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Poetry by academics needs to break out of its pattern of neatly rendered indistinguishability, what Gwendolyn Brooks recently summed up as “bucking the urge of flawless monotony.” One professor-poet who does so is Yusef Komunyakaa. One of the most versatile poets writing today, in or out of academia, Komumyakaa includes meditations on his father and Vietnam as well as sketches of gangsters and jazz musicians in his work. Steadily becoming more accessible, his poems have moved from the surreal Lost in the Bonewheel Factory to the lucid Magic City. But Komunyakaa reverses gears with his newest offering, Thieves of Paradise, a harder pill to swallow than Magic City or his masterful Dien Cai Dau. Even if Paradise is a grab bag of jigsaw puzzles, its variety renders it superior to the work of his peers. The rest of the ivory tower should be so lucky. Komunyakaa reads from Paradise as part of “Bring in Da Slam 2” at 7:30 p.m. at Borders, 18 & L Sts. NW. $5. (202) 466-4999; and 1 p.m. Saturday at Vertigo Books, 1337 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 429-9272. (Ta-Nehisi Coates)