Meena Alexander (born 1951) is a well-acclaimed poet, scholar, and writer. Born in Allahabad, India, and raised in India and Sudan, Alexander lives and works in New York City, where she is a distinguished professor of English at Hunter College in t...
Meena Alexander (born 1951) is a well-acclaimed poet, scholar, and writer. Born in Allahabad, India, and raised in India and Sudan, Alexander lives and works in New York City, where she is a distinguished professor of English at Hunter College in the MFA program in Creative Writing. She is the author of numerous collections of poetry, literary memoirs, essays, and works of fiction and literary criticism.
Meena Alexander's poetry has been widely published. She is the author of six volumes of poetry includingIlliterate Heart(winner of the PEN Open Book Award), Raw Silkand Quickly Changing. She is the editor of the Everyman Library's Indian Love Poems. She has written the acclaimed autobiography, Fault Lines as well as two novels, one of which is Nampally Road. A book of essays and notes entitled Poetics of Dislocation appeared in the University of Michigan Poets on Poetry series. She has two academic studies, one of which is Women in Romanticism. She was the recipient of the 2009 Distinguished Achievement Award in Literature from the South Asian Literary Association for her contribution to the American literature.
Meena Alexander was born into a Syrian Christian family from Kerala. She stayed in Allahabad and Kerala until she was almost five when her father—a scientist for the Indian government—took the family to Khartoum in newly independent Sudan. In 1964, when she was only 13, Alexander enrolled in Khartoum University, where she took up English and French literature. After graduating with a BA Honors from Khartoum University, she shifted base to England and began doctoral study at Nottingham University. She earned a PhD in English in 1973—at the age of 22—with a dissertation in Romantic literature that she later developed and published as The Poetic Self. She then moved to India and taught at the University of Delhi and the University of Hyderabad. During the five years she lived in India she published her first three books of poetry: The Bird's Bright Ring, I Root My Name, and Without Place. She then moved to New York City and became an assistant professor at Fordham University. She now teaches as the Distinguished Professor of English in 1999 and continues to teach in the PhD program at the Graduate Center and the MFA program at Hunter College.
Alexander is very well known for lyrical writing that deals with subjects like migration and the sudden turn of events that compel people to cross borders. Though dealing with harsh issues, her writing is sensual and maintains a generous spirit. About her work, Maxine Hong Kingston once said: "Meena Alexander sings of countries, foreign and familiar, places where the heart and spirit live, and places for which one needs a passport and visas. Her voice guides us far away and back home. The reader sees her visions and remembers and is uplifted." Alexander has been influenced and mentored by a few Indian poets such as Jayanta Mahapatra and Kamala Das, as well as the American poets Adrienne Rich and Galway Kinnell.