-founder of the Gay Men's Health Crisis (now GMHC), the world's first provider of HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and advocacy, established in New York City in January 1982, and in 1989 he was the inaugural recipient of the Bill Whitehead Award, honoring lifetime achievement by writers within the LGBT community. A member of both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, White lives in New York City and has been a Professor of Creative Writing at Princeton University since 1998.

Edmund White succeeds Alison Lurie as NYS Author and joins a group of eminent authors who have served in the position, including Mary Gordon, Russell Banks, Kurt Vonnegut, James Salter, Peter Matthiessen, William Gaddis, Norman Mailer, E. L. Doctorow, and Grace Paley.

The advisory panel that recommended White as State Author included the outgoing laureate, novelist Alison Lurie, fiction writers Ann Beattie, Allan Gurganus, and George Saunders, and novelist and Executive Director of the New York State Writers Institute, William Kennedy.

Yusef Komunyakaa

Donald Faulkner, Director of the NYS Writers Institute, and ex-officio chair of the review committee for the Walt Whitman Citation of Merit for State Poet, said: "Seldom, if ever, have I found an American poet with such an amazing trajectory of talent and sense of subject regarding culture and morality: from Viet Nam to jazz, from Black experience to surreal lyricism. He is surely among our very best."

Komunyakaa is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, including Dien Cai Dau (1988), a modern classic of war poetry, and Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems (1993), for which he received both the Pulitzer Prize and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. He received the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for "extraordinary lifetime accomplishments" from The Poetry Foundation in 2001 and the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets in 2011. His other works include Thieves of Paradise (1998), Talking Dirty to the Gods (2000), and The Chameleon Couch (2011), all of them finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and The Emperor of Water Clocks (2015).

A resident of New York City since 2000, Komunyakaa is a faculty member and Honorary Director of Cave Canem, America's leading Black poetry society, committed to cultivating the artistic and professional growth of African American poets. He has taught at many universities including the University of New Orleans, Indiana University, and Princeton University, and is currently the Distinguished Senior Poet in the Creative Writing Program at New York University.

Yusef Komunyakaa succeeds Marie Howe as NYS Poet and joins a long line of distinguished poets who have served in the position, including Jean Valentine, Billy Collins, John Ashbery, Sharon Olds, Jane Cooper, Richard Howard, Audre Lorde, Robert Creeley, and Stanely Kunitz.

The advisory panel that recommended Komunyakaa as State Poet included poets Nick Flynn and Brenda Hillman, outgoing State Poet Marie Howe, and poet and Writers Institute Director, Donald Faulkner.

For additional information on the State Author and Poet awards contact the Writers Institute at (518) 442-5620 or online at http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst/webpages4/programpages/awardees.html.