Elizabeth Alexander Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

As the chair of African American studies at Yale University, Elizabeth Alexander has published not only poetry but also a number of critical essays on various subjects, almost all of which relate to the African American experience. She has edited The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks (2005) and has written a play and two books of essays, The Black Interior (2004) and Power and Possibility (2007).


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Elizabeth Alexander has won a number of awards, including two George Kent Prizes for Poetry (1992, 1997), the Illinois Arts Council Literary Award (1993), the Kenyon Review Prize for Literary Excellence (1994), and three Pushcart Prizes (1998, 2000, 2001). American Sublime was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and was named one of the American Library Association’s notable books of the year. Alexander won Connecticut Book Awards in poetry for American Sublime and Miss Crandall’s School for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color in 2006 and 2008, respectively.

In 2007, Alexander was the inaugural recipient of both the Jackson Poetry Prize from Poets and Writers and the Alphonse Fletcher, Sr., Fellowship for her work in improving race relations in the United States. She has also received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. In 2009, she composed Praise Song for the Day and delivered it at the inauguration of President Barack Obama. That same year, she received the Stephen E. Henderson Award from the African American Literature and Culture Society.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Alexander, Elizabeth. “Elizabeth Alexander.” http://www.elizabethalexander.net Alexander’s official Web site contains information on her life, publications, and teaching philosophies, and reviews of her work. Provides texts of some of Alexander’s poetry and some multimedia interviews with the poet.

_______. “The Poetry of Politics: Elizabeth Alexander on Writing the Poem of a Lifetime.” Interview by Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg. Wall Street Journal, December 20, 2008, p. W4. Alexander talks about writing the poem for President Barack Obama’s inauguration, the importance of poetry, and her major influences, including Walt Whitman, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Robert Hayden.

Malamud, Randy. “Walking Forward in a Poet’s Light.” Review of Praise Song for the Day. The Chronicle of Higher Education 55, no. 22 (February 6, 2009): B8-B9. Places the poem within the context of the other special presentations at U.S. president Barack Obama’s inauguration as well as within the historical context surrounding her reading and the election. Also contains the entire text of the poem.

Pardlo, Gregory. Review of American Sublime. Black Issues Book Review 8, no. 2 (March/April, 2006): 18. Focuses on each section of the work to explore the messages Alexander’s poetry has for African Americans.

Williams, Tyrone. “The Venus Hottentot.” In Masterplots II: African American Literature, edited by Tyrone Williams. Rev. ed. Pasadena, Calif.: Salem Press, 2009. Presents an analysis of Alexander’s first book of poetry, looking at themes and meaning and the critical context.