Poet of the Week: Toi Derricotte

by Brian Honigman    /  June 21, 2010  / No comments


Photo: © Pittsburgh Magazine

This week’s featured poet is Toi Derricotte. As both a nationally-recognized poet and English professor at the University of Pittsburgh, Derricotte co-founded Cave Canem and serves on the board of directors for City of Asylum/Pittsburgh. Cave Canem offers a home for African-American poetry and aims to help colored poets grow both artistically and professionally.

Born in Hamtramck, Michigan in 1941, Derricotte has published a vast amount of poetry and received many awards for her work. We’ve posted one of her first love poems, Telly, under our Literary Voices section. Derricotte’s poetry books include Tender, Captivity, Natural Birth, and The Empress of the Death House.

The Black Notebooks, her literary memoir, was published by W.W. Norton in 1997 and won the 1998 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Non-Fiction and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Her essay, Beginning Dialogues, is included in The Best American Essays 2006.

Recognized as a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania in 2009, her honors include the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America; two Pushcart Prizes; the Distinguished Pioneering of the Arts Award from the United Black Artists; the Alumni/Alumnae Award from New York University; the Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers, Inc.; the Elizabeth Kray Award for service to the field of poetry from Poets House; and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation and the Maryland State Arts Council.

Derricotte is working to help increase literary freedom of expression both through her poetry and work as co-founder of Cave Canem.

Cave Canem & City of Asylum/Pittsburgh are featuring an event this Thursday on June 24th at 7:30 p.m. This poetry reading will feature Cave Canem poets Sapphire, Colleen J McElroy, Carl Phillips, and Claudia Rankine. The event is free and open to the public, but requires emailing cityofasylumpittsburgh@gmail.com for a reservation.

Read a recent interview here with Toi Derricotte.

Read Brian’s bio.

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