March 2, 2016

CGU announces winners of 2016 Kingsley and Kate Tufts Poetry Awards: Ross Gay and Danez Smith

Claremont Graduate University (CGU) is pleased to announce that Ross Gay, of Bloomington, Indiana, has won the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for his book Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude (University of Pittsburgh Press). The award, given annually to a mid-career poet, is among the world’s most generous and distinguished prizes for a book of poetry.

Ross Gay, winner of Claremont Graduate University's 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award
Ross Gay (Photo by Natasha Komoda)

Danez Smith, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, has won the $10,000 Kate Tufts Discovery Award for their book [insert] boy (YesYes Books). The Kate Tufts Discovery Award is given annually for a first book by a poet of genuine promise.

A ceremony for this year’s winners will be held on April 7, 2016 at 5 pm at Rose Hills Theater, Smith Campus Center (170 E. 6th Street, Claremont).

Gay, the author of three collections of poetry, teaches at Indiana University. His previous two collections are Bringing the Shovel Down(University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011) and Against Which(CavanKerry Press, 2006). His past honors include fellowships from Cave Canem, the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Radcliffe Institute.

Chief Judge Chase Twichell said the jury was impressed by Gay’s ability to “conjure profound and genuine epiphanies out of ordinary things.”

“In this accomplished third volume of poetry, we hear a voice that is fresh, exploratory, and curious about a wide range of subjects,” Twichell said. “Although modest and unpretentious, Ross has an authority that allows him to speak directly into the ear of the reader with a disarming intimacy, one that makes us feel that each poem turns directly toward us as we read. It’s hard to describe, but trust me, it’s a rare quality.”

Danez Smith, winner of Claremont Graduate University's 2016 Kate Tufts Discovery Award

Danez Smith

Smith is a MFA candidate at the University of Michigan and teaches with InsideOut Detroit. They are a 2014 Ruth Lilly – Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellow, a Cave Canem and VONA alum, and recipient of a McKnight Foundation Fellowship. Smith is also a two-time Individual World Poetry Slam finalist, placing 2nd in 2014, and a founding member of the Dark Noise Collective.

Twichell praised Smith’s [insert] boy as “remarkable for its nervy, surprising, morally urgent poems.”

“Although at times rough, raw, and sometimes angry, particularly in regard to issues of race and gender, there is always an underlying tenderness that holds the poems open to the reader and invites him in,” Twichell said. “Structurally inventive, vividly imaginative, and wholly original, [insert] boy is an unforgettable debut. I can think of no other recent first book of American poetry that packs a punch of this force.”

The Kingsley Tufts award, now in its 24th year, 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 award is given annually to honor a poet at mid-career, providing resources that allow the artist to continue working toward the pinnacle of their craft.

The Kate Tufts Discovery Award was initiated at CGU in 1993 and is presented annually for a first book by a poet of genuine promise.

Finalists for the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award were Kyle Dargan for Honest Engine (University of Georgia Press); Amy Gerstler for Scattered at Sea (Penguin); Fred Moten for The Little Edges (Wesleyan); and Jennifer Moxley for The Open Secret (Flood Editions).

Finalists for the 2016 Kate Tufts Discovery Award were Meg Day for Last Psalm at Sea Level (Barrow Street); Bethany Schultz Hurst for Miss Lost Nation (Anhinga Press); Michael Morse for Void and Compensation (Canarium); and Henry Walters for Field Guide A Tempo (Hobblebush Books).

Final judges were Stephen Burt, literary critic and English professor at Harvard University; Elena Karina Byrne, poet and poetry curator/moderator for the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books; Brian Kim Stefans, poet and professor of English at University of California, Los Angeles; Don Share, poet and editor of POETRY Magazine; and Chase Twichell, chair of the judging committee and past winner of the Kingsley Tufts award.

Past winners of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award include Robert Wrigley, Tom Sleigh, Matthea Harvey, Yusef Komunyakaa, Timothy Donnelly, Marianne Boruch, Afaa Michael Weaver, and Angie Estes.

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 or easily defined, diverse faculty and students research and study across traditional academic boundaries to create new and practical solutions.