February 09, 2007

2007 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award - Rodney Jones captures prestigious national honor

by Sun Min

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Rodney G. Jones, professor and distinguished scholar of English at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, is the recipient of the 2007 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, which carries a $100,000 purse. California-based Claremont Graduate University hands out the honor annually. It is the largest monetary prize in the nation for a mid-career poet.

The award recognizes Jones' ninth book, "Salvation Blues: 100 Poems, 1985-2005," published last year by Houghton Mifflin. Jones selected 76 of the book's poems from his work published from 1985 to 2002 and 24 are new poems.

Jones is "excited, surprised and delighted," he said. "I have never expected such awards, and have always written, not for money or prizes, but because I love words and imagination and the truth. I was humbled in that I knew I was lucky, that there are many wonderful poets, and that such decisions are never easy."

Never easy but time and time again, Jones earns recognition for his talents. Jones is the winner of the Harper Lee Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Jean Stein Award, the Academy of American Poets Lavan Younger Poets Award, Pulitzer finalist status and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

A native of Alabama, Jones earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa and a master of fine arts degree from University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Jones joined the SIUC faculty in 1985.

"The University has supported me and other writers in many ways: most directly, by granting time to think, to read and to write; but less directly, by supporting the community of writers – both students and faculty – who have thrived here over the years and who have been friends. Writing is solitary work, but no writer exists without the support of others. My college and departmental colleagues and my students have been wonderful in that respect," he said.

Endowed by the late philanthropist Kate Frost Tufts, the annual Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award was named in honor of her husband, Kingsley Tufts, who produced a large body of poetry in the 1930s.

Organizers will present the prize to Jones at an April awards ceremony in Los Angeles, which Jones plans to attend.


Rodney G. Jones