The Sewanee Review is pleased to announce that Vievee Francis is the recipient of the 2021 Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry.
Vievee Francis is a poet whose work is suffused with abundance: of what emerges from earth, of stories told by those who live upon it, and of the ravages visited on the same, all shaped by a singular voice expressing the full range and intensity of human feeling. A Texas native who has lived in Michigan, North Carolina, and most recently New Hampshire, one often finds in her work the pastures, fields, and forests of these places she has called home. But her poems also work and tend that ground in order to reveal its histories, its traumas, and the revelatory truth of her own experience. Her work reminds us that the question of who we are is often answered as much by one that asks where, and how we attend to and care for the place we call our own. Her poems are, in the fullest sense, acts of cultivation. She is the author of three collections of poetry, including Blue-Tail Fly and Horse in the Dark. Her most recent collection, 2015’s Forest Primeval, received the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award.
University Vice Chancellor Reuben E. Brigety, II and Sewanee Review editor Adam Ross will present Francis with the Aiken Taylor Award later this year at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. As part of this year’s award celebration, poet Phillip B. Williams will lecture on Francis’s poetry. Williams, a 2020-21 Fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, is the author of Thief in the Interior, winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. His newest collection, MUTINY, is forthcoming in September 2021 from Penguin Poets. He currently serves as Professor of English at Bennington College.
We hope you will join us in celebrating a poet whose work is a constant reminder—one perhaps more deeply felt in this difficult year—of the vitality found in perseverance, and discovering in that struggle both renewal and possibility. “Demand again your portion,” she says in her poem “Field of Lettuce,” “open this field, / make it give to you what was always yours to have.”