Books

Dawn Lundy Martin, Diana Khoi Nguyen win Claremont Graduate University poetry prizes

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Dawn Lundy Martin won the 2019 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for her collection “Good Stock Strange Blood.”
(Dawn Lundy Martin )

Claremont Graduate University named Dawn Lundy Martin and Diana Khoi Nguyen the winners of its annual Tufts awards, considered a highly regarded prize in the world of poetry.

Martin won the 2019 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for her collection"Good Stock Strange Blood,” published by Minnesota-based indie Coffee House Press. The book was also a finalist for Lambda Literary Award in Lesbian Poetry.

The Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, which Claremont gives each year “in recognition of the work of a mid-career poet,” comes with a cash prize of $100,000. Previous winners of the prize include Ross Gay, D.A.Powell, Carl Phillips and Timothy Donnelly, who served as the judging committee chair for this year’s awards.

Los Angeles-born writer Nguyen took home the 2019 Kate Tufts Discovery Award, given annually to a “promising new poet,” for her collection"Ghost Of,” which was published last April by Omnidawn. Nguyen’s book made the longlist for the National Book Award for Poetry.

Previous winners of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, which comes with a cash prize of $10,000, have included Danez Smith, Terrance Hayes and Matthew Dickman.

Genevieve Kaplan, the coordinator of the Tufts poetry awards, told The Times she was excited about this year’s winners.

“They’re both really exciting in that they’re innovating with language in new ways, and using things outside language in their poetry,” she said. “Both of these books include some sort of visual element.”

She said that the Tufts awards stand alone among other poetry prizes in America.

“The Tufts prizes are unique in that they are very large monetary prizes for single books of poetry,” she said. “The Kingsley Tufts Award is also really exciting because it’s for a mid-career poet, a poet who we’re really excited about and we expect to be able to read more work from them in the future.”

Donnelly said that the judges “loved all of our finalists.”

“The two books we finally chose are challenging,” he said in a news release. “They are probably different from what many people are used to or expect from poetry. Martin and Nguyen capture a whole new layer of being in their work that, to many, will still be unfamiliar.”

The Tufts awards were established at Claremont Graduate University in 1992 by Kate Tufts, the widow of Kingsley Tufts, a Los Angeles shipping magnate who also published poetry in magazines like the New Yorker and Esquire.

The Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award was first given out in 1993 to Susan Mitchell for her collection “Rapture.” The following year, the first Kate Tufts Discovery Award was given to Catherine Bowman for her book"1-800-HOT-RIBS.”

The judges for this year’s awards were Donnelly, Cathy Park Hong, Khadijah Queen, Luis J. Rodriguez and Sandy Solomon. A private ceremony honoring the winners will be held on April 10; the following day, Martin and Nguyen will read from their work at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino.