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Toni Morrison

1931–2019

Toni Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford on February 18, 1931, in Lorain, Ohio. She received a BA from Howard University in 1953 and an MA from Cornell University in 1955. She was the author of one volume of poetry, Five Poems (Rainmaker Editions, 2002), which features poems alongside illustrations by Kara Walker.

She is best known for her numerous novels, which include Beloved (Alfred A. Knopf, 1987), winner of the 1988 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, and Song of Solomon (Alfred A. Knopf 1977), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 1993, Morrison received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

In a 2008 profile on Morrison, poet Nikky Finney said, “Toni Morrison changed the landscape of American literature with The Bluest Eye, and has been changing it with every other book she’s published. There’s no one writing today about the history of this country like Morrison does, yet she too often gets relegated to questions about race. Her narratives arc the whole American experience […] She’s writing more honest narratives about the interplay of the human heart and the human mind than anybody else today.”

Morrison served as an editor at Random House for nineteen years, and held teaching positions at several universities including Howard and Princeton. She died on August 5, 2019, in the Bronx, New York.


Bibliography

Poetry

Five Poems (Rainmaker Editions, 2002)

Prose

God Help the Child (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015)
Home (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012)
A Mercy (Alfred A. Knopf, 2008)
Love (Alfred A. Knopf, 2003)
Paradise (Alfred A. Knopf, 1997)
Jazz (Alfred A. Knopf)
Beloved (Alfred A. Knopf, 1987)
Tar Baby (Alfred A. Knopf, 1981)
Song of Solomon (Alfred A. Knopf, 1977)
Sula (Alfred A. Knopf, 1973)
The Bluest Eye (Holt, Reinhart and Winston, 1970)

Toni Morrison delivering a speech at a podium in 2008
Photo credit: Angela Radulescu
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Pulitzer Prize

By This Poet

1

Eve Remembering

1

I tore from a limb fruit that had lost its green.
My hands were warmed by the heat of an apple
Fire red and humming.
I bit sweet power to the core.
How can I say what it was like?
The taste! The taste undid my eyes
And led me far from the gardens planted for a child
To wildernesses deeper than any master’s call.

2

Now these cool hands guide what they once caressed;
Lips forget what they have kissed.
My eyes now pool their light
Better the summit to see.

3

I would do it all over again:
Be the harbor and set the sail,
Loose the breeze and harness the gale,
Cherish the harvest of what I have been.
Better the summit to scale.
Better the summit to be.