Brenda Marie Osbey is an author of poetry and prose nonfiction in English and French. Her books include 1967 (William & Mary, 2018); her collected poems, All Souls: Essential Poems (LSU Press, 2015); History and Other Poems (Time Being Books, 2013; Langston Hughes Society Award, 2014); All Saints: New and Selected Poems (LSU Press, 1997; American Book Award 1998); Desperate Circumstance, Dangerous Woman (Story Line Press, 1991); In These Houses (Wesleyan University Press, 1988); and Ceremony for Minneconjoux (Callaloo Poetry Series, 1983; University Press of Virginia, 1985). She is the author also of a Kongo-New Orleans opera triptych, including Sultane au Grand Marais (Rites & Reason Theatre, December, 2011).
Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, anthologies and collections including Callaloo; Obsidian; Essence; Renaissance Noire; Southern Review; Early Ripening: American Women's Writing Now; The Made Thing: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern Poetry; 2PLUS2: A Collection of International Writing; Literature of the American South: A Norton Anthology; Epoch; The American Voice; Illuminations: An International Magazine of Contemporary Writing; Poet Lore; Southern Literary Journal; The American Poetry Review; and Atlantic Studies: Literary, Historical and Cultural Perspectives.
Osbey’s essays on art, music and culture have been published in The American Voice, The Georgia Review, BrightLeaf, Mondes Francophones, Southern Literary Journal, Creative Nonfiction, and Renaissance Noire. Edited works include poetry features for War|Scapes, Illuminations, Indiana Review, Poet Lore, and, most recently, Gabriel Okara: Collected Poems, Edited and with an Introduction by Brenda Marie Osbey (African Poetry Book Series, 2016). Her most recent translations appear in Renaissance Noire (Fall 2018).
For more than thirty years she has researched and recorded the history of Faubourg Tremé, a community founded by free Blacks in New Orleans. Her series, “Faubourg Tremé: Community in Transition,” was published as a regular feature in the New Orleans Tribune (1990–97). “Notes from France,” her series on racism in contemporary France, was featured in Gambit (2004). Her essay, “Les indigènes sont agités: la Nouvelle-Orléans à la Suite de l’Orage” (“The Natives Are Restless: New Orleans in the Wake of the Storm”) was co-commissioned by the Plaine Commune district of France and the Consulat Général de la Nouvelle-Orléans, and published by Médiathèques de Plaine Commune in 2007.
Summoning Our Saints: The Poetry and Prose of Brenda Marie Osbey by John Wharton Lowe was published by Lexington Books|Rowman & Littlefield in 2019. Studies of her work are included also in Southscapes: Geographies of Race, Region and Literature by Thadious M. Davis (University of North Carolina Press, 2011); Forms of Expansion: Recent Long Poems by Women by Lynn Keller (U. Chicago Press, 1997); and The Future of Southern Letters, edited by Jefferson Humphries and John Lowe (Oxford, 1996). Reference volumes treating her work include: Contemporary Authors; Oxford Companion to African American Literature (1997); Dictionary of Literary Biography (Oxford, 1997); and Dictionnaire des Créatrices (Editions des Femmes, 2011), and others. Her work has been the subject of panels at conferences of the Society for the Study of Southern Literature (SSSL), Modern Language Association (MLA), College Language Association (CLA), and Furious Flower African American Poetry Conference.
Osbey has been a resident fellow of the MacDowell Colony, Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Kentucky Foundation for Women, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Millay Colony, Camargo Foundation (Cassis, France), Maison Dora Maar (Ménerbes, France), and the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College, Harvard University. She is the recipient of the 2014 Langston Hughes Award, and has received fellowships and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Louisiana Division of the Arts, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, and others.
In 2005–2007, she served as the first peer-selected poet laureate of Louisiana. During her tenure of service, she toured the United States presenting weekly readings, lectures, and symposia advocating the rebuilding of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. From 2011 through 2015, she served as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University. During her term as 2018-19 Emilia Galli Struppa Fellow of Virginia Humanities, she also served as Distinguished Visiting Professor for the Carter G. Woodson Institute of African American and African Studies at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. She was 2021-22 Hodson Trust-John Carter Brown Library Fellow, and is Distinguished Professor in Residence in the Program in African American Studies at Wake Forest University.
Osbey is a New Orleans native.