Elizabeth Alexander was born in Harlem, New York, and grew up in Washington, D.C. She received a BA from Yale University, an MA from Boston University and a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania.
Her collections of poetry include Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems 1990-2010 (2010); American Sublime (2005), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Antebellum Dream Book (2001), and her first poetry collection, The Venus Hottentot (1990).
Alexander’s memoir, The Light of the World (2015), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
Alexander’s critical work includes her essay collection The Black Interior (2004). Her verse play, Diva Studies, premiered at the Yale School of Drama.
Alexander has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts, a Pushcart Prize, the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching at the University of Chicago, and the Jackson Poetry Prize.
In 2009, she recited her poem “Praise Song for the Day” at President Barack Obama’s first Presidential Inauguration.
Alexander was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2015. She served as the inaugural Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale University, and the Wun Tsun Tam Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University.
She is currently the Director of Creativity and Free Expression at the Ford Foundation in New York City.