Toi Derricotte

Poetry Readings, "Bread on the Water"

April 24, 2012

Toi Derricotte is the author of five books of poetry, the latest of which, The Undertaker’s Daughter (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011), was hailed by Terrance Hayes as “her most stirring and innovative work yet.” Her other volumes are Tender, winner of the 1998 Paterson Poetry Prize; CaptivityNatural Birth; and The Empress of the Death House.

Of her poems, Audre Lourde wrote, “Because the power of her images breeds visions which are neither easy nor inescapable, Toi Derricotte moves us… The pain does not exceed the power.” Derricotte’s literary memoir, The Black Notebooks, 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, edited by Lauren Slater.

Additional 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 New York Graduate School of Arts & Science Alumni Achievement Award; 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 Rockefeller Foundation and the Guggenheim Foundation. With Cornelius Eady, in 1996, she co-founded Cave Canem Foundation, North America’s premier “home for black poetry.”

She is a professor of english at the University of Pittsburgh and serves on the Academy of American Poets’ board of chancellors.