Patricia Smith, an award-winning poet and graduate of the writing program at the University of Southern Maine, has won a $100,000 prize, one of the richest awards in poetry.

Smith won the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, given by Claremont Graduate University in California, for her book “Incendiary Art,” which explores tragedy and grief in black communities across America.

Smith teaches at the College of Staten Island in New York and in the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College, as well as at the Vermont College of Fine Arts Post-Graduate Residency Program. She is former faculty member of USM’s Stonecoast MFA writing program.

Smith will receive the award April 19 at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. The award is one of the largest annual monetary prizes given to a single book of poetry by a mid-career poet, according the Kingsley Tufts website. The award was established at Claremont in 1993 by Kate Tufts to honor her husband, an executive in Los Angeles-area shipyards who also wrote and published poetry.

In a USM press release, Stonecoast director Justin Tussing called Smith “a rock star when she arrived at Stonecoast. We’re so pleased that the rest of the world is discovering her thrilling work.”

Before coming to USM, Smith worked as a columnist for The Boston Globe. Editors there asked for her resignation in 1998 when they found evidence she had made up people and quotations in her writing. Her career rebounded. In 2014, Smith was awarded the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry for her book “Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah.” She also won the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets, two Pushcart prizes, a Guggenheim fellowship and an NAACP Image Award.


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