Meena Alexander, 1951–2018
November 30, 2018
Poet, novelist, essayist, and critic Meena Alexander passed away on Wednesday, November 21 in New York City from endometrial serous cancer. A longtime professor at Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate Center, Alexander was the author of many books including the poetry collection Illiterate Heart, which won the PEN Open Book Award.
Among other works, Alexander published the poetry collections Atmospheric Embroidery and Birthplace with Burial Stones, the novels Nampally Road and Manhattan Music, the essay collections Poetics of Dislocation and The Shock of Arrival: Reflections on Postcolonial Experience, and the memoir Fault Lines, which chronicles her upbringing in India and Sudan and the political challenges of being a South Asian writer in a post-9/11 world. About her childhood, Alexander wrote in her essay “Poetry: The Question of Home” that “home is always a little bit beyond reach, a place both real and imagined, longed for, yet marked perpetually as an elsewhere, brightly lit, vanishing.”
The poet Ranjit Hoskote told The Wire that Alexander was “a rooted and engaged cosmopolitan, whose commitments to several societies and their predicaments was palpable … Meena has a place as much in American poetry as she does in Anglophone poetry in India—a place that is all the more important because she approached both scenes from an angle, as a passionate outsider who was also a compassionate insider.”
Alexander is survived by her husband, David Lelyveld, as well as by her mother, sister, son, and daughter.
Image Credit: Deb Caponera