Elizabeth Alexander is a leading American poet whose work has been inspired by a wide range of influence, from history, literature, art and music, dreams and stories to the ‘rich infinity’ of the African American experience. She was born in New York City and grew up in Washington, DC. She is a poet, essayist, playwright, teacher and scholar of African-American literature and culture, and has given readings and lectures on African-American literature and culture in many countries.
She has published four collections in the States: The Venus Hottentot (1990), Body of Life (1996), Antebellum Dream Book (2001) and American Sublime (2005), as well as a collection of essays on African American artistic life through literature, painting, film and popular media, The Black Interior (Graywolf, 2004). Her first British publication, American Blue: Selected Poems (2006), draws on all these. The anthology Bloodaxe Poetry Introductions: 1 (2006) includes a selection of her poems with extracts from an interview and an essay on African American poetry. Miss Crandall's School for Young Ladies & Little Misses of Color, a collaboration with poet Marilyn Nelson and artist Floyd Cooper, was published by Worksong in 2007. She has been filmed reading a selection of her work for the DVD-anthology In Person: 30 Poets (Bloodaxe, 2008).
Elizabeth Alexander lives in New Haven, Connecticut, and is Professor of African-American Studies at Yale University. In January 2009 she read the inaugural poem for the swearing-in of President Barack Obama.
Elizabeth Alexander reads 'Praise Song for the Day: A Poem for Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration' to an audience of over a million in front of the Capitol in Washington, DC, on 20 January 2009. Over a billion people watched the inauguration worldwide: