Meena Alexander was born in Allahabad, India. She turned five on the Indian Ocean, on the journey with her mother from India to Sudan. She was raised both in Kerala, South India and in Khartoum, Sudan. At eighteen she went to England for her studies. She has a B.A. Honors in French and English from Khartoum University and a Ph.D. from Nottingham University. Birthplace with Buried Stones (Fall 2013) is her seventh book of poetry. She also has three earlier volumes of poetry published in India.
She has edited Indian Love Poems from the Everyman’s series, and published a critically acclaimed memoir Fault Lines (picked as one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of the year). Recent poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Harvard Review, Kenyon Review, Threepenny Review.
Her poems have been set to music, including “Impossible Grace,” which was 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.
She has published two novels Nampally Road (1991/ 2012 – republished by Orient Blackswan) and Manhattan Music. Her academic studies include The Poetic Self: Towards a Phenomenology of Romanticism and Women in Romanticism: Mary Wollstonecraft, Dorothy Wordsworth and Mary Shelley.
Her prose writings on trauma, migration and memory collected in The Shock of Arrival: Reflections on Postcolonial Experience and Poetics of Dislocation are relevant to our evolving understanding of postcoloniality. A book of essays on her work has appeared: Passage to Manhattan: Critical Essays on Meena Alexander (eds. Lopamudra Basu and Cynthia Leenerts, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).
Meena Alexander has read her poems and spoken at Poetry International London, Rome Poetry Festival, Struga Poetry Evenings, Poetry Africa, Calabash Festival, Harbor Front Festival, Sahitya Akademi, India, Yale Political Union and other international venues.
Her book of poetry Illiterate Heart won the PEN Open Book Award and she received a Glenna Luschei Award for poems published in Prairie Schooner . She has received awards from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, Fulbright Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Arts Council of England, National Endowment for the Humanities, American Council of Learned Societies, National Council for Research on Women, New York State Council on the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Ledig-Rowohlt Foundation in Switzerland.
She has been in residence at the MacDowell Colony and has held the Martha Walsh Pulver residency for a poet at Yaddo. She was Visiting Fellow at the Sorbonne (Paris IV); Frances Wayland Collegium Lecturer at Brown University; Writer in Residence at the Center for American Culture Studies at Columbia University; University Grants Commission Fellow, Kerala University; Writer in Residence, National University of Singapore, Poet in Residence at the University of Hyderabad, Visiting Professor at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. She has served as a Member of the Jury for the Neustadt International Award in Literature and as an Elector, American Poets Corner, Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York.
She was the recipient of the 2009 Distinguished Achievement Award in Literature from the South Asian Literary Association (an organization allied to the Modern Languages Association) for contributions to American literature. In 2014, Meena Alexander was named a National Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study.
She is Distinguished Professor of English and Women’s Studies at the City University of New York and teaches in the PhD Program in English at CUNY Graduate Center and in the English Department at Hunter College.
COMPLETE LIST OF PUBLISHED WORKS
Birthplace with Buried Stones (2013)
Quickly Changing River (2008)
Raw Silk (2004)
Illiterate Heart (2002)
River and Bridge (1995/ 1996)
Stone Roots (New Delhi, (1980)
House of a Thousand Doors (1988)
Impossible Grace: Jerusalem Poems (2012)
Otto Poesie (2011)
Night-Scene: The Garden (Short Work Series) (1992)
The Storm: A Poem in Five Parts (Short Work Series) (1989)
I Root My Name (poems) (Calcutta: United Writers, 1977)
Without Place (long poem) (Calcutta: Writers Workshop, 1977)
In the Middle Earth (performance piece)(New Delhi: Enact, 1977).
The Bird’s Bright Ring (long poem) (1976)
Poetry and Essays:
The Shock of Arrival: Reflections on Postcolonial Experience (1996)
Poetics of Dislocation (University of Michigan Press, 2009)
Fault Lines (1993/new expanded edition 2003)
Prefaces and Introductory Notes:
Foreword to Indian Love Poems (Everyman’s Library/Knopf, 2005)
‘Buried Voices’: Preface to Cast Me Out If You Will!: Stories and Memoir Pieces by Lalithambika Antherjanam (New York: Feminist Press, 1998)
‘Bodily Inventions: A Note on the Poems’ Guest Poetry Editor to ‘The Body’ — Special Issue of The Asian Pacific American Journal vol.5 no.1, spring/summer 1996
‘Translating Violence’ Foreword to Blood into Ink, Twentieth Century South Asian and Middle Eastern Women Write War, eds. Miriam Cooke and Roshni Rustomji-Kerns ( Boulder: Westview Press, Spring l994)
Introduction to Truth Tales : Stories by Contemporary Indian Women Writers (New York: Feminist Press, Fall 1990) Editors Choice of Publisher’s Weekly, 1990
Indian Love Poems (2005)