Announcing the 2020 Frost Medalist, Toi Derricotte

February 05, 2020

The Poetry Society of America is pleased to announce that Toi Derricotte is the 2020 recipient of the Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime achievement in poetry.

The Poetry Society of America is pleased to announce that Toi Derricotte is the 2020 recipient of the Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime achievement in poetry. Previous winners of the organization's highest award include Marianne Moore, Gwendolyn Brooks, Allen Ginsberg, Adrienne Rich, Barbara Guest, Lucille Clifton, Marilyn Nelson, Susan Howe, and, most recently, Eleanor Wilner.

The Frost Medal citation from the Poetry Society of America's Board of Governors reads: 

"There are few poets who are as brave as Toi Derricotte; brave in her subject matter and brave in how she insists that even the deepest hurts must sing on the page. Derricotte’s New and Selected is an amazing statement of her dedication to craft, vision and invention, which she has built, book by book through her writing life. Her work dives into the interior of African American womanhood, and brings back such lyric beauty. Her poems have given vast permission to the poets who have followed her to tell the truths of their lives, and in doing that, have allowed us all a chance to re-discover the world."   

The Frost Medal reading will be held on Thursday, April 16, at 7:00pm at CUNY Graduate Center at 34th Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City. The reading will be followed by an interview between Toi Derricotte and Tracy K. Smith, former Poet Laureate of the United States. 

The reading is free and open to the public. RSVP here.

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Toi Derricotte’s sixth collection of poetry, “I” New and Selected Poems, was published in 2019 and shortlisted for the 2019 National Book Award. Other books of poetry include The Undertaker’s Daughter, Tender, Captivity, Natural Birth and The Empress of the Death House. Her literary memoir, The Black Notebooks, won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Non-Fiction and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

Her numerous literary awards include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She was awarded the 2012 Paterson Poetry Prize for Sustained Literary Achievement, a Distinguished Pioneering of the Arts Award from the United Black Artists, the 2012 PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry and the 1985 Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America.

With Cornelius Eady, Derricotte co-founded the Cave Canem Foundation in 1996. They are co-recipients of the Barnes and Noble Writers for Writers Award, the City of Literature Paul Engle Prize and the MLA Phyllis Franklin Award.

She is Professor Emerita from University of Pittsburgh and a former Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.