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Factory-worker-turned poet wins $100K prize

CLAREMONT, Calif. (AP) — A former Baltimore factory worker has won one of the richest prizes for poetry awarded in the United States.

Claremont Graduate University in Southern California announced Wednesday that 62-year-old Afaa Michael Weaver of Somerville, Mass., has won the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for his book of verse "The Government of Nature." The prize goes annually to a mid-career poet.

The competition's chief judge, Chase Twichell, called Weaver's life story "truly remarkable." Born in Baltimore in 1951, Weaver served in the Army for two years and worked in a factory for 15, writing poems all the while, before leaving for a scholarship at Brown University and releasing his first book of verse in 1985.

"He essentially invented himself from whole cloth as a poet," Twichell said. "The Government of Nature," