Graywolf Press author to read at Obama's Inauguration

Elizabeth Alexander, a poet published by St. Paul's non-profit Graywolf Press was selected by the President-elect and a slew of committees and advisers to read an original poem at the 44th President's Inauguration in January. Graywolf (Which was the subject of a recent CP feature.), is planning on publishing a book of Alexander's work to mark the occasion. Read the full press release below.


Alexander only the fourth poet in United States history to read at a presidential inauguration

December 17, 2008

Elizabeth Alexander will be the fourth poet in United States history to read at a presidential inauguration. Previous inaugural poets were Robert Frost at the inauguration of John F. Kennedy, and Maya Angelou and Miller Williams at the inaugurations of William Jefferson Clinton. Graywolf Press will publish a chapbook featuring her original work to commemorate this historic event.

Publisher and director of Graywolf Press Fiona McCrae was delighted by the
news: ³This is a brilliant and absolutely right choice for the president of change. Elizabeth Alexander has established herself as an important voice for a new generation. She is a citizen poet

The program participants were invited by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies and chosen by the Chairman, the President-elect, and the Vice President-elect. In addition to Senator Feinstein, the members of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies include: Senator Bob Bennett, Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid; Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi; House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer; and House Republican Leader John Boehner.

Alice Quinn from the Poetry Society of America wrote,³Elizabeth Alexander is an inspired choice for this historic role. She is a marvelous poet, an incisive and influential scholar, and one of the great citizens of the literary world. What a joy it will be to see her and hear her at that podium on that day!²

Elizabeth Alexander was born in New York City and raised in Washington, D.C.
She is the author of four collections of poetry, American Sublime, Antebellum Dream Book, The Venus Hottentot, and Body of Life, which was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. She is also the author of two collections of essays, The Black Interior and Power and Possibilities:
Essays, Interviews, Reviews, and a collection of poems for young adults, Miss Crandall¹s School for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Colors (co-authored with Marilyn Nelson). She recently edited The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks. She has read her work across the United States and in Europe, the Caribbean, and South America, and her poetry, short stories, and critical prose have been published in numerous periodicals and anthologies.
She has received many awards and honors, most recently the Alphonse Fletcher Sr. Fellowship for work that ³contributes to improving race relations in American society and furthers the broad social goals of the U.S. Supreme Court¹s Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954,² and the 2007 Jackson Prize for Poetry, awarded by Poets and Writers. Alexander is a professor of African American Studies and American Studies at Yale University, and also teaches in the Cave Canem Poetry Workshop. She lives with her family in New Haven, Connecticut.

Graywolf Press is an independent, not-for-profit publisher dedicated to the creation and promotion of thoughtful and imaginative contemporary literature essential to a vital and diverse culture. Graywolf has published significant books of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and translations for thirty-five years, and has become one of the leading literary publishers in the country. Poetry has always remained at the heart of our work. For more information, please visit our web site:

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