Born in Detroit
, in 1941.
Her books of poetry include:
Natural Birth (1983), and
The Empress of the Death House (1978).
The Black Notebooks, a literary memoir, was published from W.W. Norton in 1997.
Naomi Long Madgett produced her first book, "The Empress of the Death House." From that launch pad, she has become on the the most distinguished poets of the 20th century. Her honors include the Folger Shakespeare Library Poetry Book Award, the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, a Pushcart Prize, and the Distinguished Pioneering of the Arts Award from the United Black Artists, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and the Maryland State Arts Council.
One of Toi’s most profound literary legacies is co-founding Cave Canem with poet, Cornelius Eady. Every summer she gives time, energy and inspiration to fledgling African American poets. She teaches at the University of Pittsburgh.
Toi’s poetry can be painful at times. As confessional poet, she lays her inner turmoil bare for the whole world to see. While bold, gutsy and uncompromising, she takes the reader into a world where race, gender and sexuality conflict with a woman’s ability to simply find her humanity.
Audio clips of two poems can be found at: