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The Life of a Poet Featuring Distinguished Writer Elizabeth Alexander in Conversation with Poet Kyle Dargan

Thursday, September 14, 2023 @ 7:00 pm


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Hill Center is thrilled to announce the return of one of its flagship programs, The Life of a Poet, a quarterly series originally launched in 2013 which offers a rare opportunity to consider a writer’s entire career and explore the major events that have shaped their work. Elizabeth Alexander inaugurated the series in April of 2013 in conversation with Washington Post book critic Ron Charles. We are honored that Dr. Alexander will return this fall to re-inaugurate our new series, and equally delighted that The Life of a Poet will now be curated and hosted by acclaimed poet and editor Kyle Dargan.

A celebrated poet, scholar, and cultural advocate, Elizabeth Alexander is a nationally recognized thought leader on race, justice, the arts, and American society. As president of the Mellon Foundation, she leads a multi-billion dollar philanthropy and the nation’s largest funder of the arts and humanities, supporting educational institutions and cultural organizations while envisioning and guiding new initiatives to build just communities across the United States. Prior to joining the Foundation, Dr. Alexander served as the director of Creativity and Free Expression at the Ford Foundation, shaping Ford’s grantmaking vision in arts and culture, journalism, and documentary film. In this role, she guided the organization in examining how the arts and visual storytelling can empower communities and serve as vital tools for collective expression and enlightenment.

While at Ford, she co-designed the Art for Justice Fund, an initiative that uses art and advocacy to address the crisis of mass incarceration. Across her esteemed career as a scholar and educator, beginning with a professorship at University of Chicago, where she was honored with the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, Dr. Alexander has taught and inspired generations of students. She held distinguished professorships at Smith College, Yale University — where she taught for over 15 years and helped rebuild and chaired the African American Studies Department — and Columbia University.

In 1997, Dr. Alexander was appointed inaugural director of The Boutelle-Day Poetry Center at Smith College and in 2015, she was appointed Yale University’s inaugural Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry. An author or co-author of fifteen books, Dr. Alexander was twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize: for poetry with American Sublime and for biography with her 2015 memoir, the New York Times best-seller The Light of the World. In 2009, she composed and delivered the poem “Praise Song for the Day” for President Barack Obama’s inauguration. Her latest book, released in 2022, is The Trayvon Generation.

Dr. Alexander is a widely sought after speaker and has contributed to countless selection committees and juries. Currently, she serves on the boards of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, the Pulitzer Prize, and is Chancellor Emeritus of the Academy ofAmerican Poets. She has been awarded ten honorary doctorates and is internationally recognized for her poetry, scholarship, and thought leadership.

TIME Magazine named Dr. Alexander one of the 100 Most Influential People of 2022 and in 2019, she was awarded Harvard University’s W. E. B. Du Bois Medal. In 2021, Dr. Alexander was recognized as Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture, one of the country’s highest cultural awards. Dr. Alexander holds a BA from Yale University, an MA from Boston University, and a PhD in English from the University of Pennsylvania.

Kyle Dargan is the author of the poetry collection Anagnorisis  (TriQuarterly/Northwestern UP, 2018), which was awarded the 2019 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and longlisted for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in poetry. His four previous collections, Honest Engine (2015), Logorrhea Dementia (2010), Bouquet of Hungers (2007) and The Listening (2003) — were all published by the University of Georgia Press. For his work, he has received the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and grants from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

His books have also been finalists for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and the Eric Hoffer Awards Grand Prize. Dargan has partnered with the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities to produce poetry programming at the White House and Library of Congress. He’s worked with and supports a number of youth writing organizations, such as 826DC,  Writopia Lab , Young Writers Workshop and the Dodge Poetry high schools program.

He is currently an Associate Professor of literature and Asst. Director of creative writing at American University, as well as the founder and editor of POST NO ILLS magazine. He also works as a Managing Editor for Janelle Monae’s creative company, Wondaland. Originally from Newark, New Jersey, Dargan is a graduate of Saint Benedict’s Prep, The University of Virginia and Indiana University.

Books will be available for sale by East City Bookshop.

Hill Center is dedicated to making our programming equitable and accessible to all. If cost, accessibility, or other obstacles are a barrier to attending a program, please contact and we will be happy to work out a solution.


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Thursday, September 14, 2023
7:00 pm
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The Life of a Poet




Hill Center DC
921 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20003 United States
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