The Current Toast of the Poetry World; Carl Phillips Honored with Kingsley Tufts Award. (Faculty Club)

By Hamilton, Kendra | Black Issues in Higher Education, April 25, 2002 | Go to article overview

The Current Toast of the Poetry World; Carl Phillips Honored with Kingsley Tufts Award. (Faculty Club)


Hamilton, Kendra, Black Issues in Higher Education


CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA.

Carl Phillips has become only the second African American poet to win the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, a highly coveted prize that carries with it a career's worth of prestige -- and a $100,000 check.

Phillips says the reality of following in the footsteps of Yusef Komunyakaa -- the first African American poet to win the prize in 1994 -- is just beginning to sink in.

"Some people have asked how I'm planning to spend it (the money), but quite frankly I haven't gotten that far," says Phillips during a break from his weeklong residency at the University of Virginia's Creative Writing Program. "I'm still having my Sally Field moment, reveling in the fact that they `really do like me.' But I guess what it means is that I can now believe that people really do find my work of importance."

He admits that some might argue that's a message that should have gotten across by now. Phillips' very first book of poetry, In the Blood, won the Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize in 1992, while his second, Cortege, was a finalist for both the 1995 National Book Critics Circle Award and the Lambda Literary Award for gay-themed poetry. He's won fellowships to support his writing from the Witter Bynner and Guggenheim foundations, among others. And now, with the Kingsley Tufts Award for his fifth book, The Tether, Phillips currently is the toast of the poetry world.

Although being recognized for your work is most people's dream, Phillips says he did not have childhood aspirations of becoming a poet. "I wanted to be a veterinarian, and I thought that I would -- all through my high school years," Phillips says.

During his undergraduate years at Harvard, however, that dream died on the vine as Phillips discovered the academic subjects he loved in high school -- calculus, biology, and so on -- were suddenly downright dull to him. Instead, he fell in love with classical poetry, particularly the work of Sappho, and decided to major in Greek and Latin instead.

That choice parlayed itself into a career teaching Latin at the high-school level for nearly eight years. Indeed, Phillips says, becoming a poet was something that likely would not have happened but for a series of coincidences.

"I guess in around `88 or `89, when I would have been about 29 or 30, I started writing. And I don't think I would have ever seen it as anything more than a hobby," Phillips explains, had he not taken a class with someone from the Poets in the Schools program. The poet thought Phillips' work showed promise and advised him to apply for an upcoming state grant. Phillips followed his advice -- and won $10,000 on his first try.

The rest, as Phillips describes it, was "a whirlwind." The grant allowed him to take a workshop to hone his writing skills -- and the workshop leader was Alan Dugan, a Yale Younger Poet and winner of the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize, among other numerous honors. Dugan quickly became a believer in Phillips' work, advising him to collect his poems into a book and start trying to win one of the many prestigious first-book prizes, which are the surest way to recognition for a young writer's work.

Phillips followed Dugan's advice, though he also continued making more traditional plans for his life -- such as entering a doctoral program at Harvard in classical philology. Then came the news that changed his life: He heard his book, In the Blood, had won the Morse Prize for publication of a first book. "And it really made me question whether I belonged in a Ph.D. program," Phillips recalls.

Quickly, he shifted gears, leaving Harvard to enter Boston University's creative writing program, then basking in the glory of Derek Walcott's Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Current Toast of the Poetry World; Carl Phillips Honored with Kingsley Tufts Award. (Faculty Club)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.