Office of Public Affairs

USM alumna Patricia Smith wins $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award

Patricia Smith

Patricia Smith, an alumna and former faculty member in the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing, has won one of poetry’s most prestigious and financially rewarding prizes.

The honor is the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award at Claremont Graduate University. It’s accompanied by a $100,000 prize.

“This award is a testament to Patricia's transformative writing,” said Robin Talbot,  associate director of the USM program. “By embracing new forms of creative expression, she has made significant contributions to the long traditions of poetry. Everyone at Stonecoast is proud that she is a member of our literary community.”

Smith earned the prize — only the latest in a long list of accolades — for her eighth book, “Incendiary Art.” The collection of poems combines prose poems, ghazals, sestinas and sonnets around a theme of racial prejudice.

The Harvard Review called it “a howl into the chill indifference of the steady stream of news headlines about unarmed black men and women brutalized with impunity, often by officers of the law.”

Smith graduated from USM with her creative writing MFA in 2008.

"Patricia Smith was a rock star when she arrived at Stonecoast,” said Justin Tussing, the program’s director. “We’re so pleased that the rest of the world is discovering her thrilling work."

In 2014, Smith was awarded the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry for her book "Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah."

Other accolades include the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets, two Pushcart prizes, a Guggenheim fellow, a Civitellian and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Smith is a professor at the College of Staten Island and in the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College, as well as an instructor at the annual VONA residency and in the Vermont College of Fine Arts Post-Graduate Residency Program.

The Portland Press Herald published its own story about the award on Feb. 27.