Toi Derricotte Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

A 1997 memoir, The Black Notebooks: An Interior Journey, is the most popular nonfiction work of Toi Derricotte. The book, expanded from twenty years of diaries, reveals how it feels to look white and be black in the United States. The work met appropriate controversy during a time when the nation, at the behest of then-president Bill Clinton, was trying to generate a dialogue on racial abuses past and present. Derricotte also cowrote with Madeline Tiger Bass Creative Writing: A Manual for Teachers (1985), published by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. The Library of Congress’s The Poet and the Poem from the Library of Congress: Toi Derricotte is an archival recording produced in October, 1998, by the Library of Congress’s Magnetic Recording Laboratory in Washington, D.C. It is one of four video or audio presentations that profile Derricotte’s life and work.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Toi Derricotte has forced the American poetry establishment to rethink its assumptions about African Americans and women. Her work evolved through the 1970’s, during the rise in black feminist awareness and what some scholars call the second Renaissance in black writing, or the Black Arts movement. She first won recognition from the New School for Social Research with its 1973 Pen and Brush Award for an untitled poetry manuscript. She went on to win recognition and fellowships from the Academy of American Poets in both 1974 and 1978. The National Endowment for the Arts bestowed awards in 1985 and 1990. She won the nomination for the 1998 Pushcart Prize, a Folger Shakespeare Library Poetry Book Award, a Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, and a United Black Artists’ Distinguished Pioneering of the Arts Award.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Andrews, William, et al., eds. The Oxford Companion to African American Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. Contains a thorough, concise resume of Derricotte’s life.

Derricotte, Toi. “The Night I Stopped Singing Like Billie Holiday.” In Shaping Memories: Reflections of African American Women Writers, edited by Joanne Veal Gabbin. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2009. A biographical reflection by Derricotte on her life.

Johnson, Sheila Goldburgh. “Captivity.” In Masterplots II: African American Literature, edited by Tyrone Williams. Rev. ed. Pasadena, Calif.: Salem Press, 2009. An in-depth analysis of Captivity that examines themes and meanings as well as the critical context.

Pettis, Joyce. African American Poets: Lives, Works, and Sources. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002. A discussion of African American poets that focuses on their lives and how they affected their work. Contains a chapter on Derricotte.

Powers, William F. “The Furious Muse: Black Poets Assess the State of Their Art.” The Washington Post, October 1, 1994, p. H1. This article reports on a Harrisburg, Virginia, gathering of thirty African American poets and about 250 writers, critics, and scholars to define qualities that set black poetry apart from the American mainstream. The feature story offers insight into Derricotte’s personality.

Robinson, Caudell M. “Where Poets Explore Their Pain While Others Beware the Dog.” American Visions 14, no. 5 (October, 1999): 30. Profiles Derricotte’s thoughts on writing and efforts to promote the art among African Americans through a summer workshop in upstate New York.