Toi Derricotte

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Toi Derricotte
BornToinette Webster
April 12, 1941
Hamtramck, Michigan
Occupation Poet, Professor emerita
Education Wayne State University
New York University
Notable worksBlack Notebooks
Notable awards Wallace Stevens Award (2021), Frost Medal (2020) [1]

Toi Derricotte (pronounced DARE-ah-cot ) (born April 12, 1941) is an American poet. She is the author of six poetry collections and a literary memoir. She has won numerous literary awards, including the 2020 Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime achievement in poetry awarded by the Poetry Society of America, and the 2021 Wallace Stevens Award, sponsored by the Academy of American Poets. From 2012–2017, Derricotte served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She is currently a professor emerita in writing at the University of Pittsburgh. Derricotte is a member of The Wintergreen Women Writers Collective. [2]


Early life

The only child of Benjamin and Antonia (néa Baquet) Webster, Toi Derricotte was born Toinette Webster on April 12, 1941 in Hamtramck, Michigan. Her parents divorced when she was a teenager. A Catholic, she attended Girls Catholic Central High School in Detroit, where she graduated in 1959. [3] She went to Mass every day. [4]

She later attended Wayne State University, where she studied psychology, but her studies were interrupted by an unplanned pregnancy, and her marriage to artist, Clarence Reese. Their son, Anthony was born in 1962. The couple later divorced. Derricotte changed her studies to Special Education and graduated with a BA in 1965. [5]


Derricotte worked in Detroit for Manpower Inc. from 1964–1966 and at the Farand School from 1966–1968. She later married Bruce Derricotte in 1967. [3] They later moved to New Jersey where she worked as a teacher and participated in a special program, teaching poetry to students from kindergarten through high school. [6] With easy access to New York City, Derricotte participated in writing workshops and began writing each day. [7]

Derricotte published her first poetry collection, The Empress of the Death House, (Lotus Press) in 1978. In 1983, Firebrand Books published her second poetry collection, Natural Birth. In 1984, she won a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a MacDowell fellowship. She later earned an MA in English Literature from New York University. In 1989, the University of Pittsburgh Press published Dericotte's third poetry collection, Captivity. The collection had has second (1991) and third (1993) printings. [7]

In 1991, Derricotte became an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh. In 1996, Norton Publishing Company accepted for publication Derricotte's literary memoir, The Black Notebooks, An Interior Journey, a book she began in 1974 when her family became one of the first black families to move into Upper Montclair, New Jersey. The memoir won the 1998 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Non-Fiction. [8]

Derricotte co-founded the Cave Canem Foundation, a national poetry organization in 1996, with American writer, Cornelius Eady. Cave Canem is a national poetry organization that supports the professional growth of African- American poets. In 2016, she and Eady accepted the National Book Foundation's Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community on behalf of Cave Canem. [9]

The University of Pittsburgh Press published Derricotte's fourth, fifth and sixth poetry collections: Tender in 1997, The Undertaker's Daughter in 2011, and "I": New and Selected Poems in 2019. In October 2019, '"I": New and Selected Poems' was longlisted for the National Book Award for Poetry. [7]

In 2012, Derricotte was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She served as a Chancellor from 2012–2017. She is currently a professor emerita in writing at the University of Pittsburgh. [10]

Awards and recognition

Selected bibliography



Critical studies and reviews of Derricotte's work

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  1. 1 2 "Wallace Stevens Award". Academy of American Poets. Retrieved 7 October 2021.
  2. "The Wintergreen Women Writers Collective".
  3. 1 2 Love, Monifa A. (2002). Contemporary American Women Poets: A to Z. Greenwood. pp. 89–91. ISBN   978-0313317835.
  4. Schwartz, Claire (2017). "An Interview with Toi Derricotte". Transition (124): 157–175. doi:10.2979/transition.124.1.29. ISSN   0041-1191. JSTOR   10.2979/transition.124.1.29. S2CID   158226622.
  5. 1 2 "About Toi Derricotte". Retrieved 7 October 2021.
  6. Monroy, Matthew (31 October 2019). "Poet Toi Derricotte digs deep into her past for her latest book". The PittNews. Retrieved 8 October 2021.
  7. 1 2 3 "Toi Derricotte, one of Michigan's finest". AAREG. Retrieved 8 October 2021.
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  10. "Toi Derricotte's latest poetry collection 'I' longlisted for National Book Award". University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved 7 October 2021.
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  14. "Toi Derricotte Wins Lifetime Achievement Award in Poetry". University of Pittsburgh. 15 June 2021. Retrieved 7 October 2021.
  15. "The Image and Identity of the Black Woman in the Poetry and Prose of Toi Derricotte" . Retrieved 2009-05-24.