The Power of Poetry in Uncertain Times

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Finalists for Claremont Graduate University's Kingsley and Kate Tufts Poetry Awards ‘represent America at its best’

“We honor the careers of talented poets, both new and mid career, who are finalists for these distinguished awards." -- CGU Professor Lori Anne Ferrell

Claremont Graduate University’s Lori Anne Ferrell believes poetry has the power to remind us of what is “truly significant, worthy, and lasting in our culture.”

Ferrell directs the Kingsley & Kate Tufts Poetry Awards program at CGU, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this spring.

This week the program announced a new crop of diverse and talented finalists for the prestigious Kingsley Tufts Poetry and Kate Tufts Discovery Awards—both hallmarks of CGU’s English Department and nationally recognized honors in the field. The finalists, Ferrell says, represent a cross-section of cultural backgrounds that underscores the importance of critical discourse at an uncertain moment in U.S. culture.

“We honor the careers of talented poets, both new and mid career, who are finalists for these distinguished awards,” says Ferrell, who is the John D. and Lillian Maguire Distinguished Professor of Humanities. “Their voices—diverse, compassionate, challenging—represent America at its best.”

One of the most generous poetry prizes in the world for mid-career poets, the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award provides financial support that allows the recipient to concentrate on their craft. The Kate Tufts Discovery Award, consisting of a $10,000 purse, honors the first poetry volume published by a poet of particular promise. Both awards honor volumes published the previous year.

Winners will be announced in February and recognized at the 25th Annual Kingsley & Kate Tufts Poetry Awards Ceremony, Thursday, April 20, 2017, at the Mark Taper Auditorium of the Los Angeles Public Library.

The finalists for the 2017 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award are:

Vievee Francis
Forest Primeval (Northwestern UP)
Francis is the author of Forest Primeval, Blue-Tail Fly, and Horse in the Dark: Poems, the latter of which won the Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in Best American Poetry 2010 and Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry. She is an associate editor for Callaloo.

Tyehimba Jess
Olio (Wave Books)
Jess’s first book of poetry, leadbelly, was a winner of the 2004 National Poetry Series. His poetry has appeared in American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Obsidian III: Literature in the African Diaspora, and more. Jess is an associate professor of English at College of Staten Island.

Ada Limón
Bright Dead Things (Milkweed)
Limón’s first collection of poetry, Lucky Wreck, was the winner of the 2005 Autumn House Poetry Prize. She is also the author of Bright Dead Things (2015), Sharks in the Rivers (2010), and This Big Fake World (2006), the latter of which received the 2005 Pearl Poetry Prize. 

Jamaal May
The Big Book of Exit Strategies (Alice James Books)
May’s poems have appeared in Poetry, New England Review, The Believer, and Best American Poetry 2014, and he has received fellowships from Cave Canem, Bread Loaf, and more. His first book, Hum (2013), won a Beatrice Hawley Award and an American Library Association Notable Book Award and was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. 

Patrick Rosal
Brooklyn Antediluvian (Persea Books)
A former Fulbright Research Fellow, Rosal is the author of four full-length collections of poetry, including his most recent, Brooklyn Antediluvian. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Grantland, Poetry, Tin House, The Best American Poetry, and dozens of other magazines and anthologies.

The finalists for the 2017 Kate Tufts Discovery Award are:

Derrick Austin
Trouble the Water (BOA Editions)
Austin is the author of Trouble the Water, selected by Mary Szybist for the 2015 A. Poulin Jr. Prize. He is a Cave Canem fellow. His work has appeared in Best American Poetry 2015, Image: A Journal of Arts and Religion, New England Review, Callaloo, Nimrod, Puerto Del Sol, and elsewhere. Currently, he is the Ron Wallace Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing.

Rickey Laurentiis
Boy With Thorn (University of Pittsburgh Press)
Laurentiis is the author of Boy With Thorn, winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize (2014) and Levis Reading Prize (2016) and a Buzzfeed “Top 16 Best Poetry Book.” He is the recipient of 2013 Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a 2012 Ruth Lilly Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, among other honors.

Jordan Rice
Constellarium (Orison Books)
Rice’s poems have been selected for the Indiana Review Poetry Prize and the Gulf Coast Poetry Prize, among other honors, and have been anthologized in Writing the Walls Down: A Convergence of LGBTQ Voices, The Southern Poetry Anthology: Volume V, Best New Poets (2008 & 2011), and more. Rice is co-editor of the anthology Voices of Transgender Parents.

Ocean Vuong
Night Sky With Exit Wounds (Copper Canyon Press)
Vuong is the author of Night Sky With Exit Wounds and winner of a 2016 Whiting Award. A Ruth Lilly fellow from the Poetry Foundation, Vuong has been published in The Atlantic, The Nation, New Republic, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and American Poetry Review, which awarded him the Stanley Kunitz Prize for Younger Poets.

Phillip B. Williams
Thief in the Interior (Alice James Books)
Williams is the author of Thief in the Interior, a finalist for an NAACP Image Award. He received a 2013 Ruth Lilly Fellowship and is the co-editor in chief of the online journal Vinyl. He is currently visiting professor in English at Bennington College.

Judges
This year’s judging panel consisted of Don Share, chair of the judging committee and editor, POETRY Magazine; Elena Karina Byrne, poetry curator and moderator, Los Angeles Times Festival of Books; Terrance Hayes, Kate Tufts Discovery Award recipient (2000) and professor of English, University of Pittsburgh; Meghan O’Rourke, poet, essayist, editor, and literary critic; and Brian Kim Stefans, poet and professor of English, University of California, Los Angeles.

The Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award was established at Claremont Graduate University by Kate Tufts to honor the memory of her husband, who held executive positions in the Los Angeles Shipyards and wrote poetry as his avocation. The Kate Tufts Discovery Award was launched a year later in 1994.

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Nicholas Owchar
@CGUnews
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