2018 Retreat Faculty
Chris Abani is a novelist, poet, essayist, screenwriter and playwright. Born in Nigeria to an Igbo father and English mother, he grew up in Afikpo, Nigeria, received a BA in English from Imo State University, Nigeria, an MA in English, Gender and Culture from Birkbeck College, University of London, and a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Southern California. He is the recipient of the PEN USA Freedom-to-Write Award, the Prince Claus Award, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a California Book Award, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, a PEN Beyond the Margins Award, the PEN Hemingway Book Prize, and a Guggenheim Award. His fiction includes The Secret History of Las Vegas (Penguin 2014), Song For Night (Akashic, 2007), and The Virgin of Flames (Penguin, 2007). His poetry collections include Sanctificum (Copper Canyon Press, 2010), There Are No Names for Red (Red Hen Press, 2010), and Feed Me The Sun – Collected Long Poems (Peepal Tree Press, 2010). His critical and personal essays have been featured in books on art and photography, as well as in Witness, Parkett, The New York Times, O Magazine, and BOMB. Through his TED Talks, public speaking, and essays, Abani is known as an international voice on humanitarianism, art, ethics, and our shared political responsibility.
Cave Canem co-founder Cornelius Eady was born in 1954 in Rochester, New York. He is the author of eight books of poetry, most recently Hardheaded Weather (Penguin, 2008). His Victims of the Latest Dance Craze (Ommation Press, 1986), won the 1985 Lamont Prize from the Academy of American Poets. He has collaborated with jazz composer Diedre Murray in the production of several works of musical theater, including You Don’t Miss Your Water; Running Man, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1999; Fangs, and Brutal Imagination, which received the Newsday’s Oppenheimer Award in 2002. He is the recipient of an NEA Fellowship in Literature; a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry; a Lila Wallace-Readers Digest Traveling Scholarship; a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship to Bellagio, Italy; The Prairie Schooner Strousse Award (1994); and the Elizabeth Kray Award, for service to the field of poetry from Poets House. He is a Professor of English and the Miller Family Endowed Chair in Literature and Writing at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, poet Evie Shockley earned a BA at Northwestern University, a JD at the University of Michigan, and a PhD in English literature at Duke University. The author of several collections of poetry, including a half-red sea (2006), and the new black (2011), Shockley is also the author of the critical volume Renegade Poetics: Black Aesthetics and Formal Innovation in African American Poetry (2011). Her poetry and essays have been featured in several anthologies, including Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry (2009), Poets on Teaching: A Sourcebook (2010), A Broken Thing: Contemporary Poets on the Line (2011), and Contemporary African American Literature: The Living Canon (2013). Shockley’s honors include the Holmes National Poetry Prize and fellowships from Cave Canem, the Millay Colony for the Arts, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library. Coeditor of the journal jubilat from 2004 to 2007, Shockley is a professor at Rutgers University. She lives in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Born and raised in San Francisco, poet Amber Flora Thomas earned a BA at Humboldt State University and an MFA at Washington University in St. Louis. Her lyric poems often engage the body as a record of loss and accrual. She is the author of The Rabbits Could Sing (2012) and the Eye of Water (2005), which won the Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in several anthologies, including Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry (2009), and Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade (2006). Thomas’s honors include the Richard Peterson Poetry Prize, the Dylan Thomas Prize from Rosebud magazine, the Ann Stanford Poetry Prize, and an individual artist grant from the Marin Arts Council. She has taught at Washington University in St. Louis, Dominican University of California, the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, and Eastern Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina.
Guest Poet: Robin Coste Lewis
Robin Coste Lewis was born in Compton, California. She received an MFA from New York University and an MTS from the Divinity School at Harvard University. She is the author of Voyage of the Sable Venus (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015), winner of the National Book Award. Lewis has taught at Wheaton College, Hunter College, and Hampshire College. Lewis served as Provost’s Fellow at the University of Southern California and lives in Los Angeles, where she was recently appointed Poet Laureate.
Co-Founders: Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady
Toi Derricotte has published five collections of poetry, most recently, The Undertaker’s Daughter (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011). An earlier collection of poems, Tender, won the 1998 Paterson Poetry Prize. Her literary memoir, The Black Notebooks, published by W.W. Norton, won the 1998 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Non-Fiction and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Her essay “Beds” is included in The Best American Essays 2011, edited by Edwidge Danticat. Recognized as a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania in 2009, her honors include the 2012 Paterson Poetry Prize for Sustained Literary Achievement; the 2012 PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry, for a poet whose distinguished and growing body of work represents a notable presence in American literature; the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America; two Pushcart Prizes; the Distinguished Pioneering of the Arts Award from the United Black Artists; the Alumni/Alumnae Award from New York University; the Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers, Inc.; the Elizabeth Kray Award, for service to the field of poetry from Poets House; and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Maryland State Arts Council. She serves on the Academy of American Poets’ Board of Chancellors and for many years was Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon
Lucille Clifton, Elder (6/27/1936 – 2/13/2010)
Thomas Sayers Ellis
C. S. Giscombe
Michael S. Harper, Elder (3/18/1938 – 5/7/2016)
Ruth Ellen Kocher
Dawn Lundy Martin
Colleen J. McElroy
Marilyn Nelson, Elder
Sonia Sanchez, Elder
Afaa M. Weaver, Elder
Al Young, Elder