Black Women, Black Spring  |  April-May 2023


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Poet, essayist, editor, and professor, Camille T. Dungy was born in Denver, Colorado, but moved frequently due to her father’s work. She was raised in university towns and grew up in the academy. She earned a BA from Stanford University and an MFA from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.

Dungy is the author of four collections of poetry: What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison (Red Hen Press, 2006), Suck on the Marrow (Red Hen Press, 2010),  winner of the American Book Award, Smith Blue (Southern Illinois UP, 2011), and Trophic Cascade (Wesleyan UP, 2017), winner of the Colorado Book Award. Dungy is also the editor of Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry (UGA, 2009), co-editor of From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great (Persea, 2009), and assistant editor of Gathering Ground: Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade (University of Michigan Press, 2006). Her persona poems explore deeply personal observations on nature, history, and race through “gorgeous, visceral inhabitings of lives far removed.” 

Her honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, an American Book Award, a Colorado Book Award, two Northern California Book Awards, two NAACP Image Award Nominations, and fellowships from the NEA in both poetry and prose. She is also a two-time recipient of the Northern California Book Award, in 2010 and 2011, and a Silver Medal Winner of the California Book Award. She is currently a University Distinguished Professor in the English department of Colorado State University.



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Ladan Osman is a Somali-American poet, filmmaker, and essayist. Her work is inspired heavily by the dualism of her identity as Somali-American and explores issues of race, gender, displacement, and colonialism. Born in Somalia and educated in the United States at Otterbein College (BA) and University of Texas at Austin (MFA), her work is heavily driven by her heritage as Somali and Muslim.

“The Man Who Puts Dirt on His Head,” is part of Osman’s 2015 debut book, The Kitchen Dweller’s Testimony (pub-year). This autobiographical work, the winner of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, explores themes of  growing up, family, love, and community while still relentlessly questioning conditioning to violence, divorce, and suffering. In addition to the Sillerman First Book Prize, Osman has won the Houston/Wright Legacy Award for her 2019 work Exiles of Eden (pub-year) and has been granted fellowships from Cave Canem, the Lannan Foundation, the FIne Arts Work Center, and the Michener Center. She is a contributing editor to The Offing and lives in Chicago.




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Born in Cleveland, Ohio and raised on various military bases, Marilyn Nelson is the author or translator of more than 20 books and chapbooks for adults and children. Nelson earned her BA from the University of California, Davis, an MA from the University of Pennsylvania, and her PhD at the University of Minnesota.

Her memoir of 50 poems, How I Discovered Poetry (pub-year), is a Coretta Scott King Honor Book and was named one of NPR’s Best Books of 2014. Her other books include My Seneca Village (namelos, 2015); The Fields of Praise: New and Selected Poems (Louisiana State University Press, 1997), a finalist for the 1998 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, the 1997 National Book Award, and the PEN Winship Award; and The Homeplace (Louisiana State University Press, 1990), winner of the 1992 Anisfield-Wolf Award and finalist for the 1991 National Book Award. She is also the author of Carver: A Life in Poems (pub-year), a book for children and young adults, and a Newbery Honor Book.

She is the recipient of the Boston Globe/Hornbook award, the Flora Stieglitz Straus Award, the Milton Kessler Poetry Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Award, the PEN Winship Award, and the Lenore Marshall Prize. A three-time finalist for the National Book Award, her honors also include the Frost Medal, the Poetry Society of America’s award for “distinguished lifetime achievement in poetry,” and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Nelson is a professor emerita of English at the University of Connecticut, and she currently serves as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She was Poet Laureate of Connecticut from 2001 to 2006.



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A Cave Canem graduate fellow and member of the collective Poets at the End of the World, Donika Kelly was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Kelly earned an MFA from the University of Texas at Austin and a PhD in English from Vanderbilt University.

Kelly is the author of the chapbook Aviarium (500 Places, 2017), winner of the Anisfield-Wolf book award in poetry, the full-length collection Bestiary (Graywolf, 2016), and The Renunciations (Graywolf, 2021), which was a finalist for the 2021 National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry. Bestiary won the 2015 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry (Year), and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award (Year). 

Recipient of a Lannan Residency Fellowship, and a summer workshop fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center, Kelly’s poetry has been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Publishing Triangle Awards, the Lambda Literary Awards, and longlisted for the National Book Award. Kelly’s work has been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. Kelly is an Assistant Professor in the English department at the University of Iowa.

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