Lucille Clifton

(6/27/1936 - 2/13/2010)

Michael S. Harper
Marilyn Nelson
Sonia Sanchez
Afaa M. Weaver
Al Young


Chris Abani
Elizabeth Alexander
Cyrus Cassells
Kwame Dawes
Toi Derricotte
Cornelius Eady
Thomas Sayers Ellis
Nikky Finney
C. S. Giscombe
Terrance Hayes
Erica Hunt
Angela Jackson


Yusef Komunyakaa
Colleen J. McElroy
Harryette Mullen
Carl Phillips
Claudia Rankine
Ed Roberson
Tim Seibles
Patricia Smith
Amber Flora Thomas
Natasha Trethewey
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon


Nigerian-born Chris Abani is the author of seven books of poems and six works of fiction. About his most recent collection of poetry, There Are No Names for Red (Red Hen Press, 2010), Ronald Gottesman has said, "Chris Abani's poems remind us of  . . . the human capacity for compassion and love in the face of unspeakable cruelty and fiendish conditions.” Library Journal describes his Sanctificum (Copper Canyon Press, 2010) as “explor[ing] place and humor, exile and freedom with poems of experience and imagination.” The Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University, Abani’s additional honors include the Prince Claus Award, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a California Book Award, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, a PEN Beyond the Margins Award, the PEN Hemingway Book Prize, the 2008 PEN USA Freedom-to-Write Award and a Guggenheim Award.

Elizabeth Alexander is the author of six books of poems, including American Sublime, a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize; two collections of essays, Power and Possibility and The Black Interior; and a young adult collection (co-authored with Marilyn Nelson), Miss Crandall's School for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color, winner of the 2008 Connecticut Book Award. Her most recent work, Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems 1990-2010, was published by Graywolf in 2010.She was chosen by President-elect Barack Obama to compose and read a poem for his inauguration on January 20, 2009, the fourth poet in United States history to read at a swearing-in. In 2007, she was awarded the first annual Jackson Poetry Prize, a recognition honoring an American poet of exceptional talent who has published at least one book of recognized literary merit. In 2005, she received 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 a professor of African American Studies at Yale University.

Cyrus Cassells is the author of five books of poetry, most recently, The Crossed-Out Swastika. His Beautiful Signor received the Lambda Literary Award; Soul Make a Path through Shouting was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and received the William Carlos Williams Award; and The Mud Actor was a National Poetry Series selection. Additional honors include a Pushcart Prize; the Peter I. B. Lavan Younger Poets Award; and fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Kwame Dawes is the author of 16 books of poetry, most recently, Duppy Conqueror: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon, 2013), as well as numerous books of fiction, nonfiction, criticism and drama. His Bob Marley: Lyrical Genius remains the most authoritative study of Bob Marley's lyrics. His pioneering work as a poet/journalist has resulted in several award-winning multimedia pieces covering a range of themes, including HIV AIDS (Live Hope Love, "Voices of Haiti"), inner-city blight (Ashes) and the legacy of Jim Crow (Wisteria: Twilight Songs from the Swamp Country). His awards include the Forward Poetry Prize, Hollis Summers Poetry Prize, Silver Musgrave Medal, Emmy, Pushcart Prize, Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, Poets & Writers' Barnes & Nobles Writers for Writers Award and a 2012 Guggenheim Fellowship for Poetry. The programming director of Calabash International Literary Festival and Associate Poetry Editor for Peepal Tree Press, he is Chancellor Professor of English and the Glenna Luschel Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

Cave Canem co-founder Toi Derricotte has published five collections of poetry, most recently, The Undertaker's Daughter (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011). An earlier collection of poems, Tender, won the 1998 Paterson Poetry Prize. Her literary memoir, The Black Notebooks, published by W.W. Norton, won the 1998 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Non-Fiction and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Her essay "Beds" is included in The Best American Essays 2011, edited by Edwidge Danticat. Recognized as a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania in 2009, her honors include the 2012 Paterson Poetry Prize for Sustained LIterary Achievement; the 2012 PEN/Voelcker Award for POetry for a poet whose distinguished and growing body of work represents a notable presence in American literature; 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. She serves on the Academy of American Poets' Board of Chancellors and for many years was Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.

