Women's Activism NYC

Meena Alexander

1951 - 2018

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Meena Alexander was an Indian American poet, writer and scholar. Born in India in 1951, she was raised in Sudan, educated in Khartoum and England, and was a longtime resident of New York City, where she was Distinguished Professor of English at the Graduate Center/Hunter College, CUNY. She passed away in 2018. Ms. Alexander drew on experiences of trauma, exile, conflicting identity, and the customs of four continents to produce eight books of poetry, a memoir, two novels and more. She referred to herself as “a woman cracked by multiple migrations.” In her words, “All my writing is haunted by place, the loss of it, the constantly shifting ‘I’ that tries to find a place in which to be.” Described as “undoubtedly one of the finest poets of contemporary times” by The Statesman (India), she authored numerous collections of poetry, including Atmospheric Embroidery (2018), Birthplace with Buried Stones (2013), and PEN Open Book Award-winner Illiterate Heart (2002). Her prose includes the memoir Fault Lines (1993, expanded in 2003), the novels Manhattan Music (1997) and Nampally Road (1991), the essay collections Poetics of Dislocation (2009) and The Shock of Arrival: Reflections on Postcolonial Experience (1996), as well as the critical studies Women in Romanticism: Mary Wollstonecraft, Dorothy Wordsworth and Mary Shelley (1989) and The Poetic Self: Towards a Phenomenology of Romanticism (1979). She was the editor of Indian Love Poems (2005) and Name Me a Word: Indian Writers Reflect on Writing (2018). Meena Alexander’s honors included grants and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, Fulbright Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, National Council for Research on Women, Arts Council of England, the Imbongi Yesizwe International Poetry Award, and New York Foundation for the Arts, as well as the South Asian Literary Association’s Distinguished Achievement Award in Literature. She taught at the University of Hyderabad, Columbia University, and Al Quds University, and was a National Fellow at the Indian Institute for Advanced Study, Shimla.

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