University of Pittsburgh
April 22, 2004

Pitt English Professor Is Winner of 2004 Guggenheim Fellowship

Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—Renowned poet and University of Pittsburgh English Professor Toi Derricotte has received a 2004 Guggenheim Fellowship, it was announced recently by John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation President Edward Hirsch. A prestigious annual competition among applicants from throughout the United States and Canada, the Guggenheim Fellowships are awarded to individuals on the basis of distinguished achievement in the past and exceptional promise for future accomplishment.

This year's winners include 185 artists, scholars, and scientists selected from more than 3,200 applicants for awards totaling $6,912,000.

"With this award—clearly an extraordinary form of recognition—Professor Toi Derricotte joins the diverse and elite group of this year's distinguished Guggenheim fellows. The University of Pittsburgh is fortunate indeed to have on its faculty a poet of her talent and stature," said Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg. "As Professor Derricotte's fine work has gained a national and international following, her deep personal commitment to providing creative guidance for new generations of writers has always been evident. Her developing literary legacy is reflected not only in her wonderful poetry, but in the creative gifts she recognizes and nurtures in her students."

A Pitt faculty member since 1998, Derricotte has written four books of poetry—The Empress of the Death House (1978), Captivity (1997), Tender (1997), and Natural Birth, (2000)—and the memoir The Black Notebooks: An Interior Journey (1997). Among her many awards are the First Dudley Randall Award for National Contributions to Literature (2001), the National Book Award Judge in Poetry (2001), the Paterson Poetry Prize (1998), and the Pushcart Prize (1998, 1989). In 1997, The Black Notebooks was named to The New York Times Book Review's "Notable Books of the Year."

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 continues to serve as president of the board of directors of Cave Canem. The workshops, which take place throughout the eastern United States, have opened the door to publishing opportunities and funding sources, resulting in a community of African American writers.

Derricotte has held the Delta Sigma Theta Endowed Chair in Poetry at Xavier University 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 Provincetown (Mass.) Fine Arts Center Writers. She also has been guest poet and reader at Princeton University, Sarah Lawrence College, and the Folger Shakespeare Library, among other venues.

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.

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation was established in 1925 by U.S. Senator Simon Guggenheim and his wife as a memorial to a son who died on April 26, 1922. Fellowships are awarded to advanced professionals in all fields (natural and social sciences, humanities, and creative arts) except the performing arts through two annual competitions: one open to citizens and permanent residents of the United States and Canada and announced each year in April, and the other open to citizens and permanent residents of Latin America and the Caribbean and announced each year in June.

Among the most notable past Guggenheim Fellows have been Ansel Adams, Aaron Copland, Langston Hughes, Henry Kissinger, Vladimir Nabokov, Isamu Noguchi, Linus Pauling, Paul Samuelson, Martha Graham, Philip Roth, Derek Walcott, James Watson, and Eudora Welty.