Born Donna Kate Rushin and raised in Lawnside, New Jersey, Rushin is the great-great-granddaughter of former slave, Davie Arthur, who escaped from a plantation on Maryland’s eastern shore. With the help of Quakers, Arthur fled to Haddonfield, New Jersey on the Underground Railroad.
Rushin discovered her love of poetry at age seven, memorizing and reciting poems by Edgar Allan Poe and Paul Laurence Dunbar. When she was 10, her mother died.
After graduating from high school, Rushin attended Oberlin College, where she majored in Theatre and Communications. She earned a Bachelor of Arts and moved to Boston, where she taught at South Boston High School. She also took a position as an adjunct professor, teaching courses on Black women writers.
In 1993, Rushin published her first poetry collection, The Black Back-Ups. Around this time, she earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Brown University, where she studied under poet Michael S. Harper. Rushin later taught at Wesleyan University, where she was writer-in-residence and director of the Center for African American Studies. Additionally, she was an instructor at Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, where she led workshops and poetry outreach programs.
Rushin was a fellow at both the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts and at Cave Canem. Her poetry has appeared in anthologies and journals, including Callaloo. Her best-known poem, “The Black Back-Ups,” was featured in Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology, edited by Barbara Smith (2000). She is the winner of the Rose Low Rome Memorial Poetry Prize and the Grolier Poetry Prize. She currently serves as an artist and instructor in the Hartford Poetry Outreach Program.
Larcen, Donna. “Teacher and Poet Kate Rushin on Weaving Stories.” Hartford Courant. August 27, 2016. https://www.courant.com/hartford-magazine/hc-hm-kate-rushin-profile-20160827-story.html