Elizabeth Alexander is a luminary: a poet who has twice been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, a scholar, a tireless leader in the field of racial justice, an educator, the president of the philanthropic Mellon Foundation — and she is the author of The Light of the World, written in the days after the sudden death of Elizabeth’s beloved husband, Ficre. This miracle of a memoir has long been one of my favorite books of any genre in the history of literature. It is about grief, loss, love, art, celebration, and renewal. And it is stunningly beautiful.
It was an honor to be in this sacred, weighty conversation with Elizabeth as she shared her love story with us, as well as the mechanics of getting it all down in the wake of unimaginable tragedy. We talked about her generosity in sharing Ficre with her wide community and the rich legacy of art he left behind that serves as an ongoing conversation. As she reads to us from the book, “Survivors stand startled in the glaring light of loss, but bear witness. The black folk poets who are our ancestors spoke true when they said every shut eye ain’t asleep, every goodbye ain’t gone.”
Elizabeth, I am so very grateful for your time and for your dazzling work!