Cornelius Eady was born in 1954 in Rochester, New York. He is the author of eight books of poetry, most recently Hardheaded Weather (Penguin, 2008). His Victims of the Latest Dance Craze (Ommation Press, 1986), won the 1985 Lamont Prize from the Academy of American Poets. He has collaborated with jazz composer Diedre Murray in the production of several works of musical theater, including You Don't Miss Your Water; Running Man, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1999; Fangs, and Brutal Imagination, which received Newsday's Oppenheimer Award in 2002. He is the recipient of an NEA Fellowship in Literature; a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry; a Lila Wallace-Readers Digest Traveling Scholarship; a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship to Bellagio, Italy; The Prairie Schooner Strousse Award (1994); and the Elizabeth Kray Award for service to the field of poetry from Poets House. With Toi Derricotte, he is co-founder of Cave Canem. He is Professor of English and the Miller Family Endowed Chair in Literature and Writing at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Thomas Sayers Ellis is the author of two full-length collections of poetry, including Skin, Inc.: Identity Repair Poems (Graywolf, 2010) and The Maverick Room (2005), winner of a Mrs. Giles Whiting Writers' Award and the John C. Zacharis First Book Award. He is the author of The Good Junk (Take Three #1, Graywolf 1996); The Genuine Negro Hero (Kent State University Press, 2001), a chapbook; and the chaplet, Song On (WinteRed Press, 2005). His work has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including Poetry, Grand Street, Tin House, Ploughshares and The Best American Poetry, 1997 and 2001. Co-founder of The Dark Room Collective, he has received fellowships and grants from The Fine Arts Work Center, the Ohio Arts Council, Yaddo and The MacDowell Colony. He is a contributing editor to Callaloo and Poets & Writers, Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Sarah Lawrence College and a faculty member of The Lesley University low-residency M.F.A program.

Nikky Finney is the author of four books, including her latest poetry collection, Head Off & Split, winner of the 2011 National Book Award in Poetry, and The World Is Round, winner of the 2004 Benjamin Franklin Award for Poetry. Rice, her collection of stories, poems, and photographs, won the PEN American Open Book Award in 1999. She is editor of Cave Canem's second anthology, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, a collection of over 100 contemporary voices. Her contagious energy and passion for writing extend beyond academia: she travels extensively, reading to listeners, staying connected and engaged, and maintaining her commitment to the risky business of creativity. She has been appointed the inaugural Guy Davenport Endowed English Professor, an award honoring one of UK's most distinguished professors, and was recently named the John H. Bennett, Jr. Chair of Southern Literature and Creative Writing at the University of South Carolina.

C. S. Giscombe is a poet, essayist, professor and long-distance cyclist. Born in Dayton, Ohio, where he was educated in public and Catholic schools, he later attended the State University of New York at Albany and Cornell University (MFA, 1975). He is the author of four books of poetry, Prairie Style, Postcards, Here and Giscome Road, as well as a book of linked essays, Into and Out of Dislocation. He has received the Carl Sandburg Literary Award and grants and fellowships from the NEA, the Illinois Arts Council, the Fund for Poetry and the Council for the International Exchange for Scholars. He is Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley.

Michael Harper is the author of 12 books of poetry, the most recent of which is Use Trouble (University of Illinois Press, 2009). His Dear John, Dear Coltrane and Images of Kin were nominated for the National Book Award. He edited The Collected Poems of Sterling A. Brown, selected for the National Poetry Series in 1979, and Every Shut Eye Ain't Asleep. With Anthony Walton, he co-edited The Vintage Book of African American Poetry. He was the first Poet Laureate of the State of Rhode Island and has received many honors, including the 2008 Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America, a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation and a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Award. He is Professor of English at Brown University.

Terrance Hayes is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently Lighthead (Penguin, 2010), winner of the 2010 National Book Award; Wind in a Box (Penguin), named one of the Best 100 Books of 2006 by Publishers Weekly; Hip Logic (Penguin, 2002), a National Poetry Series selection, finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award and runner-up for the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets; and Muscular Music (Tia Chucha Press, 1999), winner of both the Whiting Writers’ Award and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. His fifth collection, How To Be Drawn, is forthcoming from Penguin in 2015. The 2011 USA Zell Fellow for Literature, his many honors include two Pushcart selections, four Best American Poetry selections, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. He is Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.

