Poems by Elizabeth Alexander



The Venus Hottentot


Poet, essayist, playwright, and teacher,
Elizabeth Alexander
is the author of four books of poems, The Venus Hottentot, Body of Life, Antebellum Dream Book, and American Sublime, which was one of three finalists for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize. American Sublime is rich with persona poems, jazz riffs, historical narratives, sonnets, elegies and ars poeticas. A scholar of African-American literature and culture, Alexander recently published a collection of essays, The Black Interior. Whether in prose or poetry, hers is a vital and vivid poetic voice on race, gender, politics, and motherhood. Clarence Major writes that “Alexander has an instinct for turning her profound cultural vision into one that illuminates universal experience.” And as The Chicago Tribune said of Body of Life, “If Alexander can sing, she can also strip and peel words to their luminous, ambiguous cores.”

A professor at Yale University and at the Cave Canem poetry workshop, Alexander was Conkling Poet at Smith from 1997-1999, and the first director of the Poetry Center at Smith College. She has read her work across the U.S. and in Europe, the Caribbean, and South America, and her poetry, short stories, and critical prose have been published in dozens or periodicals and anthologies. Her play, Diva Studies, was produced at the Yale School of Drama.

Alexander has received many grants and honors, including 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. Brown decision of 1954.” In 2007 she was awarded Poets & Writers inaugural Jackson Prize, which honors “an American poet of exceptional talent who has published at least one book of recognized literary merit but has not yet received major national acclaim.”

Alexander read an original poem in honor of the inauguration of Barack Obama, January 20, 2009. She is only the 4th poet to be asked to read at a Presidential swearing-in. See a video of the reading.






    Poetry Center Readings:
    Spring 1998

Fall 2001 - Celebrating the Poetry Center's 5th Year

      (with Ellen Doré Watson)


Fall 2007 -  (with Karl Kirchway, Meredith Martin '97

                   & Abe Louise Young '99)