Timothy Donnelly, an associate professor of writing at the School of the Arts, has been named the 2012 recipient of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award—notable for both its prestige and the accompanying $100,000 prize—for his book “The Cloud Corporation.”
The prize, now in its twentieth year, is awarded annually by Claremont Graduate University and is one of only three awards of its size in the field of poetry. The Kingsley Tufts Award is also the only prize of its magnitude to be awarded for a single text rather than one author’s body of work, and is intended for up-and-coming or “mid-career” poets, rather than previously established authors.
“I am thrilled that Timothy Donnelly has won the Kingsley Tufts Award,” said Carol Becker, dean of the School of the Arts. “Not only is Timothy a beloved professor who has made monumental contributions to our writing program, but, as many have expressed, he is one of the great poets of his generation.”
The award promises to have a major impact on Donnelly’s career, both professionally and financially.
“I’m among the many people in this country who have had to go into significant debt just to get by,” Donnelly said in a statement. “This prize will give my family and me a measure of financial stability that would otherwise have taken a decade or more to achieve. But as true as all that is, it’s the honor of having had ‘The Cloud Corporation’ chosen for this distinction that I really can’t wrap my head around.”
“The Cloud Corporation” was written over the course of seven years and draws from Donnelly’s experiences with living during a time of financial struggle, both personally and in light of the national fiscal crisis. “All the anxiety in the book about the economy and the struggle to make ends meet isn’t just for effect—it’s all very personal,” Donnelly stated.
“The Cloud Corporation” is Donnelly’sw second book. His first work, “Twenty-seven Props for a Production of Eine Lebenszeit,” was published in 2003. Donnelly’s poetry has also been published in several major national publications, including Harper’s and The New Republic. Besides his endeavors in getting his own work published, Donnelly has been the poetry editor of the Boston Review since 1995.
At Columbia, Donnelly has taught both graduate-level courses at the School of the Arts and senior seminars for undergraduates. This semester, Donnelly is serving as a visiting professor at Princeton University.
“The Cloud Corporation” was selected from a pool of over 250 submissions by a five-person panel of highly distinguished poets, including Linda Gregerson, professor of creative writing and
Renaissance literature at the University of Michigan and chair of the selection committee. Other panelists included Carl Phillips, professor of English and Afro-American studies at Washington University in St. Louis, and David Barber, the poetry editor of The Atlantic. Both Phillips and Gregerson are former recipients of the Kingsley Tufts Award.
The award was created by Kate Tufts in memory of her husband, whose passion for poetry was nevertheless sidelined as a hobby while he worked as a businessman at a shipyard company. The couple, lifelong poetry aficionados, had often discussed making such a prize prior to his death.
Although Gregerson described this year’s submissions as “a wonderful array of very strong work,” Donnelly’s stood out.
“[The Cloud Corporation] made our hearts beat faster,” Gregerson said. “Its resourcefulness, its range, its unflagging intelligence. One of the things that thrills me personally about it is the way he works syntactically—he’s got a very good ear … that was just deeply impressive to us, and we expect to see great things from him in the future.”