Angie Estes, Winner of Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, Visits Claremont Classrooms

It was a week full of poetry and the arts at Claremont Graduate University (CGU) this past week with poet Angie Estes, recipient of CGU's Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, who spent a week at the university as its resident poet. 

Estes won the award in February 2015 for her most recent book of poetry, Enchantée. Her work was lauded by chief judge and the 2011 winner of the award Chase Twichell as a “delicious and magical swirl of cultures and languages, past and present” and has been printed in publications such as Slate, the Paris Review and the Boston Review.

Estes, who received a PhD and M.A. in English at the University of Oregon, has also won multiple awards, grants, and fellowships for her poetry. Estes also taught literature at Cal Poly Pomona for many years and currently serves as a faculty of Ashland University's low residency MFA program.

Twichell wrote in an official statement following the prize’s announcement that she “couldn’t be happier to see the Kingsley Tufts Award go to a person who has lived her life with art as her highest priority, at whatever personal cost.”

Estes said that even though she studied English at the University of Oregon, she started writing poetry only when she became a professor at Cal Poly Pomona and found that she had the time to write. Estes said that she finds inspiration in everything she experiences in her daily life: “something you smell, something you see, something you hear.” According to Estes, she is also influenced by reading, not only poetry but also non-fiction, and also seeing art.

When asked why she thinks her poetry resonates with people, Estes said, “the same reason why I'm drawn to other poems”: poems that help readers feel a conscious connection to the world, which she said is an essential experience for all people.

As a recipient of the Kingsley Tufts Award, Estes has been awarded $100,000. According to Tufts Poetry Awards coordinator Genevieve Kaplan, the general intent of the prize is to encourage and enable further writing for “mid-career” poets. Unlike other poetry prizes, which typically celebrate a sustained and successful career, the Kingsley Tuft Award hopes to sustain the promising careers of published authors who still have more to say. The counterpart Kate Tufts Award, with an attached $10,000 prize, is intended for newer poets.

According to Lori Anne Ferrell, a professor of early modern history and literature at CGU, the Kingsley Tufts Award is one of about six poetry awards that offer six-figure prizes. It is the only award of its type from a West Coast institution and the only one given out on annual basis. Kaplan said that this year's Kingsley Tuft Award was contested among roughly 250 entrants. 

During her week in residence, Estes taught graduate student workshops at CGU, gave a poetry reading at the Claremont Public Library and visited classes at CGU and Scripps College. Estes will end her week of residence tonight with the fourth-annual Poetry Reading and Art Show presented by the Tufts Awards at 6 p.m. in the Peggy Phelps and East Galleries on Tenth Street, where several poets and artists will join Estes to share their works.

Ferrell said that the poet's week in residence is “one of the things that makes this prize unique and, in my own experience, what I think is extraordinary.”

Ferrell described Estes' experience in teaching and talent in writing as a boon to the CGU community and said that her classroom visits were “really wonderful.”

“She's used to classrooms in certain ways, and she's used to the pedagogical mode,” Ferrell said. “She teaches especially young adult and children's literature, so think about that as kind of the package that we get.”

Estes said that the one advantage younger poets have over older poets is that older poets might think that they know what they're doing. She said that she hopes students who aspire to be poets learn how to write poetry in a way that it communicates to people and how one shapes and crafts langugage to evoke emotions in people.

“You really get to talk not just about the poems that she reads, but also about the process of writing and I think for students who are thinking of themselves potentially as poets and writers, how wonderful to get that insight into the process,” Ferrell said.

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