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CGU announces Kingsley, Kate Tufts poetry awards

Claremont Graduate University has announced Afaa Michael Weaver as the winner of the 2014 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award.

The $100,000 award, presented each year to a mid-career poet, is one of the largest poetry prizes in the nation. It is hoped that the money allows a writer to “continue working towards the pinnacle of their craft.”

Mr. Weaver is the author of 12 books of poetry, the most recent of which is The Government of Nature. It explores the trauma of his childhood, including sexual abuse, and employs a “cartography and thematic structure drawn from Chinese spiritualism.”

A native of Baltimore, Mr. Weaver was the oldest of five children born to a beautician mother and a steelworker father. After dropping out of college, he worked in a factory for 15 years while juggling the responsibilities of fatherhood with his growing interest in writing. During this time, he founded a small press and literary magazine.

In 1985, Mr. Weaver enrolled in Brown University, where he earned his MFA and garnered a national arts fellowship. He has served as a professor at Rutgers, as a Fulbright Scholar and as the first African American poet in residence at Bucknell University. He is now a professor at Simmons College in Boston.

Mr. Weaver, who currently teaches at Simmons College in Boston, won the Pushcart Prize in Literature in 2013 for his poem “Blues in Five/Four/The Violence in Chicago.” The work is characteristic of Mr. Weaver’s style, which “echoes the gospel and blues ethos of his mother and father who were themselves the children of farmers in southernmost Virginia,” according to The Poetry Foundation. 

In movies about the end of our civilization

toys fill the broken spaces of cities, flipping over

in streets where children are all hoodlums, big kids

painting themselves in neon colors, while the women

laugh, following the men into a love of madness.


Still shots show emptiness tearing the eyes of the last

of us who grew to be old, the ones the hoodlums

prop up in shadows, throwing garbage at us,

taping open our eyes, forcing us to study the dead

in photos torn from books in burned down libraries.


Chicago used to be Sundays at Gladys' Luncheonette

where church folk came and ate collard greens and chicken

after the sermons that rolled out in black churches, sparkling

tapestries of words from preachers' mouths, prayer books,

tongues from Tell Me, Alabama, and Walk On, Mississippi.


Now light has left us, the sun blocked out by shreds

of what history becomes when apathy shreds it,

becoming a name the bad children give themselves

as they laugh and threaten each other while we starve

for the laughter we were used to before the end came.

Yona Harvey’s Hemming the Water is the recipient of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, a prize presented to a first poetry book of genuine promise. Ms. Harvey will receive $10,000.

Her poetry and prose have appeared in publications such as jubilat, Callaloo, Crab Orchard Review, Rattle and The Volta. Her honors include a Virginia Center for the Creative Arts residency and an Individual Artist Grant in Literary Nonfiction from The Pittsburgh Foundation. She is assistant professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.

The annual presentation of the Kingsley & Kate Tufts Poetry Awards and an associated poetry reading will be held on Thursday, April 10 at 5 p.m. at Balch Hall, located at 1030 Columbia Ave. in Claremont. As seats fill up quickly, guests are asked to RSVP by calling (909) 621-8974.  

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