Nikki Giovanni was a revolutionary poet of the Black Arts Movement that nourished civil rights. She had a famous dialogue with James Baldwin in Paris in 1971. As a professor at Virginia Tech, she brought beauty and courage by the way of poetry after the shooting there.
Today, she is a self-proclaimed space freak and a delighted elder — an adored voice to hip-hop artists and the new forms of social change this generation is creating.
Check out Ms. Giovanni’s On Being Podcast from August 24, 2017 by clicking below:
According to nytimes.com, Kevin Young, Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, has been named the new poetry editor of The New Yorker magazine.
According to wikipedia.org, Young graduated from Harvard College in 1992, held a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University (1992–94), and received his Master of Fine Arts from Brown University. While in Boston and Providence, he was part of the African-American poetry group the Dark Room Collective. He is heavily influenced by the poets Langston Hughes, John Berryman, and Emily Dickinson and by the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Young is an esteemed poet and scholar whose work has been published in The New Yorker dating back to 1999. His most recent work, “Blue Laws: Selected & Uncollected Poems 1995-2015,” made the 2016 National Book Award long list.
Young, 46, will officially take over the post in November, after he takes part in a passing of the torch of sorts: a reading and interview with current The New Yorker poetry editor Paul Muldoon at the New Yorker Festival in the fall.
Natalie Graham, assistant professor of African American studies at California State University, Fullerton, has been selected as the winner of the 2016 Cave Canem Poetry Prize from the Brooklyn, New York-based Cave Canem Foundation. The nonprofit organization was founded by Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady in 1996 to remedy the underrepresentation and isolation of African American poets in the literary landscape.
Dr. Graham will receive a cash prize and have her manuscript – Begin With a Failed Body – published by the University of Georgia Press in the fall of 2017. She joined the faculty at California State University, Fullerton in 2013.
In describing her award-winning poetry collection, Dr. Graham said “the collection contains poems that are often dark — reimagining iconic religious, literary, and historical figures. They imagine a haunted Southern landscape where history is inescapable. When they speak of nation, religion or family, they often ruminate on the individual body’s frailty in the face of these larger, sturdier structures.”
Dr. Graham holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from the University of Florida and a Ph.D. in American studies from Michigan State University.
Acclaimed poet, author and professor Elizabeth Alexander has been elected to the Pulitzer Prize board.
Alexander wrote and delivered her poem “Praise Song for the Day” for President Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009 and was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for her book of poetry American Sublime and a 2016 Pulitzer finalist for her memoir, The Light of the World, according to the announcement on the Pulitzer website.
Alexander has taught at several schools, including the University of Chicago, New York University and Smith College, and was part of the faculty at Yale University for 15 years; she also served as chair of Yale’s department of African-American studies. Alexander was recently named the Wun Tsun Tam Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University and is the director of creativity and free expression at the Ford Foundation.
As a member of the 19-person board, Alexander will help decide the winners of the Pulitzer Prizes in in journalism, books, drama and music each April. She will serve a three-year term on the Pulitzer Prize board, on which members serve a maximum of nine years.
NO OUTWARD SIGN sets the pale yellow house at 31 Inman Street apart from its neighbors. Someone going on a literary pilgrimage in Cambridge might start a mile away, at 104 Irving Street, where e.e. cummings ’15 grew up; then head west, to 16 Ash Street, where T.S. Eliot ’10, A.M. ’11, Litt.D. ’47, studied Sanskrit in the attic; then westward still, to the final residence of Robert Frost ’01, Litt.D. ’37, at 35 Brewster Street—guided the whole way by blue historical markers, never thinking to glance in the opposite direction.
But back in Central Square, that anonymous Victorian was the cradle of the Dark Room Collective. There, in the late 1980s, a trio of young African-American writers—Sharan Strange ’81, Thomas Sayers Ellis, and Janice Lowe—formed their own literary center of gravity. During its decade of existence, their reading series and writers’ group gathered a nebula of creative energy, a starry critical mass whose impact on American letters continues to expand.
The Dark Room Collective (DRC) was a haven for early members like writer and translator John Keene ’87, experimental prose writer Tisa Bryant, and poet Patrick Sylvain, Ed.M. ’98—a place to get together and get serious about their craft. It was “a whole ‘nother kind of education,” says Keene. “It was an immersion in a world that I only kind of glimpsed when I was in college.” By e-mail, co-founder Sharan Strange comments, “I often say that working within the DRC and curating the reading series was in many ways my true M.F.A. experience.”
