Book Notes: Dartmouth Professor Wins Poetry Prize

  • A portrait of Vievee Francis, a professor of English and a poet. Dartmouth College — Robert Gill

Published: 2/9/2017 10:00:13 PM
Modified: 2/9/2017 10:00:23 PM

Vievee Francis, an associate professor of English at Dartmouth College, was awarded the 2017 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for her poetry collection Forest Primeval late last month.

The annual award, based at Claremont Graduate University in California, honors mid-career poets for their work and provides resources as they continue writing, according to the award’s website. It includes a $100,000 prize, the largest in the world for a single collection of poetry.

She will formally receive the prize in an award ceremony at the Los Angeles Public Library on April 20.

Poetry magazine editor Don Share, the chairman of the committee that selected Forest Primeval for the prize, described it as “an intense work, dark … Dantean … dreamlike in its visions” in the release.

Francis’ collection, her third, also won the 2016 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for poetry from the Hurston/Wright Foundation, named for authors Zora Neale Hurston and Richard Wright. It also was shortlisted for the 2016 PEN Open Book Award, which honors book-length writings by authors of color.

Forest Primeval tackles subjects such as survival, defense and nature’s transcendence and violence, according to a news release about the Tufts award. It takes an anti-pastoral approach to these subjects, challenging an idealized view of the natural world and humans’, particularly women’s, relationship to it.

Share said in the release that Francis’ work reclaims modernist and feminist legacies of poetry.

“It takes great courage to do that,” he said, “and we can’t wait to see where this leads her.”

Francis was traveling on Thursday and could not be reached for comment by deadline.

In her biography on Dartmouth’s website, she says, “I want to know how poetry serves us collectively and as individuals in ways that meet this era, this moment; however, in order to gain that understanding contexts cannot be ignored, nor can history be set aside.”

Francis is now in her second stint at Dartmouth, having taught as a visiting lecturer in creative writing in 2015, according to a release from the college at the time of her winning the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award last fall.

She has also taught at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, N.C. and North Carolina State University. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., and a master’s in fine arts from the University of Michigan.

In addition to writing and teaching, Francis serves as an associate editor for Callaloo, a literary journal of African diaspora, arts and letters.

More information about the award can be found online at

Far From ‘Prairie Home’

Author, humorist and former Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor will share stories old and new at the Lebanon Opera House on Tuesday night.

Mark Bradley, acting executive director of the opera house, said on Wednesday night that more than 125 tickets remained for Keillor’s appearance, his first at the venue since November 2011.

After retiring from his longtime public-radio show last summer, Keillor has continued to host the Writer’s Almanac feature on the radio, while writing op-ed columns for the Washington Post that often skewer President Donald Trump.

Keillor takes the stage at 7:30. To reserve tickets ($69.50 to $99.50) and learn more, visit or the box office at City Hall, or call 603-448-0400.

The Bookworm Turns

Woodstock’s Norman Williams Public Library is encouraging bibliophiles to its monthly “What’s on Your Nightstand?” book discussion group on Tuesday morning from 10:15 to 11:15. The session, held in the reading room, is open to all ages, at no cost.

Graphic Language

New Yorker cartoonist Ed Koren will talk about his art and profession in the Upper Gallery of Randolph’s Chandler Center for the Arts on Saturday morning, during a “Cartoon Conversation” with Michelle Ollie, president of the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction.

The conversation, which starts at 11, is part of the Chandler’s ongoing “Story Lines” exhibit, which features works from the cartoon school’s archives, as well as works by Koren and by Randolph Cartoonist Phil Godenschwager. After the conversation, Center for Cartoon Studies graduate Kane Lynch will lead a workshop for aspiring cartoonists of all ages. Admission is free.

The White Stuff

Poet and Dartmouth English professor Nancy Jay Crumbine reads and discusses excerpts from the work of E.B. White at the Norwich Congregational Church on March 1, as part of the Vermont Humanities Council’s First Wednesday series of lectures.

The lecture starts at 7 p.m.; admission is free. Crumbine will sample White’s New Yorker essays, his beloved children’s book Charlotte’s Web as well as his essays, poems and letters. Crumbine will celebrate White’s versatility and enormous legacy.

Library Improvements

The Haverhill Library Association recently received a matching grant of $1,500 toward repairs to the 176-year-old structure in the Haverhill Corner Historic District.

The grant came from the Co-operative Insurance Companies’ program supporting community projects.

Current Events

Woodstock-based business writer Peter Rousmaniere will present his research into U.S. immigration policy, during a lecture at the Norman Williams Public Library in Woodstock on Tuesday afternoon.

The Valley News recently published a five-part series of op-ed articles by Rousmaniere, stemming from the year he spent researching immigration policy and interviewing immigrants in the Northeast. Admission is free to the lecture, which starts at 4.

The Norman Williams library also will host a discussion of George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984, on Feb. 25. John Matthews will lead the conversation, which starts at 10:30.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at and at 603-727-3213. David Corriveau can be reached at and at 603-727-3304.

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