IU Bloomington professor Ross Gay wins Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award

  • March 3, 2016


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University professor Ross Gay is the winner of the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. One of the most prestigious awards in poetry, the honor carries with it a $100,000 prize.

While many literary awards recognize a single published work or a successful writing career, the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award was created to honor mid-career poets and provide them the means to continue working toward the pinnacle of their craft.

Gay is an associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences' Department of English as well as the associate director of the department's Creative Writing Program.

His latest collection, "Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude," was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 2015 as part of the acclaimed Pitt Poetry Series. It was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award, the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2015 NAACP Image Awards, all in poetry categories.

The publisher described "Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude" as a sustained meditation on that which goes away -- loved ones, the seasons, the earth as we know it -- that tries to find solace in the processes of the garden and the orchard.

Gay's deeply rooted connections to the land go beyond verse. In Bloomington, he serves on the board of directors for the Bloomington Community Orchard.

"It is my great pleasure to commend Ross Gay on the Kingsley Tufts Award for his book, 'Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude,'" said Bob Bledsoe, director of the Creative Writing Program at IU Bloomington and the Indiana University Writers' Conference

"The title poem wakes us up to the joys of the natural world: a bird 'shuffling its little talons left, then right' on a nearby branch; the muddy, sweaty work on Ross' beloved community garden, where, 'twirling dung with my pitchfork,' he and fellow volunteers 'dreamt an orchard this way.'

"The poem wakes us up to the difficult death of a colleague and a beautiful dream visit from his dead father. 'Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude' gives us the full human experience. I know that Ross is proud to make Bloomington his home, and this award is cause for celebration, and an opportunity to thank IU for the ongoing commitment to the Creative Writing Program," Bledsoe said.

About the poet

Gay is the author of two previous books of poems, "Against Which" (CavanKerry Press, 2006) and "Bringing the Shovel Down" (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011). His poems and essays have appeared in "American Poetry Review," "Gulf Coast," "Massachusetts Review" and "The Sun," among other magazines and anthologies.

In 2013, he was awarded a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation. He also has received fellowships from the Cave Canem Foundation and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.

Born in Youngstown, Ohio, and raised outside Philadelphia, Gay earned an MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College and a Ph.D. in American literature from Temple University.

About the award

Kate Tufts established The Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award in 1992 in remembrance of her husband, a business executive and widely published poet. Other finalists for the 2016 award were Kyle Dargan, Amy Gerstler, Fred Moten and Jennifer Moxley.

The award is based at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif., along with the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, which presents $10,000 to a promising poet who has just published a first book. The 2016 Kate Tufts Discovery Award winner is Danez Smith.

An awards ceremony for both prizes will take place April 7 at Claremont.

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