An English professor at the College of Staten Island, Patricia Smith, has won the prestigious $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, expanding the ranks of exceptionally accomplished CUNY poets whose works have drawn the highest honors, including two Pulitzer Prizes in three years.
The Kingsley Tufts award, considered one of the most prestigious and lucrative poetry prizes, recognizes Smith’s collection “Incendiary Art: Poems,” which explores tragedy and grief in black lives and communities. The award, based at Claremont Graduate University in California, is given to a poet in midcareer and is the most lucrative prize in the world given for a single volume of poetry.
“CUNY is home to a remarkable number of exceptionally talented poets, who enrich our students’ educational experience as well as the culture at large,” Chancellor James B. Milliken said. “We congratulate Patricia Smith on this wonderful recognition.”
“This is one of the best moments in my entire life,” said Smith, who also recently won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work – Poetry, for the “Incendiary Art” collection, published by Northwestern University Press.
Smith is also the author of six critically recognized poetry collections, as well as having been a 2008 National Book Award finalist. She received the 2014 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize from the Library of Congress, the 2013 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets and a 2013 Phillis Wheatley Book Award. She has read her work in a variety of venues throughout the United States and the world.
Smith is the second CUNY professor to garner the Kingsley Tufts Award. Tom Sleigh of Hunter College won it in 2008.
Another CSI professor, Tyehimba Jess, won the second CUNY-connected Pulitzer Prize for poetry last year; Gregory Pardlo, a graduate student at the time, took the Pulitzer in 2015. The University’s growing poetry footprint also includes Kimiko Hahn, who teaches in the Queens College M.F.A. program and won the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry; Ben Lerner, who teaches at Brooklyn College and is a MacArthur Fellow; Baruch College Distinguished Professor Grace Schulman, winner of the 2016 Poetry Society of America’s Frost Medal for Distinguished Achievement in American Poetry; Hunter College Distinguished Professor Meena Alexander, a winner of the PEN Open-Book Award; and Cate Marvin, an English professor at CSI and 2015 Guggenheim Fellow.
The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in 1847, CUNY counts 13 Nobel Prize and 23 MacArthur (“Genius”) grant winners among its alumni. CUNY students, alumni and faculty have garnered scores of other prestigious honors over the years in recognition of historic contributions to the advancement of the sciences, business, the arts and myriad other fields. The University comprises 24 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, CUNY Graduate Center, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, CUNY School of Law, CUNY School of Professional Studies and CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. The University serves more than 272,000 degree-seeking students. CUNY offers online baccalaureate and master’s degrees through the School of Professional Studies.