Toi Derricotte to Retire as President: Tribute Fund Established

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Toi Derricotte Tribute Fund Established to Perpetuate Co‐founder’s Legacy

Brooklyn, NY (21 September 2015)—Cave Canem Foundation, North America’s premier home for black poetry, announces the retirement of co‐founder Toi Derricotte from her role as president of the board of directors, a position she has held since the organization was incorporated as a 501‐c‐3 non‐profit in 1997. Derricotte will step down from the presidency in late‐September 2015 and continue to serve on the board as a director. The board will announce her successor in early October.

A Toi Derricotte Tribute Fund has been established to perpetuate her vision of building an enduring “home for Black poetry.”  Donations to the fund will help underwrite free retreat tuition for all Cave Canem fellows and supplement a room‐and‐board scholarship fund benefitting 60% of participants. Contributors may visit or telephone 718.858.0000.

In 1996, with co‐founder Cornelius Eady, Toi Derricotte launched a week‐long writing retreat to remedy the under‐representation and isolation of African American poets in the literary landscape. This groundbreaking program was the genesis of Cave Canem Foundation, Inc.  In her 20 years of leadership, Derricotte has played a critical role in taking Cave Canem from a gathering of 26 poets to an established organization with a world‐class faculty, national fellowship of 400 and a robust program of services, including a first‐book award launched in 1999 with Natasha Trethewey’s Domestic Work.

Paying tribute to Derricotte at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg in June 2015, Eady said, ”Toi has taught us how not to be afraid. That you don’t have to explain or apologize or step back in order to be the person you need to be. Isn’t that the essence of what Cave Canem means?”  Executive


2 director Alison Meyers observed, “Toi’s vision, courage and dedication have been essential to Cave Canem’s success story. She is equal parts brilliant poet, leader, mentor, activist and community   builder. She has seen into the hearts of hundreds of poets and inspired them to bring their best selves to Cave Canem. The pride, discipline and joy she has modeled will continue on and grow.”   Reflecting on her planned transition and the organization’s trajectory, Derricotte said, “I feel more complete than ever about Cave Canem and myself. My moving on is an opportunity for other ideas and energy to come forth. They say we’ve changed American poetry; I think we’ve changed a lot more than that. Langston Hughes said we have to build our own institutions. And we’ve done that. I’m so grateful for my part in this journey.” Toi Derricotte has published five books of poetry, most recently, The Undertakerʹs Daughter (U. of Pittsburgh Press, 2011). An earlier collection, Tender, won the 1998 Paterson Poetry Prize; and her literary memoir, The Black Notebooks (W.W. Norton 1999), received the 1998 Anisfield‐Wolf Book Award for Non‐Fiction and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. A Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania, Derricotte’s honors include the 2012 Paterson Poetry Prize for Sustained Literary Achievement; the 2012 PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry; 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 Barnes & Noble Writer 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 Rockefeller Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation. She serves on the Academy of American Poetsʹ Board of Chancellors and is Professor Emerita at the University of Pittsburgh. Founded in 1996 by poets Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady, Cave Canem is a home for the many voices of African American poetry and is committed to cultivating the artistic and professional growth of African American poets. Called ʺthe major watering hole and air pocket for black poetryʺ  by 2011 National Book Award winner and faculty member Nikky Finney, the organization’s programs include an annual week‐long retreat, first‐and second‐book prizes with prestigious presses, Legacy Conversations with distinguished black poets and scholars, Poets on Craft talks, a   —more— CAVE CANEM FOUNDATION, INC. * 20 Jay Street, Suite 310‐A, Brooklyn, NY* / 718.858.0000           3 lecture series, community‐based writing workshops, publications and national readings.  Such pre‐ eminent poets as Elizabeth Alexander, Terrance Hayes, Natasha Trethewey, Chris Abani, Harryette   Mullen, Yusef Komunyakaa and Claudia Rankine number among the organization’s faculty and judges. To date, Cave Canem has published Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade (University of Michigan Press, 2006); The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South (University of Georgia Press, 2007); and two anthologies from Willow Books, Cave Canem Anthology XII: Poems 2008‐2009 (2012) and Cave Canem Anthology XIII: Poems 2010‐2011 (2015). For more information, visit