Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s Tiana Clark has earned the prestigious 2020 Kate Tufts Discovery Award for her book of poetry, “I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood.” The award is bestowed annually by Claremont Graduate University to honor a first book by a poet of promise.
“I’m ecstatic to win the 2020 Kate Tufts Discovery Award,” said Clark, an assistant professor in the Department of English Language and Literature. “It’s an honor and a privilege to be included in a list of previous poets that I deeply admire like Diana Khoi Nguyen, Donika Kelly, Phillip B. Williams, Danez Smith, Terrance Hayes and more. My endless gratitude goes to the esteemed judges: Timothy Donnelly, Cathy Park Hong, Meghan O’Rourke, Luis J. Rodriguez and Sandy Solomon.”
The Kate Tufts Discovery Award is presented in conjunction with the Kingsley Tufts Award, which is one of the world’s leading annual poetry awards for mid-career poets. This year’s pool of finalists for the Kate Tufts and Kingsley Tufts Awards were selected from approximately 500 nominations submitted over the past year by individuals and publishers.
Clark said she wrote the book because, “Trees will never be just trees. They will also and always be a row of gallows from which Black bodies once swung. This is an image that I cannot escape, but one that I have learned to lean into as I delve into personal and public histories, explicating memories and muses around race, elegy, family and faith by making and breaking forms as well as probing mythology, literary history, my own ancestry and, yes, even Rihanna.”
A 2019 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow, Clark is also a recipient of a 2019 Pushcart Prize, 2017 Furious Flower’s Gwendolyn Brooks Centennial Poetry Prize and 2015 Rattle Poetry Prize. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and Tennessee State University and currently teaches creative writing at SIUE.
Clark will receive her award, which includes a $10,000 prize, during a private ceremony at CGU on April 15, followed by a public reading on April 16 in San Marino, Calif.
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Photo: SIUE Department of English Language and Literature Assistant Professor Tiana Clark.