Creative Writing fellow wins national poetry award

Tiana Clark is honored for her forthcoming collection of poetry, 'I Can't Talk about the Trees without the Blood'

February 16th 2018 | Katie Vaughn
Arts & Humanities, Awards
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Tiana Clark, a poetry fellow at UW-Madison’s Institute of Creative Writing, is the 2017 winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize. The University of Pittsburgh Press awarded the honor in recognition of her collection I Can’t Talk about the Trees without the Blood.

In explaining her inspiration for her book, which will be published in the fall, Clark states:

“For me, trees will never be just trees. They will also and always be a row of gallows from which Black bodies once swung. This is an image that I cannot escape, but one that I have learned to lean into as I delve into personal and public histories, explicating memories and muses around race, elegy, family and faith by making and breaking forms as well as probing mythology, literary history, my own ancestry and, yes, even Rihanna. I cannot engage with the physical and psychic landscape of the South without seeing the braided trauma of the broken past — I will always see blood on the leaves.” 

Clark is also the author of Equilibrium, selected for the 2016 Frost Place Chapbook Competition. She won the 2017 Furious Flower’s Gwendolyn Brooks Centennial Poetry Prize, the 2016 Academy of American Poets University Prize and 2015 Rattle Poetry Prize.

Clark’s writing has appeared in or is forthcoming from The New Yorker, Kenyon Review, American Poetry Review, New England Review, Best New Poets 2015, Thrush and The Journal, among other venues. She served as the poetry editor of the Nashville Review while a graduate student at Vanderbilt University. 

At UW-Madison, Clark holds the 2017-2018 Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellowship, as part of the Halls Creative Writing Program Fund, established in 1992 to support the Creative Writing institute and program within the Department of English. The fund supports not only fellowships for writers, but also workshops, short-term residencies for distinguished visitors, reading series and the Madison Review.

Clark is one of five Fiction & Poetry Fellows at the Institute for Creative Writing, which has provided time, space and an intellectual community for writers working on their first or second book of poetry or fiction since 1986. Fellowships last nine months and include a one-course-per-semester teaching assignment in undergraduate creative writing.

Before coming to UW-Madison, Clark studied Africana and women’s studies at Tennessee State University, and recently graduated from Vanderbilt’s M.F.A. program. In the fall, she will teach creative writing at Southern Illinois University.