November 7, 2017

2017 Tufts Winner Vievee Francis Returns for Poetry Residency

Vievee Francis
Tufts Poetry Award winner Vievee Francis speaks with students during her weeklong residency.

What does the autumn mean to most people?

The start of a new school year … falling leaves … the arrival of the holidays … innumerable feasts and other festive occasions as the end of the year draws near.

At CGU, the fall season means all of these things, and something else as well: the return of the winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for a weeklong residency about the craft of poetry.

CGU recently welcomed back Vievee Francis, 2017 recipient of the Tufts Award for her collection Forest Primeval, for classroom visits with students, public readings, and other special events involving the university community.

For most (if not all) other major poetry awards, an award ceremony usually marks the culmination and end of the award. A winner is chosen, an award is presented, dinner is served, and then everyone goes home and thinks about next year.

Not so the Tufts, which has incorporated a weeklong residency in order to provide the university community with more opportunities to talk with an acclaimed poet in-depth about his/her art.

The Kingsley Tufts Award is given annually to a poet in mid-career and includes a $100,000 cash prize (the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, which awards $10,000 to a first book, is not part of the residency).

During Francis’ return, she joined Tufts Director and CGU Professor Lori Anne Ferrell for an episode of The Campfire, CGU’s podcast series (the episode will be available soon), and met with students in Professor Wendy Martin’s class and at the University of La Verne to discuss her creative process and views of contemporary poetry.

Francis also read from Forest Primeval at the Claremont Public Library, the home of Louise and Roy Ritchie (both involved with the Tufts advisory committee), and the home of CGU Trustee Hazem Chehabi and his wife, Salma.

Salma Chehabi, Vievee Francis, Hazem Chehabi
Tufts Poetry Award winner Vievee Francis, with Trustee Hazem Chehabi and his wife, Salma.

Francis enjoyed the week, especially working with students.

“They’ve really been paying close attention and asking questions that have been unexpected and a delight because I really like diving in,” Francis said during The Campfire podcast. “Everyone’s been really generous, really kind, and I feel celebrated … which is unusual, I don’t know how to take it!”

Francis concluded her visit with a reading at CGU’s sixth-annual Poetry Reading and Art Show, which was held in the university’s art galleries. The event also celebrated the publication of the ninth issue of Foothill: A Journal of Poetry.

In addition to Francis, Foothill contributor Kathleen L. Taylor read from her work, and the artwork of CGU art student Chelsea Boxwell was also on display.

Francis spoke generously and intimately to her audiences about the process behind her art and poetry’s powerful ability, even in our Twitter-obsessed age, to still disturb and move us.

That ability, she told audiences, is especially true in her haunting “Taking It” from Forest Primeval, which shifts through childhood memories of violence and settles finally on an especially poignant memory:

I felt the juvenile weight of him above me like snow after dark
falling steady and hard. I’m gone teach you to talk reg’lar,
and I stopped speaking at all. I kept my swollen mouth shut,
and a straight razor in my math book, and dreamt of a bat
cracking against his chest.

Visit the Tufts website to learn more about the poetry awards, which are now in their 25th year.