April 21, 2017

We Celebrated 25 Years of Tufts Poetry Awards

Photo of 2017 Tufts Poetry Awards Ceremony
Attendees celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Kingsley & Kate Tufts Poetry Awards, April 20, 2017, at the Los Angeles Public Library.

Earlier this week CGU’s own Lori Anne Ferrell—our resident Early Modernist of literature, history, and religion—published an Op-Ed in the LA Times celebrating the significance of poetry in our modern world. The occasion for Ferrell’s post was more than just National Poetry Month and was, more specifically, related to the 25th anniversary of the annual Kingsley & Kate Tufts Poetry Awards, which we celebrated on campus this week.

Since 1992, Claremont Graduate University has hosted the renowned Tufts poetry awards, given annually to an established mid-career poet ($100,000 for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award) and to a new poet with a first book ($10,000 for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award). These monetary awards not only relieve some of the financial burdens of building a life dedicated to the arts, but they also connect poets across the country with an established community of poetry editors and enthusiasts. Part of this poetry community-building happens during the awards ceremony, hosted annually during National Poetry Month.

Last night at the Los Angeles Public Library, these awards were given to this year’s recipients Vievee Francis and her book Forest Primeval (winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award) and Phillip B. Williams and his book Thief in the Interior (winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award). The auditorium was full of eager listeners, applauding so loud during the readings that Francis made a joking caution to the audience about the praise going straight to her ego. The audience continued to applaud as they had during Williams’s reading. The reading was followed by a brief but honorary moment in which all the past Tufts winners in attendance stood and received a warm recognition.

If you were not able to attend the events this week (you still have time, there is a reading today at Honnold Library at 2:00 pm!), still know that poetry is not lost on you. While there is always next year’s Tufts Awards, I encourage you to heed some of Ferrell’s final words until then: “This month or sometime soon, I hope you discover a poem that moves you, startles you, reminds you of the lasting truths that live ‘under the details.’ Attend to it. Read it out loud and let it fill your mouth. Memorize it and make it yours forever. Put it in your pocket for emergencies.”