Carmen Gillespie is a Professor of English and the Director of the Griot Institute of Africana Studies. She is the editor of the Griot Book Project Series, published by Bucknell University Press. Her research, writing, and teaching interests are in American, African American, and Caribbean literatures and cultures and creative writing.

Educational Background

  • Ph.D., Emory University

Teaching Interests

  • American literature
  • African American literatures and culture
  • African American women writers
  • Toni Morrison
  • Caribbean literatures and cultures
  • Popular culture
  • Creative writing

Scholarly Interests

  • American literature
  • African American literature
  • Caribbean literature
  • Creative writing

Current Projects and Research Interests

Prof. Gillespie's is currently at work on two book projects: "No Clamor for A ...": Vernacular and the Collapse of Meaning in the Fictions of Toni Morrison, and a book of poetry, The Ghosts of Monticello.

Recent Awards

  • In 2008, Professor Gillespie's book, A Critical Companion to Toni Morrison was nominated for an award as the best single authored book on the works of Toni Morrison. In 2005, A recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship for Excellence in Poetry, Carmen has also been a Fulbright scholar and a Cave Canem Fellow and has received awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mellon Foundation, the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. In 2010, Gillespie was named one of Essence magazine's 40 favorite poets in commemoration of the magazine's 40th anniversary. She is the 2010 winner of the Naomi Madgett Long Poetry Prize for her collection Jonestown: A Vexation.

Selected Publications

Carmen has presented her scholarship and poetry at more than 50 conferences and/or readings including the Modern Language Association (MLA), Bread Loaf, and the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP). In addition to literary critical book chapters and journal articles, creative non-fiction essays, and individual poem publications, she is the author of the scholarly works A Critical Companion to Toni Morrison (2007), A Critical Companion to Alice Walker (2011), and the editor of Toni Morrison: Forty Years in the Clearing (2012). Carmen has also published a poetry chapbook, Lining the Rails (2008) and a full-length poetry collection, Jonestown: A Vexation, which was the winner of the 2011 Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Prize. She is the author of the libretto for the opera The Ghosts of Monticello, whose music was composed by Garrett Fisher. The opera imagines the posthumous relationship between Sally Hemings and Martha Wayles Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson's enslaved black mistress and his white wife, who were half-sisters and was premiered by the Bucknell Opera Company in February of 2015.

Carmen's fifth book publication, The Blue Black Wet of Wood, is the winner of the Two Sylvias Press 2016 Wilder Series Book Prize and will be published in the fall of 2016. The titular poem in the collection, "The Blue Black Wet of Wood," has been selected for development as a MotionPoem by filmmaker Malik Vitthal. Her projects in process include a scholarly monograph exploring sexuality as a trope in the novels of Toni Morrison and a memoir about the life and death of her husband, Harold Bakst in 2013, four months after his diagnosis of stage-four cancer during a routine physical. Her new poetry manuscript, The Ghost of Monticello: A Recitative was selected as a finalist for the 2016 Cleveland State University Poetry Center's Poetry Prize.


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