Thursday, February 7, 2008

Celebrate Literature!!!

Celebrate the Poetry of Elizabeth Alexander!

If you haven’t discovered the work of Elizabeth Alexander, run to your library or bookstore and find Miss Crandall’s School for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color written by Dr. Alexander, with Marilyn Nelson, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, and look for her other extraordinary books as well.

Elizabeth Alexander was born in 1962 in Harlem, New York, and grew up in Washington, D.C. She received a B.A. from Yale University, an M.A. from Boston University (where she studied with DerekWalcott) and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Pennsylvania.

Her collections of poetry include American Sublime ( Graywolf Press, 2005), which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Antebellum Dream Book (2001); Body of Life (1996); and The Venus Hottentot (1990).

Alexander’s critical work appears in her essay collection, The Black Interior (Graywolf, 2004). She also edited The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks (Graywolf, 2005) and Love’s Instruments: Poems by Melvin Dixon (1995). Her poems, short stories, and critical writing have been widely published in such journals and periodicals as The Paris Review, American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, Prairie Schooner, Callaloo, The Village Voice, The Women's Review of Books, and The Washington Post. Her work has been anthologized in over twenty collections, and in May of 1996, her verse play, Diva Studies, premiered at the Yale School of Drama.

About her work, Rita Dove has said that Alexander's "poems bristle with the irresistible quality of a world seen fresh," and Clarence Major has also noted her "instinct for turning her profound cultural vision into one that illuminates universal experience."

In 2007, Alexander was selected by Lucille Clifton, Stephen Dunn, and Jane Hirshfield to receive the Jackson Poetry Prize from Poets & Writers. She has also received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize, the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching at the University of Chicago, and the George Kent Award, given by Gwendolyn Brooks.

She has taught at Haverford College, the University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania, and Smith College, where she was Grace Hazard Conkling Poet-in-Residence, the first director of the Poetry Center at Smith College, and a member of the founding editorial collective for the feminist journal Meridians. She has served as a faculty member for Cave Canem Poetry Workshops, and has traveled extensively within the U.S. and abroad, giving poetry readings and lecturing on African American literature and culture.

Alexander was a fellow at the Whitney Humanities Center at Yale University, and currently, she is an Associate Professor in the school's African American Studies Department. ( from

Listen to a fascinating interview of Elizabeth Alexander, and hear her read her own work on PBS/WGBH Basic Black at:

And discover more about Ms. Alexander and her work at:

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