Elizabeth Alexander is a poet, essayist, playwright, and teacher. She has published five books of poems: The Venus Hottentot (1990), Body of Life (1996), Antebellum Dream Book (2001), American Sublime (2005), which was one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize and was one of the American Library Association’s “Notable Books of the Year;” and, most recently, her first young adult collection (co-authored with Marilyn Nelson), Miss Crandall’s School for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color (2008 Connecticut Book Award). Her two collections of essays are The Black Interior (2004) and Power and Possibility (2007), and her play, “Diva Studies,” was produced at the Yale School of Drama. She has also composed words for musical projects with composers Elana Ruehr and Lewis Spratlan. In 2009, she composed and delivered “Praise Song for the Day” for the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
Her work echoes the inflections of earlier generations, as it foretells new artistic directions for her contemporaries as well as future poets. Her poems are included in dozens of collections and have been translated into Spanish, German, Italian, Arabic and Bengali.
Professor Alexander is the first recipient of the Alphonse Fletcher, Sr. Fellowship for work that “contributes to improving race relations in American society and furthers the broad social goals of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954.” She is the 2007 winner of the first Jackson Prize for Poetry, awarded by Poets and Writers. Other awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, two Pushcart Prizes, the George Kent Award, given by Gwendolyn Brooks, and a Guggenheim fellowship. Most recently, Elizabeth Alexander was named an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award winner for her lifetime achievement in poetry.
For over twenty years, Elizabeth Alexander has taught and mentored students at some of the nation’s most well-respected colleges and universities. In addition to her work at colleges and universities, Elizabeth Alexander has taught numerous poetry workshops. Most significantly, serving as both faculty and honorary director, Alexander has been an integral member of Cave Canem, an organization dedicated to the development and endurance of African American poetic voices. At her current institutional home, Yale University, where she is chair of African American Studies, she continues to serve her students as both teacher and mentor.