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Toi Derricotte and Opal Moore speak openly about the often unspoken issues of black women's sexuality and intimacy

Selected Bibliography

  • The Black Notebooks: An Interior Journey. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1997.

  • Captivity. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1997.

  • The Empress of the Death House. East Lansing, MI: Lotus Press, Inc., 1978.

  • Natural Birth. Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press, Inc., 1983.

  • Tender. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1997.

Discussion Questions

1. In "Clitoris," what metaphors and analogies does Derricotte use to approach the subject of sexuality? Are they effective?

2. How does Derricotte use her feelings about the past to create art? Is she different than other writers in the way she does it? Do you see a cycle here between life and art?

3. Opal Moore asks Derricotte if slavery has influenced the sexuality of black women. How does she respond? Do you find clues in Derricotte's poetry that she is a black woman? Why or why not?


Toi Derricotte has published three collections of poetry, The Empress of the Death House (1978), Natural Birth (1983), and Captivity (1989). She says of her poetry, "Truthtelling in my art is a way to separate my 'self' from what I have been taught to believe about my 'self,' the degrading stereotypes about black females in our society." Because of this poetic approach, her poetry emerges as strong, sensuous, courageous and poignantly personal. Derricotte is the recipient of two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1985 and 1990), as well as the recipient of the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of American (1985), a Pushcart Prize (1989) and the Folger Shakespeare Library Poetry Book Award (1990). Her poems have been published in a significant number of journals, including American Poetry Review, Callaloo, Iowa Review, Massachusetts Review, New England Review, Bread Loaf Quarterly and Ploughshares. Derricotte is an associate professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh and has taught in the graduate creative writing programs at New York University, George Mason University and Old Dominion University. In 1997, Norton published her autobiography, written in journal form, The Black Notebooks.


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