March 19, 2021

CGU Announces Finalists in the 2021 Kingsley & Kate Tufts Poetry Awards

MEET THE FINALISTS: Announcing the 2021 finalists for the Kingsley & Kate Tufts Poetry Awards.

One of the silver linings of the global pandemic is that more attention has been paid to poets and poetry since the quarantine began. USA Today suggests we may be on the brink of a renaissance in the poetry world, while a PBS news story acknowledges that poetry has served as a shelter for the soul in these trying times. Many have turned to the enduring power of the written word for consolation.

Two of the most important annual awards in recognition of that enduring power are the Kingsley & Kate Tufts Poetry Awards.

This year’s finalists in both categories were selected this week by a judging committee led by Timothy Donnelly (whose “The Cloud Corporation” won the Kingsley Tufts Award in 2012).A total of ten finalists (5 in each category) were chosen from some 400 submissions. (The winners of each category will be announced in early April.)

The Kate Tufts Discovery Award provides $10,000 to an emerging poetic voice, while the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award presents $100,000 to a mid-career poet to help them on their journey.


  • Kate Tufts Discovery Award (for a work of poetry by an emerging voice)

A Theory of Birds by Zaina Alsous (University of Arkansas Press): In A Theory of Birds, Alsous engages with the world’s oppressive and divisive forces and “explores how categorization can be a tool for detachment, domination, and erasure.”


Fantasia for the Man in Blue by Tommye Blount (Four Way Books): A black man’s encounter with a police officer (the “man in blue” of the title”) serves as one of the many voices Blount orchestrates to “speak to the experience of the black, queer body as a site of desire and violence.”


Catrachos by Roy G. Guzmán (Graywolf Press): In Catrachos (a nickname for Hondureños), Guzmán “reaches across borders―between life and death and between countries―invoking the voices of the lost” in a volume that is “part immigration narrative, part elegy, and part queer coming-of-age story.”


Bodega by Su Hwang (Milkweed Editions): Hwang’s book offers a “singular perspective on our nation of immigrants” and is set against “the backdrop of the war on drugs and the 1992 Los Angeles Riots [as] a Korean girl comes of age in her parents’ bodega in the Queensbridge projects.”


Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers by Jake Skeets (Milkweed Editions): Skeets’s debut Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers is an unflinching collection of poems by “a dazzling geologist of queer eros.”


  • Kingsley Tufts Award (for a work by a mid-career poet)

A Treatise on Stars by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge (New Directions): In Berssenbrugge’s latest, “long, lyrical lines map a geography of interconnected, interdimensional intelligence that exists in all places and sentient beings. These are poems of deep listening and patient waiting, open to the cosmic loom, the channeling of daily experience and conversation,” and much more.


& More Black by T’ai Freedom Ford (Augury Books): The winner of the 2020 LAMBA Literary Award for Lesbian Poetry and nominated for a 2020 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry, Freedom Ford’s & More Black is “direct, ingenious, vibrant, alive, queer, & BLACK … wrapped up in the evolving language and sonics of life.”


Toxicon and Arachne by Joyelle McSweeney (Nightboat Books): McSweeney is the author of eight genre-crossing books whose latest work is” the culmination of eight years of engagement with lyric under a regime of global and personal catastrophes.”


Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry by John Murillo (Four Way Books): Murillo’s collection offers “a reflective look at the legacy of institutional, accepted violence against Blacks and Latinos and the personal and societal wreckage wrought by long histories of subjugation.”


Feed by Tommy Pico (Tin House): The final book in the “Teebs tetralogy,” Feed is “an epistolary recipe for the main character, a poem of nourishment, and a jaunty walk through New York’s High Line park, with the lines, stanzas, paragraphs, dialogue, and registers approximating the park’s cultivated gardens of wildness.”


For updates and more about Kingsley and Kate Tufts and their awards, visit the Tufts awards blog here.