Erica Hunt is the author of three books of poetry, Arcade (with artist Alison Saar), Piece Logic and Local History. Her essay, "Notes for an Oppositional Poetics" in Charles Bernstein's The Politics of Poetic Form, put her in the forefront of experimental poets. She has received fellowships from the Blue Mountain Center and the Djerassi Resident Artists Program and a 2001 grant for poetry from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. She holds a B.A. in Literature from San Francisco State University and is a past Fellow in the Duke University/University of Cape Town Center for Leadership and Public Values. She is a leading expert on Black social justice and economic issues and the 2008 recipient of Spelman College's award for National Community Service.

Angela Jackson was born in Greenville, Mississippi, raised on Chicago's South Side, and educated at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. She is the author of five books of poetry, including And All These Roads Be Luminous, which was nominated for a National Book Award, and Dark Legs and Silk Kisses: The Beatitudes of the Spinners, winner of the 1993 Chicago Sun-Times Book of the Year Award in Poetry and the 1994 Carl Sandburg Award for Poetry. Her Where I Must Go: A Novel was published in 2009 by Triquarterly Books. Her plays include Witness! (1978), Shango Diaspora: An African-American Myth of Womanhood and Love (1980), and When the Wind Blows (1984).

Yusef Komunyakaa is the critically acclaimed author of 15 books of poetry including his most recent volume, Love in the Time of War. His other collections include The Chameleon Couch: Poems, Taboo: The Wishbone Trilogy, Part 1; Copacetic; Dien Cai Dau; Neon Vernacular: New & Selected Poems 1977-1989, winner of the Pulitzer Prize; Talking Dirty to the Gods; and Pleasure Dome: New and Collected Poems. His prose is collected in Blues Notes: Essays, Interviews & Commentaries (University of Michigan Press, 2000), and he co-edited The Jazz Poetry Anthology (with J. A. Sascha Feinstein, 1991). He also co-translated The Insomnia of Fire, by Nguyen Quang Thieu (with Martha Collins), and has written dramatic works, including Gilgamesh: A Verse Play (Wesleyan University Press, 2006), as well as librettos. Additional honors include the 2011 Wallace Stevens Award, the 2004 Shelley Memorial Award, the 2001 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Hanes Poetry Prize and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. He was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2009. He is Professor and Distinguished Senior Poet at New York University

Writer and folklorist Colleen J. McElroy has authored nine collections of poetry, the latest of which is Here I Throw Down My Heart (University of Pittsburgh, 2012), described by Katherine Hastings as "significant poems that address our complex human condition, in language that illuminates with frankness and beauty"; two collections of short fiction and two poetic memoirs. She received a Ph.D. from the University of Washington, where she is Professor Emeritus of English and Creative Writing. Winner of the PEN Oakland National Literary Award and the Before Columbus American Book Award, she also has received two Fulbright Fellowships, two National Endowment of the Arts Fellowships and a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship to the Bellagio Center in Italy.

Harryette Mullen is the author of six books of poetry, including Recyclopedia, which won a PEN Beyond Margins Award, and Sleeping with the Dictionary, a finalist for a National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award and Los Angeles Times Book Prize. The recipient of the 2010 Jackson Poetry Prize, she has also been honored with a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, an Academy of American Poets Fellowship, a grant from the Foundation of Contemporary Arts, a Dobie-Paisano Fellowship from the Texas Institute of Letters and the University of Texas at Austin, an artist residency from the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico, a Rockefeller Fellowship at the Susan B. Anthony Institute at University of Rochester, and a Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative Poetry. She is Professor of English and African American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Poet Marilyn Nelson is the author or translator of over a dozen books. Her most recent collections of poetry are Sweethearts of Rhythm, The Freedom Business and Miss Crandall's School for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color, written in collaboration with Elizabeth Alexander. A finalist for the 1991 National Book Award, her The Homeplace, a collection of poems, won the 1992 Annisfield-Wolf Award; and her The Fields of Praise: New and Selected Poems received the 1998 Poets' Prize. Among her many honors are the 2001 Boston Globe-Hornbook Award for Carver: A Life in Poems and the 2005 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for A Wreath for Emmett Till, also a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. She is the recipient of the 2012 Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America, two National Endowment for the Arts creative writing fellowships, the 1990 Connecticut Arts Award, an A.C.L.S. Contemplative Practices Fellowship, a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship, a fellowship from the J.S. Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and three honorary doctorates. The former Poet Laureate of the State of Connecticut (2001-2006), she is emerita professor of English at the University of Connecticut and founding director of Soul Mountain Retreat.

