February 20, 2023

Finalists Selected for CGU’s Prestigious Kingsley and Kate Tufts Poetry Awards

“I wonder, do you have a sense
Of how I talk to you
Across the ink-and-paper fence
That separates us two?”
— Kingsley Tufts, The Fence
After Images: The Collected Poems of Kingsley Tufts (Fithian Press, 1994)

Kingsley Tufts was many things: semipro baseball player, Stanford graduate (accounting, followed by a master’s in philosophy), CPA, shipyard executive, cigar and guitar lover, flutist, and poet.

But most passionately, he was a poet.

He and his wife, Kate, had a pact: Whoever outlived the other would endow an annual prize “to put bread on a worthy poet’s table for at least a year, to free a working artist to think and write full-time,” Kate said.

Established at CGU in 1992, the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award recognizes the work of an outstanding mid-career poet with a prize of $100,000—the world’s largest for a single collection of poetry. The Kate Tufts Discovery Award of $10,000 honors the first book of poetry published by a poet “of genuine promise.”

“These are not lifetime achievement awards,” says Lori Anne Ferrell, dean of the School of Arts & Humanities and director of the awards. “They are tangible recognition and generous encouragement to continue pursuing the art and craft of poetry, which is something our challenging world needs. Poetry reminds us of our shared humanity and invites us to reflect on the power of words.”

In late February, the newest awardees will get The Call, an annual tradition at the CGU President’s House in which Ferrell and more than two dozen fellow lovers of poetry gather to deliver the good news by phone.

“Responses range from muffled shock to sheer joy,” Ferrell says. “The financial reward makes a difference, of course, but CGU’s vote of confidence in a poet’s future—and the future of poetry itself—is priceless.”

The 10 finalists for the 2023 Kingsley Tufts Award and Kate Tufts Discovery Award were selected from a pool of several hundred candidates submitted for consideration by individuals and publishers last year. They include National Endowment for the Arts fellowship recipients, a Guggenheim Foundation fellow, a finalist for the National Book Award, a recipient of the Academy of American Poets First Book Award, the winner of the 2021 Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize, an author of seven collections, and an author of the year. They have been published in The Paris Review, The Atlantic, The Southern Review, The New Yorker, and elsewhere. Their work will be judged by a five-member panel led by chair Patricia Smith, the 2018 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award winner for Incendiary Art: Poems.

The winners will be notified on Feb. 25, followed by an awards ceremony on the CGU campus on April 20. The public reading and reception for the 2023 recipients of the Kingsley and Kate Tufts Poetry Awards will take place a day earlier, on April 19, 6 p.m., at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. For more information about the April events, please contact tufts.poetry@cgu.edu.

In addition to cash awards, the winners receive a crystal reproduction of their award-winning books, and the Kingsley winner will return to campus in the fall to serve a weeklong poetry residency.

Finalists for the 2023 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award

Hayan Charara, These Trees, Those Leaves, This Flower, That Fruit
Milkweed Editions

Hayan Charara is a poet, children’s book author, essayist, and editor. His honors include the Arab American Book Award, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Lucille Joy Prize in Poetry from the University of Houston Creative Writing Program, and the John Clare Prize. With Fady Joudah, he is a series editor of the Etel Adnan Poetry Prize.

Cynthia Cruz, Hotel Oblivion
Four Way Books

Cynthia Cruz is the author of seven collections of poems, including Ruin (2006) and How the End Begins (2016). Hotel Oblivion is her latest. Disquieting: Essays on Silence, a collection of critical essays exploring the concept of silence as a form of resistance, was published by Book*hug in 2019. Cruz is pursuing a PhD in philosophy at the European Graduate School.

Joan Naviyuk Kane, Dark Traffic
University of Pittsburgh Press

Joan Naviyuk Kane is Inupiaq from Ugiuvak and Qawiaraq. Her nine books of poetry and prose have been supported by fellowships from, among others, the Guggenheim Foundation, Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute, Brown’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, and the Rasmuson Foundation. She has received the Whiting Writers Award, the United States Artists Creative Vision Award, and the Donald Hall Prize.

Roger Reeves, Best Barbarian
W. W. Norton & Company

Roger Reeves is the author of King Me and the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation, among other honors. He is an associate professor of poetry in the English Department at the University of Texas-Austin.

Solmaz Sharif, Customs
Graywolf Press

Solmaz Sharif is the author of Customs and Look, a finalist for the National Book Award. Her work has received a Discovery/Boston Review Poetry Prize, Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, and Holmes National Poetry Prize from Princeton. She has been published in Harper’s, The Paris Review, and elsewhere, and is the Shirley Shenker Assistant Professor of English at UC Berkeley.

Finalists for the 2023 Kate Tufts Discovery Award

Kemi Alabi, Against Heaven
Graywolf Press

Kemi Alabi’s Against Heaven received the 2021 Academy of American Poets First Book Award. Their works have appeared in The Atlantic, The Nation, Poetry, and Boston Review, and they have received fellowships from MacDowell and Civitella Ranieri. As Head of Creativity & Impact at the reproductive justice organization Forward Together, Alabi builds cultural power with organizers and artists.

Robert Wood Lynn, Mothman Apologia
Yale University Press

Robert Wood Lynn’s debut collection, Mothman Apologia, was selected the winner of the 2021 Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize and listed by the New York Times in its Best Poetry Books of 2022. His work appears or is forthcoming in Ploughshares, Poetry Daily, and The Southern Review. A 2023 NEA Creative Writing Fellow, he lives in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

Aurielle Marie, Gumbo Ya Ya
University of Pittsburgh Press

Aurielle Marie’s Gumbo Ya Ya was selected the winner of the 2022 Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Poetry. She was also named the 2022 Georgia Author of the Year (Poetry). As an essayist, she explores subjects of justice, Blackness, bodies, sex, and pop culture. Marie lives in Atlanta on unceded Muskogee land.

Paul Tran, All the Flowers Kneeling

All the Flowers Kneeling is Paul Tran’s debut collection. Their work has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and Best American Poetry. Winner of the Discovery/Boston Review Poetry Prize, as well as fellowships from Stanford and the National Endowment for the Arts, Tran is an assistant professor of English and Asian American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Michael Wasson, Swallowed Light
Copper Canyon Press

Michael Wasson is nimíipuu from the Nez Perce Reservation in Lenore, Idaho. He is the author of the collection Swallowed Light and winner of the Vinyl 45 Chapbook Prize in 2017 for This American Ghost. In 2019, he was named a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellow, and in 2018 a Native Arts and Cultures Foundation National Artist Fellow in Literature.