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Meena Alexander

Meena_ credit marion ettlinger2008
photo by Marion Ettlinger

Meena Alexander was born in Allahabad. Her father was posted by the Indian Government to Sudan, after the Bandung Agreement. She spent her early years both in Khartoum and in her ancestral home in Kerala, south India. Her poems first saw the light of day in Arabic translation, when she was a teenager in Khartoum.

Her works include Birthplace with Buried Stones (TriQuarterly Books/ Northwestern University Press, 2013) her seventh book of poetry, Quickly Changing River, Illiterate Heart, (winner of the PEN Open Book Award) and Raw Silk. She has edited Indian Love Poems and published a critically acclaimed memoir Fault Lines(picked as one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of the year). Atmospheric Embroidery has just been published by Hachette India, 2015. Her poems have been set to music, including “Impossible Grace,” the lyric base of the First Al Quds Music Award and “Acqua Alta, ” which was set to music by the Swedish composer Jan Sandstrom for the Serikon Music Group’s climate change project and performed by the Swedish Radio Choir.

BirthplaceHer essays on trauma, migration and memory, including The Shock of Arrival and Poetics of Dislocation are important for the evolving understanding of postcoloniality. She has also published two academic studies of early English Romanticism. Her novel Nampally Road recently reissued by Orient Blackswan has a haunting resonance with tragic events in Delhi in 2012. When it first appeared in 1991 the novel was a Voice Literary Supplement Editor’s Choice.

Her awards include those from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, Fulbright Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation for a residency at Bellagio, Arts Council of England and the American Council of Learned Societies. She has received the PEN Open Book Award, the Glenna Lusche51OLOqgDzTL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_si Award from Prairie Schooner and the Martha Walsh Pulver Fellowship for a poet from Yaddo. She is a recipient of the Distinguished Achievement Award in Literature from the South Asian Literary Association. Passage to Manhattan: Critical Essays on Meena Alexander (eds Basu and Leenerts) appeared in 2009. Alexander has served as an Elector, American Poets Corner, Cathedral of St. John the Divine. She is Distinguished Professor of English at the Graduate Center and Hunter College, City University of New York.

Learn more through the following links, Journeys. Poetry Foundation interview, Poet in the Public Sphere, Social Text interview, Yale Political Union address: What Use is Poetry?, Indian Ocean Flows: Black Renaissance interview, `Impossible Grace’: Poem and Music,  and`Acqua Alta’ music sung by Swedish Radio Choir.

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  1. […] Meena Alexander was a poet who spoke to us in 2015. In response to my off record admission that I find it intimidating to interview poets, she responded the most wonderful and extraordinary way: […]

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