Author of The Light of the World, Columbia University Professor, and poet Elizabeth Alexander made history when she composed and delivered a poem, “Praise Song for the Day,” at the inauguration of President Barack Obama. She’s one of five poets to have his or her work elevated by the honor, but according to Publisher’s Weekly, Crave Radiance, her first retrospective volume, will “cement Alexander's status as much more than the inaugural poet.”
Her New York Times bestselling memoir, The Light of the World, tells the story of a life well-lived tragically cut short. Through her poetic and lucid prose, Alexander recounts her idyllic marriage and shares how she found the strength to keep on living after the sudden death of her husband. Joyce Carol Oates said, “The Light of the World, is as its title suggests, a bittersweet testament to love and the memory of love, one of the most compelling memoirs of loss that I have ever read.” First Lady Michelle Obama named it her favorite book of 2015.
An advocate of the arts as a critical element of civic dialogue, Alexander has been contributing to ongoing conversations about race, immigration, and social justice throughout her career. She once remarked, “Poetry is not meant to cheer; rather, poetry challenges, and moves us towards transformation.” In 2015, she conducted workshop for National Poetry Month at the White House.
The former Chair of Yale University’s Department of African American Studies, Alexander serves as the Wun Tsun Tam Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. She has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the first Alphonse Fletcher St. Fellowship. The director of Creativity and Free Expression at the Ford Foundation, she was recently appointed to the Pulitzer Prize Board.
She chaired the National Book Awards for poetry and delivered Princeton University’s Toni Morrison Lectures. Her other works include 2010’s Crave Radiance, The Black Interior,, and Pulitzer Prize-finalist American Sublime. Featured on the PBS 4-part series, Faces of America, Alexander has also appeared on CBS Sunday Morning, PBS NewsHour, and The Colbert Report.
She is currently at work on a Library of America anthology covering 300 years of African American poetry.
- NewsHour Interview: Elizabeth Alexander discusses her memoir, (2015)
- Alexander reads at the White House with President Obama and Michelle Obama (2015)
- Elizabeth Alexander on The Colbert Report (2009)
- Elizabeth Alexander is interviewed for PBS new series Faces of America (Part 4) (2010)
- How Hip-Hop Has Become a Gateway to Black Poetry
- African American Poetry as the Sacred Word
- Elizabeth Alexander attends the Aspen Ideas Festival
- Elizabeth Alexander's Inaugural Poem
American culture has never been monolithic. We have always been a nation of immigrants, and American voices have always sung in varied registers. The age of Obama has not moved us “beyond race” but rather to a place where — if our Kenyan-Kansas African-American President raised in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and in Asia is at the center of who we are as Americans — then it is time to think about the possibilities of a more nuanced civic conversation about race and culture. Alexander discusses the rich and surprising overlaps in American cultures from varied traditions, all of which comprise the American tradition, in sometimes divergent, exciting conversation.Read More >
- The Light of the World: A Memoir
- Praise Song for the Day: A Poem for Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration
- Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems, 1990-2010
- She Walks in Beauty: A Women's Journey Through Poems Selected by Caroline Kennedy
- Praise Song for the Day - Children's Book
- Miss Crandall's School for Young Ladies & Little Misses of Color
- Power and Possibility: Essays, Reviews, and Interviews
- The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks (American Poets Project)
- American Sublime
- The Venus Hottentot: Poems
- The Black Interior
- Antebellum Dream Book
- Body of Life: A Collection of Poems
- American Blue: Selected Poems