Native Washingtonian Dolores Kendrick was appointed Poet Laureate of the District of Columbia on May 14, 1999. Kendrick is the second person honored with the title, following Sterling Brown, who was appointed in 1984.
Kendrick, daughter of Josephine and Ike Kendrick (founder of The Capital Spotlight newspaper), is the author of the award-winning poetry book The Women of Plums: Poems in the Voices of Slave Women, published in 1989. In 1996, a CD of music inspired by The Women of Plums was released, and Kendrick adapted the book for theatrical performance in Cleveland, and at the Kennedy Center. The adaptation won the New York New Playwrights Award in 1997.
In the 1990’s she was invited by the People’s Republic of China to teach the works of James Baldwin, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, and her own work at the Shanghai School of Foreign Languages.
Kendrick’s other books are Through the Ceiling, Now Is the Thing to Praise and Why the Woman is Singing on the Corner: A Verse Narrative. The Library of Congress has recorded her poetry for its Contemporary Poets series. Her CD, The Color of Dusk, in collaboration with composer Wall Matthews and vocalist Aleta Greene, won rave reviews from music critics nationally.
Kendrick’s rich history of poetic contributions to local and national publications has earned her numerous awards and honors, including a National Endowment for the Arts Award, the George Kent Award for Literature, the prestigious Anisfield-Wolf Award. She has received two Yaddo Fellowships and a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship. She was the first Vira I. Heinz Professor Emerita at Phillips Exeter Academy. Chicago State University has inducted Kendrick into the International Literary Hall of Fame for writers of African-American descent, an honor sponsored by the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing.
Kendrick was honored by the National Book Festival in 2003, which was hosted by former First Lady Laura Bush.
Her book Why the Woman is Singing on the Corner was selected by poet and critic Grace Cavalieri as one of the five best books of poetry of 2001. She was one of the selected poets invited to the National Book Festival, sponsored by Laura Bush, celebrated at the White House and the Library of Congress in September 2001. In July of 2002 she was given a special Fulbright Award for Outstanding Accomplishments in Education and Literature. She has been selected to be honored by the National Visionary Leadership Project, which celebrates African-Americans who have made outstanding contributions to art and public life. On September 11, 2002 a celebration of her work appeared on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage.
In May of 2004, she received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters degree upon giving the commencement address at St. Bonaventure University at Bonaventure, NY. Ms. Kendrick was also one of the original designers and teachers at the School Without Walls, a high school in Washington, DC.
She was commissioned to write a poem that was placed on Epoch, a sculpture by Albert Paley in downtown Washington at the PEPCO building on 701 9th Street, NW. In 2004, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority commissioned Ms. Kendrick to write two poems for Journeys, a sculpture by Barbara Grygutis for the New York Avenue Metro station in DC.
In the Summer of 2006, the Inter-American Development Bank, a supporter of the Poet Laureate secondary school poetry competition, presented the Office of the Poet Laureate with a unique gift of poetry to share with the residents of the city and lovers of the spoken word: a collection of the poems of Pablo Neruda.
In November 2007 Ms. Kendrick was invited to Aix-en-Provence, France to work with French senior High School students studying English and Poetry. As a result, she has established a sister-city initiative with Aix-en-Provence, to exchange poetry between French and DC students. The program launched in 2009. During the Aix initiative time period, she was invited by the American Embassy in Paris to work with French students in Paris.
In 2012, Ms. Kendrick has been commissioned by Renato Miracco, Cultural Attache’ of the Italian Embassy, to work on a project dealing with contemporary Italian poets and photography. That includes a poem by Ms. Kendrick on Rome.
She works out of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities where she runs a series of poetry programs for secondary school students, established and emerging poets, an awards program for high school students and offers readings to senior citizens organizations and homeless community centers. In addition, she leads an ongoing initiative to bring poetry into the workplace.
For Ms. Kendrick’s thoughts on writing poetry view The Basic Mandates of Poetry or download Advice to Young Poets*. Please call Ebony Brown at (202) 724-5613 to have a copy mailed out. Ms. Kendrick’s books are available for purchase at the Teaching for Change Bookstore at Busboys & Poets (14th & V Streets, NW)
For more information about these collaborative art and poetry projects, please visit poetry and art viewing in DC. For information on where you can go and hear live poetry in the District, visit links to poetry.