University of Pittsburgh
October 7, 2011

Pitt Poets Toi Derricotte and Dawn Lundy Martin to Be Featured In Oct. 20 Reading

The event is part of the Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—University of Pittsburgh poets and professors Toi Derricotte and Dawn Lundy Martin, in the School of Arts and Sciences’ Department of English, will present their work as part of the University of Pittsburgh Writing Program’s Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series at 8:30 p.m. Oct. 20 in the Frick Fine Arts Auditorium, 650 Schenley Dr., Oakland. The event is free and open to the public.

A renowned poet, Derricotte has had more than a thousand poems published in anthologies, journals, and magazines. She is the cofounder of the Cave Canem Foundation, an organization that has been offering workshops and retreats for African American poets since 1996.

Derricotte is the author of five books of poetry—The Undertaker’s Daughter (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011), Tender (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1997), Captivity (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989), Natural Birth (Crossing Press, 1983), The Empress of the Death House (Lotus Press, 1978)—and the memoir The Black Notebooks: An Interior Journey (W.W. Norton & Co., 1997). In 1997, The Black Notebooks was named to The New York Times Book Review’s “Notable Books of the Year” and won the 1998 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Non-Fiction.

Among her many honors are the First Dudley Randall Award for National Contributions to Literature, the National Book Award Judge in Poetry, the Paterson Poetry Prize for Tender, 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 Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Alumni Achievement Award from New York University, the Barnes and 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, and the Maryland State Arts Council.

Derricotte has held the Delta Sigma Theta Endowed Chair in Poetry at Xavier University of Louisiana and been Distinguished Poet-in-Residence at Mills College, a visiting professor at New York University, and a Commonwealth Professor at George Mason University. She has taught at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown (Mass.). She also has been guest poet and reader at Princeton University, Sarah Lawrence College, and the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Derricotte earned the Bachelor of Arts degree in special education at Wayne State University in 1965 and the Master of Arts degree in English literature and creative writing at New York University in 1984.

Martin’s first full-length collection, A Gathering of Matter/A Matter of Gathering (University of Georgia Press, 2007), was selected for the 2007 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Her second collection, Discipline (Nightboat Books, 2011), won the 2009 Nightboat Books Poetry Prize. She also is the author of three chapbooks, Candy (Albion, forthcoming November 2011), The Undress (Belladonna Books, 2006), and The Morning Hour (Poetry Society of America, 2003) selected for the Poetry Society of America’s National Chapbook Fellowship. In 2004, she coedited, with Vivien Labaton, The Fire This Time: Young Activists and the New Feminism (Anchor Books, 2004), a collection of essays on modern theories of activism in America. She also wrote the Afterword, titled “What, Then, Is Freedom,” to Harriet Ann Jacobs’ 19th century slave narrative, Incidents of a Slave Girl (Signet Classics, 2010).

Martin is cofounder of the Third Wave Foundation in New York, a national grant-making organization led by young women and transgender youth, which focuses on social justice activism. She is also a member of the Black Took Collective, a group of experimental Black poets embracing critical theory about gender, race, and sexuality. Martin has been the recipient of two poetry grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and was awarded the 2008 Academy of American Arts and Sciences May Sarton Prize for Poetry.

Martin earned a BA from the University of Connecticut, an MA in creative writing from San Francisco State University, and a PhD in English from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

In addition to Pitt’s Writing Program, the 2011-12 Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series season is sponsored by Pitt’s Book Center. For more information, call 412-624-6508 or visit