Fred Moten, born August 18, 1962, was raised in Las Vegas, Nevada, and lived briefly in Pennsylvania and Arkansas before enrolling at Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts. After one year at Harvard, he took a hiatus and went back to Las Vegas, where he worked as a janitor at the Nevada Nuclear Test Site, read Dante, and wrote poems. One year later, he returned to Harvard and received his AB, before earning his PhD in English from the University of California, Berkeley.
A scholar whose work explores black studies, performance studies, poetry, and critical theory, Moten has taught at several colleges and universities, including the University of Iowa, New York University, Duke University, the Naropa Institute, and Brown University, among others.
His poetry collections include The Service Porch (Letter Machine Editions, 2016), The Little Edges (Wesleyan University Press, 2014), The Feel Trio (Letter Machine Editions, 2014), B Jenkins (Duke University Press, 2010), and Hughson’s Tavern (Leon Works, 2008). His scholarly texts include The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study (Minor Compositions, 2013), coauthored with Stefano Harney, and In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (University of Minnesota, 2003).
In 2020, Moten was named a MacArthur Foundation fellow, and, in 2009, was recognized as one of ten “New American Poets” by the Poetry Society of America. Poet and nonfiction author Maggie Nelson writes of Moten’s work, “With insistence, music, and a measured softness, Fred Moten’s poems construct idiosyncratic, critical canons that invite our research and repay our close attention. … It is hard to make poetry that shimmers on such an edge. Moten does so, and then some.”
Moten was a member of the Board of Managing Editors of American Quarterly from 2004 to 2007 and has been a member of the editorial collectives of Social Text and Callaloo, and of the editorial board of South Atlantic Quarterly. He is also cofounder and copublisher of the small literary press Three Count Pour.