In the follow-up to her bestselling memoir, Dreamtime Alice, Mandy Sayer tells the story of the ten years she and Yusef Komunyakaa spent together, first as lovers, then as husband and wife.
Even though we’d grown up in vastly different cultures and countries, we’d both known poverty, domestic violence and the expectation that neither one of us would ever amount to anything. That was probably what united us more than anything: our shared defiance of that prediction.
She tap-danced on street corners for people’s small change. He was an out-of-work university teacher, poet and Vietnam vet. She was white and from Australia. He was black and from the Deep South. They met on Mardi Gras, New Orleans in 1985. She was twenty-two. He was nearly forty.
They fell in love. They married. What happened next will thrill, move, perplex and enrage you. It will break your heart.
The Poet’s Wife tells the story of the ten years that Mandy Sayer and Yusef Komunyakaa spent together, first as lovers, then as husband and wife. During that time he became a famous poet, recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, the highest honour for poetry in the United States, and a university professor.
At the same time, Mandy became a writer, winning the Vogel Prize for young Australian writers for her first novel, Mood Indigo. She is now an acclaimed author and journalist and has written two award-winning memoirs, Velocity and Dreamtime Alice. The Poet’s Wife traces her life from the end of Dreamtime Alice, and again confirms Sayer’s place as one of our most lyrical and most courageous writers – memoirist like no other.
Praise for Dreamtime Alice: ‘A reminder of just how dynamic a memoir can be…spellbinding.’ – Interview
‘A joy to read…tells a story more vivid and unlikely than many modern works of fiction…Sayer tells her story colourfully, humorously and without a skerrick of self-pity…Trees would have died happy for once, if they’d known they would end up as the pages of such a special work of art.’ – The Bulletin
About the Author
Mandy Sayer won the Australian-Vogel Award in 1989 for her novel Mood Indigo. She has written five works of fiction, edited one anthology (with another due for publication later this year), and written two memoirs, Dreamtime Alice, which won the 200) National Biography Award and Velocity, which won the Age Non- Fiction Prize. She lives in Sydney.
Read Caroline Baum’s Review
Mandy Sayer’s third volume of memoir about her marriage to acclaimed black poet Yusef Komunyakaa is like a car crash – you just can’t look away. It begins with a shocking episode of violence that helps prepares the reader for the emotional rollercoaster ahead. Told with raw candour, it documents a passionate, toxic relationship in which jealousy, suspicion and dishonesty wreck the hopes of a couple who should have everything, given their love and their talents. But there is too much baggage here. Loss, mental illness, racism and poverty erode intimacy and corrode what started off as shiny.
Despite this, Sayer begins to write herself into another life. Slowly but surely as Yusef wins the Pulitzer and becomes more and more successful, she too finds her voice, gains recognition and confidence and steps away from the lies and paranoia to emerge from the wreckage strong and determined.