Carl Phillips is the author of 12 books of poetry, most recently, Silverchest (FSG, 2013) and Double Shadow (FSG, 2011), recipient of the 2012 Los Angeles Times Book Award for Poetry and a finalist for the 2011 National Book Award. He also was a National Book Award finalist in 2009 for Speak Low; in 2004 for The Rest of Love: Poems; and in 1998 for From the Devotions. Additional honors include the Theodore Roethke Memorial Foundation Poetry Prize, the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Male Poetry, the 2006 Academy of American Poets Fellowship, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Pushcart Prize, induction into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Library of Congress. Formerly a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and Professor of English and of African and African-American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, where he also teaches in the Creative Writing Program.

Claudia Rankine is the author of five collections of poetry: Nothing in Nature Is Private, recipient of the Cleveland State Poetry Prize; The End of the Alphabet; Plot; Don't Let Me Be Lonely and Citizen: An American Lyric (October 2014). Her work has been published in numerous journals and several anthologies, including Great American Prose Poems: From Poe to the Present, Best American Poetry 2001, Giant Step: African American Writing at the Crossroads of the Century and The Garden Thrives: Twentieth Century African-American Poetry. Rankine is also the author of Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue, a play performed on a bus ride through the Bronx. She is the founder of the Open Letter Project: Race and the Creative Imagination and co-produces a video series, "The Situation," along with John Lucas. In awarding her Poets & Writers' 2014 Jackson Poetry Prize for an American poet of exceptional talent who deserves wider recognition, judges Tracy K. Smith, David St. John and Mark Strand wrote, “The moral vision of Claudia Rankine’s poetry is astounding. In a body of work that pushes the boundaries of the contemporary lyric, Rankine has managed to make space for meditation and vigorous debate upon some of the most relevant and troubling social themes of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.”

Ed Roberson is the author of eight books of poetry, including Voices Cast Out to Talk Us In, a winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize, and his latest collection, To See the Earth Before the End of the World (Wesleyan University Press, 2010). His Atmosphere Conditions was selected for the National Poetry Series and nominated for the Lenore Marshall Award from the Academy of American Poets. A recipient of the Lila Wallace Writers' Award and the 2008 Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, he is Distinguished Artist in Residence at Northwestern University.

Sonia Sanchez has written 16 books, including Does Your House Have Lions?, a nominee for the National Book Critic's Circle Award for Poetry; Homegirls and Handgrenades, recipient of the 1995 American Book Award; and her most recent collection, Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems. She is the recipient of an NEA fellowship, the Community Service Award from the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, the Governor's Award for Excellence in the Humanities, a Pew Fellowship in the Arts and the 2001 Robert Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America. She received the John Oliver Killens Lifetime Literary Award in 2008 and the Robert Creeley Award in 2009. Known as one of the leaders of the Black Arts movement, she has lectured at over 500 universities and colleges in the United States and has read her poetry in Africa, Cuba, England, the Caribbean, Australia, Nicaragua, the People's Republic of China, Norway and Canada.

Tim Seibles is the author of five books of poetry, including Hammerlock, Body Moves, Hurdy-Gurdy, Buffalo Head Solos, and his most recent collection, Fast Animal forthcoming in spring 2012. He is also the author of two chapbooks, Kerosene and Ten Miles an Hour. He has received many honors, including the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize, an Open Voice Award, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. His widely anthologized poems have appeared in such journals as Callaloo, Ploughshares, The Kenyon Review and Black American Literary Forum. He teaches in the English Department and M.F.A. Writing Program of Old Dominion University.

