"When relatives came from out of town..."

Toi Derricotte


Toi Derricotte's poetry and essays explore large themes in personal and intimate ways, often drawing on her autobiographical experiences, including early memories of her grandparents' funeral home, images that imprinted themselves on her earliest poems. Born in 1941 in Hamtramck, Michigan, outside Detroit, Dericotte began writing in her teens and attended Wayne State University, studying special education. She taught reading and English and was poet-in-residence in schools in Detroit and New Jersey in the 1960s and 70s. In 1984, she earned a master's degree in English at New York University (later winning an alumnae award from the institution) and began teaching in university settings and organizing poetry workshops. Her first book, The Empress of the Death House, was published in 1978 and numerous additional books of poetry and prose have followed. Her memoir, The Black Notebooks: An Interior Journey, drawing on the poet's journals, explores identity and gender. Derricotte is currently a professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh and president of Cave Canem, a center for black poetry.

To read this and other poems and translations by Toi Derricotte, as well as biographical information about the poet, please visit the Poetry Foundation Web site.