Professor Vievee Francis wins Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for "Forest Primeval"

The Department of English is pleased to announce that Professor Vievee Francis is the 2017 recipient of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for her book Forest Primeval (Northwestern University Press, 2016). Professor Francis joined the faculty in the summer of 2016 and teaches creative writing and poetry courses. She describes her work in this way, "My primary interest is in poetics, particularly in how poetry is made and the value of such deliberate creative practice. I want to know how poetry serves us collectively and as individuals in ways that meet this era, this moment; however, in order to gain that understanding contexts cannot be ignored, nor can history be set aside. It is the intent of my instruction and an inherent objective of my own poetry to upturn how we think about poetry, its lineage, and the cultural impact of received aesthetics. I insist upon a reconsideration of the erroneous assumptions and common mythologies around poetry that allow only for the immediate and the intuitive as a measure of what is authentic. Instead I focus on the possibilities within work drawn from the counterintuitive, and how craft alongside context may underscore intent. Further, I seek to disclose how poetry acts as foundational art, both catalyst and girder for other genres of literature and the study of literature."

Professor Francis is also the author of Horse in the Dark, (Northwestern University Press, 2012), which won the Cave Canem Northwestern University Poetry Prize for a second collection; and Blue-Tail Fly (Wayne State University, 2006). Her work has appeared in numerous print and online journals, textbooks, and anthologies, including Best American Poetry (2010 & 2014) and Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry. In 2009 she received a Rona Jaffe Writer’s Award, and most recently the 2016 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. She serves as an associate editor of Callaloo.

The Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award (from the Tufts Poetry Awards website):

Unlike many literary awards, which are coronations for a successful career or body of work, the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award was created to both honor the poet and provide the resources that allow artists to continue working towards the pinnacle of their craft.

“Because the award comes to you at mid-career, and is supposed to be a stepping stone and not a tombstone, it nerves you up to try to write up to the mark already set by the previous winners,” said Tom Sleigh, the 2008 recipient.

Kate Tufts – widow of Kingsley Tufts, and creator of the award – had said she wanted to create a prize “that would enable a poet to work on his or her craft for awhile without paying bills.”

“It is a tall order honoring the vision that Kate Tufts set out for us . . . to sustain a poet who is laboring in the difficult middle between first flower and final bloom,” said CGU Associate Professor Patricia Easton, who is the former director of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Awards. “Yet, somehow, the judges have managed to select truly exceptional poets year after year, poets who have gone on to write even greater volumes of poetry.”

The Tufts poetry awards – based at Claremont Graduate University and given for poetry volumes published in the preceding year – are not only two of the most prestigious prizes a contemporary poet can receive, they also come with hefty purses: $100,000 for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and $10,000 for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award.

For more information on the Tufts Poetry Awards, please visit their website: