Toi Derricotte was born in Hamtramck, Michigan, in 1941. Derricotte is the daughter of Benjamin Sweeney Webster and Antonia Webster Cyrus. She studied special education at Wayne State University, where she earned a B.A., and studied English literature and creative writing at New York University, where she received her M.A.
She won a fellowship in poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts and was a MacDowell fellow in 1984. Her books of poetry include Tender (1997) which won the 1998 Paterson Poetry Prize, Captivity (1989), Natural Birth (1983), and The Empress of the Death House (1978).
In 1991, Derricotte became an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh. Since then as a writer The Black Notebooks, a literary memoir, was published in 1997 and won the 1998 Annisfield-Wolf Book Award for Non-Fiction.
Her awards include the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, two Pushcart Prizes, the Distinguished Pioneering of the Arts Award from the United Black Artists, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the Guggenheim, and the Maryland State Arts Council.
With Cornelius Eady, in 1996, she co-founded Cave Canem Foundation, North America's premier "home for black poetry."
In 2012, Derricotte was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. In October 2019 "I": New and Selected Poems was named a finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry.
She is currently a professor emerita in writing at the University of Pittsburgh.
Poems - 15 in all
St. Peter Claver
Workshop on Racism
A Note on My Son's Face
From a Letter: About Snow
Black Boys Play the Classics
For Black Women Who Are Afraid
Christmas Eve: My Mother Dressing
On a Picture of the Buddhist Monk Pema Chodron