The reading series was also an early performance venue for then-emerging talent—from current Boston poet laureate Danielle Legros Georges to Natasha Trethewey, RI ’01, U.S. poet laureate from 2012 to 2014. Many others passed through over the years, including Aya de Leon ’08, now director of Poetry for the People at the University of California, Berkeley; poet and critic Carl Phillips ’81; visual artist Ellen Gallagher; sound artist Tracie Morris; and actress Nehassaiu deGannes. In all, the participants’ published books number in the dozens, and they have earned fellowships and nominations and wins for honors like the National Book Awards, Whiting Awards, and Pulitzer Prizes.
“Once you’re in, you’re in forever,” declares poet Kevin Young ’92 in his nonfiction inquiry The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness. Young joined while still an undergraduate, as did Tracy K. Smith ’94, who remembers thinking, “Oh, wow—these young people want to be writers, and I want to be a writer, but they’re actually doing it.”
She began to help with lighting at events, just to “be in that space and see what the model for this life that I wanted looked like. For me,” Smith adds, “the Dark Room was really about saying, ‘If you want to do this, this is how you do it. And don’t wait. Do it now.’”“For me, the Dark Room was really about saying, ‘If you want to do this, this is how you do it. And don’t wait. Do it now.’”The audience for literary writing is small, and slimmer still for poetry; by that measure, it’s unsurprising that the Dark Room remains obscure. But even dedicated readers of contemporary verse might know the Collective only as a common footnote to its alumni’s impressive biographies.
Over coffee at Lamont Library, Harvard Review poetry editor Major Jackson, RI ’07, muses, “I almost tweeted this, but am glad that I didn’t—,” then just barely hesitates before continuing, “And maybe this is no better—but I think if there were a group of poets who were white and male, or white and male and female, or white and female, there would have been a documentary made about them by now. There would be a movie about them.” Individual members have been celebrated, and the Dark Room has been loosely associated with those summed accomplishments. But, he says, the Collective has not been recognized as a whole: “Maybe we need to all grow gray hairs before that happens and America catches up.”
Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts named Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Tracy K. Smith as the new director of the University’s Program in Creative Writing. Smith, a Professor of Creative Writing on the Princeton faculty since 2005, succeeds National Book Award finalist and poet Susan Wheeler, who has led the program since 2011.
“I’m delighted that Tracy has agreed to take on this leadership role in our world-renowned, undergraduate-focused program in creative writing,” notes Michael Cadden, Chair of the Lewis Center. “A brilliant wordsmith in both poetry and prose as well as a life-changing teacher, Tracy embodies everything that is best about the arts at Princeton and is a most worthy successor to our colleague Susan Wheeler. I look forward to working with her on her vision for the future of what is already an extraordinary program.”
Smith is the author of the memoir Ordinary Light (2015) and three poetry collections: Life on Mars (2011), winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize and named as a “Best Book of the Year” by The New Yorker, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal, a “Notable Book of 2011″ by the New York Times, and as an “Editor’s Choice” by the New York Times Book Review; Duende (2007), winner of the James Laughlin Award and the Essence Literary Award; and The Body’s Question (2003), winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Smith is also the recipient of the Academy of American Poets Fellowship, a Rona Jaffe Award, and a Whiting Award. From 2009 to 2011 she was the Literature protégé in the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative.
Born in Massachusetts and raised in northern California, Smith earned her A.B. from Harvard University and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Columbia University. From 1997 to 1999 she was a Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford University. She taught at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York, the University of Pittsburgh, and Columbia University before joining the faculty at Princeton.
“I have such deep gratitude and enthusiasm for the community of writers and students here at Princeton,” says Smith. “I’m delighted to step into a position I’ve watched several of my colleagues navigate with such generosity, insight, and grace.”
Princeton’s Program in Creative Writing traces its origins to 1939, when Dean Christian Gauss approached the Carnegie Foundation to help the University focus on the cultivation of writers and other artists. He appointed poet and critic Allen Tate as the first Resident Fellow in Creative Writing. Since then world-renowned writers have served as faculty and visiting guest writers including John Berryman, Elizabeth Bowen, Robert Fitzgerald, Thomas Gunn, Edmund Keeley, David E. Kelley, Lorrie Moore, Philip Roth, Delmore Schwartz, Kevin Young, and Nobel laureates Toni Morrison and Mario Vargas Llosa, as well as Joyce Carol Oates, who recently retired after 37 years on the faculty. Oates will continue to teach one class each year as a Professor Emerita.
Currently the faculty includes award-winning writers Jeffrey Eugenides, Chang-rae Lee, Paul Muldoon, James Richardson, Susan Wheeler, and Edmund White, along with Smith and Jhumpa Lahiri, who joins the faculty in September. Other writers teaching this fall include Michael Dickman, A.M. Homes, Christina Lazaridi, Patrick McGrath, Fiona Maazel, Idra Novey, Hanna Pylväinen, and Monica Youn.
It is with these internationally known writers that over 300 Princeton undergraduates take courses in poetry, fiction, screenwriting, and literary translation each semester, a number that continues to grow.
