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Former Factory Worker Wins $100K Poetry Prize

Claremont Graduate University announced the news Tuesday.

Afaa Michael Weaver. Photo credit: Catherine Laine
Afaa Michael Weaver. Photo credit: Catherine Laine

A former factory worker now living in Somerville has won one of the biggest poetry award payouts in the country.

Afaa Michael Weaver, who worked in factories in his hometown of Baltimore for 15 years, won $100,000 from Claremont (Calif.) Graduate University’s Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, the university announced Tuesday.

Weaver received the grand prize for his book, “The Government of Nature,” his 12th collection of poetry that explores the trauma of his childhood, including sexual abuse.

The award’s chief judge, Chase Twichell, said he was captivated by Weaver’s life story.

"His father was a sharecropper,” he said in a statement. “After serving for two years in the Army, he toiled for 15 years in factories, writing poems all the while. When he learned that he'd won a National Endowment Fellowship, he quit his job and attended Brown University on a full scholarship. He essentially invented himself from whole cloth as a poet. It's truly remarkable."

A multiple poetry award winner, Weaver now teaches at Simmons College in Boston and is a visiting faculty member at Drew University in New Jersey. He also works as a translator in China and Taiwan.

The Kingsley Tufts Award, now in its 22nd year, goes to a mid-career poet. It was established by Kate Tufts in memory of her husband, who held executive positions in the Los Angeles shipyards and wrote poetry on the side.

Weaver will be recognized at a ceremony Thursday, April 10 at Claremont Graduate University.

Read the university’s full release >>

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