March 11, 2014

CGU announces winners of 2014 Kingsley and Kate Tufts Poetry Awards: Afaa Michael Weaver and Yona Harvey

Claremont Graduate University (CGU) is pleased to announce that Afaa Michael Weaver of Somerville, Massachusetts, has won the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for his book The Government of Nature (University of Pittsburgh Press). The award, given annually to a mid-career poet, is one of the largest monetary poetry prizes in the United States.

Yona Harvey of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has won the $10,000 Kate Tufts Discovery Award for her book Hemming the Water (Four Way Books). The Kate Tufts Discovery Award is given annually for a first book by a poet of genuine promise.

Afaa Michael Weaver
Afaa Michael Weaver (Photo by Catherine Laine)

“Claremont Graduate University is delighted to honor and celebrate the work of such accomplished poets ” said Wendy Martin director of the Tufts Poetry Awards and professor of American literature and American studies at Claremont Graduate University. “The Tufts Awards are intended to provide the necessary support to help the winners achieve even wider recognition as well as to honor their continuing commitment to writing outstanding poetry.”

Weaver (born Michael S. Weaver) is a native of Baltimore where he was a factory worker for 15 years. The Government of Nature is his 12th collection of poetry. In it Weaver explores the trauma of his childhood -— including sexual abuse — using a "cartography and thematic structure drawn from Chinese spiritualism.” He has received two Pushcart Awards the May Sarton Award and the PDI Award in playwriting from ETA Creative Arts Foundation. Weaver has received fellowships from the NEA the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the Pew foundation as well as a Fulbright appointment to Taiwan. As a translator he works in Chinese with poets living in China and Taiwan. He completed his graduate work in creative writing at Brown University. He teaches at Simmons College in Boston where he holds the Alumnae chair and he is a visiting faculty member in Drew University’s MFA in poetry and poetry in translation. Chief Judge Chase Twichell was captivated by Weaver’s life story. "The Kingsley Tufts Award is one of the most prestigious prizes a poet can win and I’m delighted to see it go to Afaa " Twichell said. "His father was a sharecropper. After serving for two years in the Army he toiled for fifteen years in factories writing poems all the while. When he learned that he’d won a National Endowment Fellowship he quit his job and attended Brown University on a full scholarship. He essentially invented himself from whole cloth as a poet. It’s truly remarkable."

Yona Harvey
Yona Harvey (Photo by Heather Kresge)
Harvey’s poetry and prose have appeared in jubilat, Callaloo, Crab Orchard Review, Rattle, The Volta, and elsewhere. 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 an Assistant Professor of English at The University of Pittsburgh. The Kingsley Tufts award now in its 22nd year was established at CGU 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 award is presented for a work by a poet who is past the very beginning but has not yet reached the pinnacle of his or her career. The Kate Tufts Discovery Award was initiated in 1993 and is presented annually for a first book by a poet of genuine promise. A ceremony for this year’s winners will be held at Balch Hall (1030 Columbia Ave. in Claremont) on Thursday April 10. Finalists for the 2014 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award were Brenda Shaughnessy for Our Andromeda (Copper Canyon Press) and Brian Teare for Companion Grasses (Omnidawn). Finalists for the 2014 Kate Tufts Discovery Award were Kim Young for Night Radio (University of Utah Press) and Leila Wilson for The Hundred Grasses (Milkweed Editions). Judges were: Chase Twichell poet professor publisher and past Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award recipient; David Barber poet and poetry editor of the Atlantic Monthly; Kate Gale poet novelist and managing editor of Red Hen Press; Ted Genoways award-winning poet and journalist; Carl Phillips poet professor of English and African and Afro-American studies at Washington University in St. Louis chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and past Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award recipient; and Stephen Burt poet literary critic and professor of English at Harvard University. Past winners of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award include Robert Wrigley Tom Sleigh Matthea Harvey Yusef Komunyakaa Timothy Donnelly and Marianne Boruch.

About Claremont Graduate University

Founded in 1925 Claremont Graduate University is the graduate university of the Claremont Colleges. Our five academic schools conduct leading-edge research and award masters and doctoral degrees in 24 disciplines. Because the world’s problems are not simple nor easily defined diverse faculty and students research and study across the traditional discipline boundaries to create new and practical solutions for the major problems plaguing our world. A Southern California based graduate school devoted entirely to graduate research and study CGU boasts a low student-to-faculty ratio.