“For those students serious about becoming writers, the one-on-one mentoring and intimate workshops we offer are on par with the attention and rigor characterizing the best M.F.A. programs,” notes Smith. “Regardless what our students decide to do after graduation, the experience of working alongside such illustrious writers changes their view of language and literature immeasurably.” Students who seek a certificate in creative writing (similar to a minor) in addition to their major area of study, work one-on-one with a member of the faculty on a novel, collection of poems, short stories or translations, or a screenplay.
Some of these senior thesis projects become the first published work by graduates of the program, as was the case for writers Jonathan Ames ’87 and Jonathan Safran Foer ’99. Other graduates from the program include Catherine Barnett ’82, Boris Fishman ’01, Jane Hirshfield ’73, Kristiana Kahakauwila ’03, Galway Kinnell ’48, Walter Kirn ’83, William Meredith ’40, W. S. Merwin ’48, Emily Moore ’99, Jodi Picoult ’87, Julie Sarkissian ’05, Akhil Sharma ’92, Whitney Terrell ’91, and Monica Youn ’93.
In addition to this course of study, the program invites writers of national and international distinction to give a reading and discuss their work. The Althea Ward Clark W’21 Reading Seriesfeatures acclaimed poets and fiction writers, which this year will include Edwidge Danticat, Natalie Diaz, Robert Hass, and Claudia Rankine, among others. The Emerging Writers Reading Series presented in partnership with Labyrinth Books in Princeton showcases new work by seniors in the program along with established writers as special guests, who this year will include Alexander Chee, Eduardo Corral, Ocean Vuong, and Tiphanie Yanique. Occurring monthly from September through May, readings in both series are free and open to the public.
The Program in Creative Writing also hosts an international high school poetry contest and awards the Theodore H. Holmes ’51 and Bernice Holmes National Poetry Prize with recipients such as Mark Doty, Matt Rasmussen, and Evie Shockley. The biennial Princeton Poetry Festival, curated by faculty member Paul Muldoon, features poets from around the world, in recent years presenting readings by Bei Dao, Kwame Dawes, Jorie Graham, Major Jackson, Ellen Bryan Voight, and Ray Young Bear, among others.
Sjohnna McCray, an adjunct instructor in the department of English at Savannah State University in Georgia, has been selected to receive the 2015 Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. The award, established in 1975, honors a poet of “exceptional promise” who has not yet published a book of poetry.
As the winner of the Walt Whitman Award, McCray will have his collection of poems entitled Rapture published by Graywolf Press in 2016. He will also receive an all-expenses-paid six-week residency at the Civitella Ranieri Center in Umbria, Italy.
McCray is a native of Cincinnati and is a graduate of Ohio University. He earned a master’s degree at Teachers College of Columbia University and a master of fine arts degree from the University of Virginia.
“Digest” by Gregory Pardlo has won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. The judges cited Pardlo’s “clear-voiced poems that bring readers the news from 21st Century America, rich with thought, ideas and histories public and private.”
Pardlo was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Willingboro, New Jersey. Currently, he is an associate editor for the literary journal Callaloo and a contributing editor for Painted Bride Quarterly. Pardlo’s poems, reviews, and translations have been widely published and are noted for “language simultaneously urban and highbrow… snapshots of a life that is so specific it becomes universal.” He lives in Brooklyn.
To learn more about Pardlo and his work, click here.
Claudia Rankine has been named the eighth winner of the $50,000 Jackson Poetry Prize. The award, run by the nonprofit organization Poets & Writers, is “given annually to an American poet of exceptional talent who deserves wider recognition.”
In an email interview with the New York Times on Monday, Ms. Rankine referred to her “dramatic changes stylistically, formally and in terms of content” over the course of her career. “For me, this prize recognizes the importance of experimentation and radical imagination, to use Robin Kelley’s terminology,” she said. (Robin Kelley is the author of “Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination”.) “Often a division is made between politics and poetry,” Ms. Rankine continued, “and I like to think this is a moment when the intersection is recognized.”
The poets on this year’s panel of judges for the prize were Tracy K. Smith, David St. John and Mark Strand.
In October, Ms. Rankine will publish “Citizen,” a follow-up to 2004’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely.” “Both books reside in the realm where one’s attempts to negotiate a day are complicated by racial interactions,” Ms. Rankine said. “Where ‘Lonely’ looked at the role of media in our private lives, ‘Citizen’ attempts to understand how black people, like tennis star Serena Williams, negotiate racism on a public stage.”
The Jackson Poetry Prize was first awarded in 2007. The previous winners are Arthur Sze, Henri Cole, James Richardson, Harryette Mullen, Linda Gregg, Tony Hoagland and Elizabeth Alexander.