Elizabeth Alexander, Inauguration Poet, to Visit U.Va. in March

February 26, 2009

February 26, 2009 — Elizabeth Alexander, who read a poem at President Obama's inauguration, will be the Rea visiting writer at the University of Virginia March 9-13.

Alexander, a professor of African-American studies at Yale University who also writes essays and plays, will give a talk about the craft of writing poetry March 10 and will read from her poetry March 12. Both events, free and open to the public, will begin at 8 p.m. in the U.Va. Bookstore on Emmet Street, atop the Central Grounds Parking Garage.

Alexander has published five books of poetry, including "American Sublime" in 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." Her other books are "Antebellum Dream Book" (2001), "Body of Life" (1996), "The Venus Hottentot" (1990), and most recently, her first young adult collection, "Miss Crandall's School for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color," co-written with Marilyn Nelson, which won the 2008 Connecticut Book Award.

She has published two collections of essays: "Power and Possibility" (2007) and "The Black Interior" (2004). Her verse play, "Diva Studies," was produced at the Yale School of Drama in 1996.

Alexander, who will become chairwoman of Yale's African-American studies department in July, is a founding faculty member and honorary director of Cave Canem, an organization dedicated to the development and endurance of African-American poetic voices.

She was among the first 12 recipients of the Alphonse Fletcher Sr. Fellowship in 2005 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 & 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.

A graduate of Yale, she holds a master's degree from Boston University and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Pennsylvania.

The Rea Visiting Writers program of the U.Va. Creative Writing Program in the English department is sponsored by the Dungannon Foundation and Elizabeth Richebourg Rea, in memory of her husband, the late Michael Rea. Rea visiting writers spend a week in residence at U.Va., working closely with M.F.A. students.

Fiction writer Lynne Tillman will be in residence March 23-27. 

— By Anne Bromley