Poet, scholar Meena Alexander, known for award-winning poetry collection Illiterate Heart, dies at 67

Meena Alexander was best-known for her award-winning collections of poetry Illiterate Heart (2002) and Raw Silk (2004) among many other literary works.

FP Staff November 22, 2018 14:56:19 IST
Poet, scholar Meena Alexander, known for award-winning poetry collection Illiterate Heart, dies at 67

Renowned poet and scholar Meena Alexander passed away at the age of 67 on 21 November in New York, as reported by Scroll.in. Born in Allahabad and raised in Kerala and Sudan, Alexander received a BA Honors in French and English from Khartoum University and completed her PhD from Nottingham University. She worked as Distinguished Professor of English in the PhD programmes at Graduate Center/ Hunter College, City University of New York (CUNY).

Alexander was best-known for her award-winning collections of poetry Illiterate Heart (2002) and Raw Silk (2004); the former won the 2002's PEN Open Book Award. Her autobiographical memoir, Fault Lines was originally published in 1993 and was later revised in 2003 with new material. It was chosen by Publishers Weekly as one of the best books of 1993. Her two novels, Nampally Road and Manhattan Music were also widely accepted by readers. Her other poems have appeared in global publications like The New YorkerHarvard ReviewKenyon ReviewThreepenny Review and various other journals.

On her volume of poems titled The Shock of Arrival: Reflections on Postcolonial Experience, Publishers Weekly wrote: "Many of the poems and essays in this rich, provocative collection deal with classic immigrant themes of identity, language and dislocation. Alexander starts with intimate concerns-coming to grips with life in a female body, struggling to find an emotional home-but also speaks passionately on broader political themes."

She was conferred with the Distinguished Achievement Award in Literature in 2009 from the South Asian Literary Association for her contribution to American literature. In 2014, she was named a National Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study in Shimla, adds the Scroll report.

Her eighth book of poetry, Atmospheric Embroidery  was published in June this year.

Several poetry organisations and forums took to social media to express their grief and condolences on the poet's untimely demise.

"The many births you have passed through, try to remember them as I do mine
Memory is all you have."

— Excerpt from Alexander's poem Krishna, 3:29 AM. This was shared by The Asian American Writers’ Workshop on Twitter.

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