Toi Derricotte

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The Undertaker's Daughter, University of Pittsburgh Press (2011)


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The Black Notebooks: An Interior Journey, WW. Norton & Co. (1999)


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Captivity, University of Pittsburgh Press (1990)


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The Empress of the Death House, Lotus Press (1978), Out of Print



The Undertaker's Daughter


“Toi Derricotte’s The Undertaker’s Daughter reveals a chiaroscuro of hue and emotion; each lyrical gesture is grounded in earth veined by blood—a living and dreaming America. These plainly spoken observations, small and monumental, are held up to a lit certainty. The Undertaker’s Daughter is shaped through a painful authority, and the reader can’t help but see and feel the full force of this probing voice that bends time.” —Yusef Komunyakaa


“As in the music of Billie Holiday, the work of Toi Derricotte is lit by a fusion of intimacy and intensity. She has long sounded the depths of History, Family and Self with an unflinching openness that moves beyond candor into visionary wisdom. In this astonishing new book she moves beyond the demarcations of prose and poetry and places us in that transformative space between memory and song. No one writes with the acuity and grace of Toi Derricotte and The Undertaker’s Daughter is her most stirring and innovative work yet.” —Terrance Hayes


“In Toi Derricotte’s daring new collection, the idea of memoir forms the elegant scaffolding for poems that range from lyrical prose narratives to measured free-verse meditations. A courageous act of healing and redemption, The Undertaker’s Daughter explores the nature of inheritance—its legacies of language and cruelty and sorrow—proving again that art is as much about beauty as it is about reckoning, empathy, and self-discovery.” —Natasha Trethewey




The Black Notebooks


"The Black Notebooks is the most profound document I have read on racism in America today. . . [It] is not just one of the best books on race I have ever read but just simply one of the best books I have ever read."—Sapphire






"Her work reaches out into the black and white and comes up with meaning that is often complex and rich--in short, gray . . . Derricotte delivers frankness and hope through her thoughtful probing of encounters with complex racial and sexual relations."—Publishers Weekly


 Derricotte's language feels, as usual, fresh and urgent, but Tender is a highly crafted volume, with poems lodged in an intricate structure. . . Derricotte's range of diction, form and subject is grand. —Melanie Kaye Kantrowitz, The Women's Review of Books






Captivity is a work of deep power and music. In the title poem, the speaker’s uncle displays animal pelts, blowing on the fur to show us its ‘shining underlife.’ 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.”—Sharon Olds


“There are poems that stick with you like a song that won’t stop repeating itself in your brain, poems whose cadences burrow into your bloodstream, orchestrating your breathing long before their sense attaches its hooks to your heart. Even after you think you’ve got a handle on a particular passage—how that imagery works to support the narrative, the interlocking patterns of the observed and the unsaid—something elusive keeps sending you back to the page; and with each new reading, another layer of mystery will gently exhale and open up. Much like a favorite grandparent’s parable-disguised-as-an-anecdote, the poem will unfold when you need it but least expect it, illuminating its revelations as you grow into the lessons life has to offer.”—Rita Dove, The Washington Post


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Gathering Ground, University of Michigan Press (2006)


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Tender, University of Pittsburgh Press (1997)


Natural Birth, (1983), re-issue Firebrand Books (2000)