Patricia Smith has published six collections of poetry, most recently, Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah (Coffee House Press), an exploration of the second wave of the Great Migration, described by Sapphire as "a stunning and transcendent work of art." Her earlier collection, Blood Dazzler (Coffee House Press) was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award, and Teahouse of the Almighty was a National Poetry Series selection and recipient of the first Hurston/Wright Award in Poetry. Additional honors include a 2014 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship for poetry, a Pushcart Prize, the Carl Sandburg Award and induction into the National Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent. Ms. Smith is a four-time National Poetry Slam individual champion, has been featured on HBO's Def Poetry Jam, and has written and performed three one-woman plays, one of which was produced by Derek Walcott’s Trinidad Theater Workshop. She is a professor at the City University of New York/College of Staten Island and serves on the faculty of the Sierra Nevada MFA program.

Amber Flora Thomas is the recipient of several poetry awards, including the Dylan Thomas American Poet Prize, Richard Peterson Prize and Ann Stanford Prize. She is the author of The Rabbits Could Sing (University of Alaska Press, 2012) and Eye ofWater (University of Pittsburgh Press), selected by Harryette Mullen for the 2004 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Her poetry has appeared in Zyzzyva, Callaloo,Orion Magazine, Alaska Quarterly Review, American Literary Review and Crab Orchard Review, among other publications. She is an Assistant Professor of English at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina.

Natasha Trethewey is the author of four collections of poetry, most recently Thrall (Houghton Mifflin, 2012). Her Native Guard (Houghton Mifflin) received the 2007 Pulitzer Prize; Bellocq's Ophelia (Graywolf) was named a Notable Book for 2003 by the American Library Association; and Domestic Work (Graywolf, 2000) was selected for the inaugural Cave Canem Poetry Prize by Rita Dove. She also published Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast (University of Georgia Press, 2010). United States Poet Laureate 2012-2013, she is the  recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Study Center, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Bunting Fellowship Program of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. Named Poet Laureate of Mississippi in 2012, she is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University.

Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon is the author of two poetry collections: Black Swan (U. of Pittsburgh Press, 2002), selected by Marilyn Nelson for the 2001 Cave Canem Poetry Prize; and the National Book Award finalist Open Interval (U. of Pittsburgh Press, 2009), cited by the National Book Foundation as “passionate and personal, innovative and elegant. . . marr[ying]a wildness of vision with a lensmaker’s precision.” In collaboration with Elizabeth Alexander, she published the chapbook Poems in Conversation and a Conversation (Slapering Hol Press, 2008). Van Clief-Stefanon’s work has appeared in such journals as African American Review, Callaloo, Crab Orchard Review and Gulf Coast, as well as several anthologies, including Bum Rush the Page, Common Wealth, and The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South. Currently at work on a third collection, The Coal Tar Colors, she is a faculty member of Cornell’s Graduate program in English.

Afaa Michael Weaver has published 12 books of poetry, including My Father's Geography, The Plum Flower Dance: Poems 1985-2005, and most recently, The Government of Nature (U. of Pittsburgh, 2013), for which he was awarded the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Prize. In 2008, he received a Pushcart Prize for his poem, "American Income." The author of short fiction and plays, he edited These Hands I Know: African-American Writers on Family, a finalist for the Multicultural Book Award. He is the recipient of a Barnes & Noble Writer for Writers Award, an NEA fellowship and a PEW fellowship in Poetry, and was the first African American poet to hold the post of Poet-in-Residence at the Stadler Poetry Center at Bucknell University. He has taught at Taiwan National University as a Fulbright Scholar and received a gold friendship medal from the Chinese Writers' Association in Beijing. He is Alumnae Professor of English at Simmons College, where he convenes an international festival of contemporary Chinese poetry, with poets attending from Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Al Young is the author of 22 books, including Drowning in the Sea of Love: Musical Memoirs; African American Literature: A Brief Introduction and Anthology; the novels Who Is Angelina?, Sitting Pretty and Seduction by Light; and Coastal Nights and Inland Afternoons: Poems 2001-2006. Poet Laureate of California from 2005 to 2008, his honors include Guggenheim, Fulbright and NEA Fellowships and the Richard Wright Award for Literary Excellence.