Dolores Kendrick, "a teacher and poet who channeled the voices of female slaves in her writing and advocated for an expansive role of poetry in public life, organizing festivals and youth programs in her nearly two decades as Washington's poet laureate," died November 7, the Washington Post reported. She was 90 and had just completed the manuscript of Rainbow on Fire, a collection of new and selected poems.
Appointed to a three-year term as poet laureate in 1999, she served until her death. Kendrick "elevated her position," said Washington poet E. Ethelbert Miller. "Dolores could piss people off, insisting that if you were a writer, you get paid and you get treated a certain way," but she was also "the first lady of poetry" in the District.
She taught at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire for 21 years, and in her five books "of lyrical, frequently conversational poetry, she established herself as what Joanne Gabbin, founder of the Furious Flower Poetry Center at James Madison University, described as 'the poet's poet': a friend and favorite of African American writers such as Michael S. Harper, Rita Dove and James Baldwin, with whom she dined in Paris and hosted at Exeter," the Post wrote.
Her collections include The Women of Plums: Poems in the Voices of Slave Women (1989), which won the Anisfield-Wolfe Award; Through the Ceiling (1975); Now Is the Thing to Praise (1984); and Why the Woman Is Singing on the Corner: A Verse Narrative (2001).
"I don't believe poetry should be a solitary intellectual adventure," she told the Post in 2011. "It should be a relationship with people, it should forge a connection. Good poetry does not belong to the poet."