Elizabeth Alexander, Jackson Poetry Prize Recipient, to Read at Inauguration

December 17, 2008 -- Elizabeth Alexander, the 2007 recipient of Poets & Writers’ Jackson Poetry Prize (the prize’s first-ever recipient), has been selected to read at the inauguration of President-Elect Barack Obama, it was announced today by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.

According to the Washington Post, “Alexander, 45, would be only the fourth poet to read at a swearing-in after [Robert] Frost, who read at John F. Kennedy's in 1961, Maya Angelou, who read at Bill Clinton's in 1993, and Miller Williams, who read in Clinton's second inaugural in 1997.”

Elizabeth Alexander is a poet, essayist, playwright, and teacher. She is the author of four books of poems, American Sublime (Graywolf Press, 2005), which was one of three finalists for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize; The Venus Hottentot (Graywolf Press, 2004); Antebellum Dream Book (Graywolf Press, 2001); and Body of Life (Northwestern University Press, 1997). She is also a scholar of African-American literature and culture and recently published a collection of essays, The Black Interior (Graywolf Press, 2003). She has read her work across the U.S. and in Europe, the Caribbean, and South America, and her poetry, short stories, and critical prose have been published in dozens of periodicals and anthologies. She is a professor at Yale University and lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

Click here to view a video Elizabeth Alexander reading her work at the Poets & Writers' Jackson Poetry Prize ceremony in May 2007. Click here to read an interview with Ms. Alexander from the November/December 2001 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine.

Established in 2007, the annual $50,000 prize honors an American poet of exceptional talent who has published at least one book of recognized literary merit but has not yet received major national acclaim.

The Liana Foundation (established by the John and Susan Jackson Family) recently announced it will donate $2 million to Poets & Writers to endow the Jackson Poetry Prize. The gift is the largest in the organization’s history. For more information about the Jackson Poetry Prize, click here.

Photo by C.J. Gunther