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CGU prepares to honor Kingsley, Kate Tufts Poetry winners

The winners of Claremont Graduate University’s 25th annual Kingsley and Kate Tufts poetry prizes have been announced.

Vievee Francis has taken the 2017 Kingsley Tufts Award for her second book of poems, Forest Primeval (2016), while Phillip B. Williams has won the Kate Tufts Discovery Award for his debut poetry collection Thief in the Interior.

Ms. Francis’ last collection, Horse in the Dark (2012), won the Cave Canem University Poetry Prize for a second collection. Her work has appeared in an array of poetry journals and in anthologies such as Best American Poetry and Angels of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry. She serves as associate editor of Callaloo and is associate professor of English at Dartmouth College.

Mr. Williams is a finalist for an NAACP Image Award and the recipient of a 2013 Ruth Lilly Award. He received his MFA in writing from Washington University in St. Louis and is co-editor of the online journal Vinyl. He was the Emory University Creative Writing Fellow in Poetry for 2015-2016 and is currently visiting professor in English at Bennington College. 

The Kingsley Tufts prize is given each year to a poet who has achieved much, but has not yet reached the pinnacle of his or her career. It carries a $100,000 purse—the world’s largest prize awarded for a single collection of poetry. “Because the award comes to you at mid-career, and is supposed to be a stepping stone and not a tombstone, it nerves you up to try to write up to the mark already set by the previous winners,” the 2008 winner Tom Sleigh said.

The Kate Tufts prize is presented to someone whose first book of poems shows them to be a writer of great promise. Each year, the winner gets $10,000, money intended to support their literary endeavors.

“The award is a confidence builder,” said Janice Harrington, the 2008 winner. “It’s that bit of light in the darkness that allows you to see your way, so that you can keep trying to write your best poetry.”

Ms. Francis and Mr. Williams will be feted at an awards ceremony, poetry reading and reception set for on Thursday, April 20 at the Mark Taper Auditorium at the Los Angeles Public Library, located at 630 W. Fifth St. in Los Angeles.

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