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Baltimore-born poet Afaa Michael Weaver wins $100,000 prize

Afaa Michael Weaver, a Baltimore native who spent 15 years as a factory worker, has won one the country's most lucrative poetry prizes.

Weaver, a professor at Simmons College in Boston, received the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for his most recent poetry collection, "The Government of Nature."

"My license to be a poet is one I inherited from black and poor people who built cultures out of a faith in stuggle and hope," Weaver writes on his website

Weaver, 62, was born in East Baltimore to parents with little formal education. He graduated from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and attended University of Maryland College Park for two years before dropping out. 

He grew up near the corner of Federal Street and Montford Avenue, where, according to his website, he used to court his wife.

"In the summer of 1969, astronauts walked on the moon, and my wife to be and I sat on the steps of this house until her parents announced the curfew for the evening. Halfway down that block was the house where one of my mother’ sisters lived, and on the corner just east of her house there was Gibson's sub shop," he writes. "Life was different at that time. It was the late sixties, before the state of the city depicted in 'The Wire.'"

Weaver supported himself and his family by working at Bethlehem Steel and Procter & Gamble, while writing and reading poetry on evenings and weekends.  He founded a literary magazine, Blind Alleys, and a small press, Seventh Son Press.

In 1985, he won a National Endowment for the Arts grant that enabled him to study at Brown University, from which he later received his M.F.A. He was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship in 2002 to teach in Taiwan, and spent much of the next seven years learning Mandarin and teaching in Taiwan and China.

The Kingsley Tufts Award, named for a former Los Angeles Shipyard executive, is given annually to a mid-career poet, the Los Angeles Times reports.  The award will be presented at Claremont Graduate University in California on April 10.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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