Colleen McElroy, University of Washin gton, poet, educator, 88, writer, American Book Award, PEN, Oakland, Award

Trailblazing Poet And Educator Colleen J. McElroy Dead At 88

The prolific life of the inspirational poet and professor Colleen J. McElroy came to a close on Dec. 12, 2023, at the age of 88.

Pioneering poet and educator Colleen J. McElroy died Dec. 12 at age 88.

McElroy rose to prominence as a writer in the 1960s, becoming the first Black woman poet of national renown from the Pacific Northwest. She authored 16 poetry collections and books, winning accolades including the American Book Award and the PEN Oakland National Literary Award, after earning her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Washington, BNN Breaking reported.

Over a six-decade career, McElroy amassed a towering literary legacy as a boundary-breaking educator. She also changed the landscape of American academia. A professor at the University of Washington, she mentored hundreds of students, including future U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón. She became the university’s first Black female full-time faculty member in 1969.

McElroy’s writing resonated for its musicality, diversity of subject matter, and fearless exploration of complex themes. She drew from global influences and her own adventurous travels abroad to create works that crossed borders and boundaries. McElroy refused to be pigeonholed, emerging as a one-of-a-kind voice who helped reshape the landscape of American poetry.

The poet approached education with the same spirit of openness that defined her work, embracing diverse perspectives and nurturing her students’ talents. She encouraged writers to fall in love with language while also challenging norms. Former student Quincy Tyler Bernstine reflected, “She was a light. She gave me permission,” according to the outlet.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1934, McElroy was possessed by a creative spirit from childhood. Possessing an “insatiable curiosity and an adventurer’s spirit,” McElroy wrote with passion and perspective that transcended boundaries.

Her immortal words, groundbreaking journey, and legacy as a cherished mentor live on as inspirations. McElroy is survived by her two children and her partner, James Fitzmaurice. A memorial will celebrate her remarkable life in 2024.

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