Factory-worker-turned poet wins $100K, Harvey gets $10K ‘Discovery Award’

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CLAREMONT, Calif. (AP) – A former Baltimore factory worker has won one of the richest prizes for poetry awarded in the United States.

Claremont Graduate University in Southern California announced Wednesday that 62-year-old Afaa Michael Weaver of Somerville, Mass., has won the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for his book of verse “The Government of Nature.” The prize goes annually to a mid-career poet.

Another prize of $10,000, the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, went to Pittsburgh poet Yona Harvey. That prize is given annually for a first book by a poet of promise.

The competition’s chief judge, Chase Twichell, called Weaver’s life story “truly remarkable.” Born in Baltimore in 1951, Weaver served in the Army for two years and worked in a factory for 15, writing poems all the while, before leaving for a scholarship at Brown University and releasing his first book of verse in 1985.

Afaa Michael Weaver

This undated photo released by Claremont Graduate University shows Afaa Michael Weaver. (AP Photo/Claremont Graduate University, Catherine Laine)

“He essentially invented himself from whole cloth as a poet,” Twichell said.

“The Government of Nature,” Weaver’s 12th book, uses elements of Chinese spiritualism to deal with themes of the poet’s childhood.

The Kingsley Tufts award was established by Kate Tufts, the widow of a Los Angeles shipyard executive whose avocation was writing poetry.

This year’s awards ceremony will be held April 10.

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