2007 Tufts Awards Winners Announced
Claremont Graduate University in Southern California has announced its winners for the Kingsley and Kate Tufts Awards. Rodney Jones of Carbondale, Illinois won the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Award and Eric McHenry of Seattle won the $10,000 Kate Tufts Discovery Award.
Salvation Blues represents a body of Jones’ work that stretches across twenty years, which includes six books. Many of the meditative and narrative poems are about language: the stories we tell ourselves, or people and gods, the songs that comfort us. A winner of more than a dozen other prestigious awards, Jones was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for his book Elegy for the Southern Drawl.
Born in 1950, Jones grew up on a small cotton farm in rural Alabama. His interest in poetry began as an undergraduate at the University of Alabama when he befriended another graduate student and young poet, Everette Maddox, who moved in right next door and became Jones’ mentor.
“I never made a decision to become a poet. It was something that I began doing casually that became necessary,” Jones said. “I grew up working in the fields and playing sports, but my mother was a great reader, and books were always around.”
In winning the award, Jones said he was astonished and honored.
“The attempt to make poetry is one of the most sustaining activities on earth, but it is lonely work. To win such an award makes one feel and trust the silent accompaniment of kindred souls.”
“Rodney Jones is a poet whose work is intellectually sparkling and, at the same time, beautifully readable,” said Robert Wrigley, Chair of the Tufts Award Judging Committee. “Salvation Blues includes some of Jones' finest work over the last twenty years, poems that will delight, move, challenge, and reward any reader.”
CGU awards two prizes for poetry each year: The winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award is Seattle resident Eric McHenry, who will receive $10,000. McHenry wins for his poetry book, Potscrubber Lullabies (The Waywiser Press, 2006). According to McHenry, the book is a collection of what most people would call ‘formal poetry.’
“I use a lot of traditional meters and rhymes, but I truly have a lot of influences,” McHenry said. “I’d like to think of it as a book that is ironic and humorous, with the humor not masking but perhaps revealing deeper ambiguities.”
McHenry, born in 1972 in Topeka Kansas, is currently the associate editor of Columns, the alumni magazine for the University of Washington. He is a graduate of Topeka High School, Beloit College, and Boston University, where he earned an M.A. in creative writing and won the Academy of American Poets Prize. His poems have appeared in The New Republic, Harvard Review, Northwest Review, Orion, and Agni. He also writes about poetry for The New York Times Book Review and Slate.
“Potscrubber Lullabies is a most exceptional first book,” Wrigley said. “It demonstrates this young poet's extraordinary command of form: it rhymes relentlessly, slyly, and above all, artfully.”
In addition to Wrigley, judges for the Tufts Poetry Award include award-winning poet Allison Joseph; Robert Pinsky, poet, critic and past Poet Laureate of the United States; Alice Quinn, poetry editor of The New Yorker; and Charles Harper Webb, poet and professor of English at California State University at Long Beach.
The Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award was established at Claremont Graduate University in 1992 by Kate Tufts to honor the memory of her husband Kingsley Tufts, a poet, writer, and certified public accountant. The Kate Tufts Discovery Award was initiated in 1993.
The Tufts Poetry Award ceremony will be held at 6 p.m. on April 24 at the Herbert Zipper Concert Hall in Los Angeles. The ceremony will feature a poetry reading followed by a book signing. The event is free and open to the public. For information, call 909- 621-8974 or www.cgu.edu/tufts.