In 1941, Toi Derricotte was born in Hamtramck, Michigan. She earned her BA in special education from Wayne State University and her MA in English literature from New York University.
Her books of poetry include The Undertaker's Daughter (University of Pittsburgh, 2011) Tender (1997) which won the 1998 Paterson Poetry Prize; Captivity (1989); Natural Birth (1983); and The Empress of the
Death House (1978). She is also the author of a literary memoir, The Black Notebooks (W.W. Norton, 1997), which won the 1998 Annisfield-Wolf Book Award for Non-Fiction.
Together with Cornelius Eady, in 1996, she co-founded the Cave Canem Foundation, a national poetry organization committed to cultivating the artistic and professional growth of African American poets.
About her work, the poet Sharon Olds has said, "Toi Derricotte's poems show us our underlife, tender and dreadful. And they are vibrant poems, poems in the voice of the living creature, the one who escaped—and paused, and turned back, and saw, and cried out. This is one of the most beautiful and necessary voices in American poetry today."
Her honors include the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry, the Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement for Previous Winners of The Paterson Poetry Prize, the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, the Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers, Inc., the Distinguished Pioneering of the Arts Award from the United Black Artists, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Guggenheim Foundation. p>
She was elected Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2012 and is currently a professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.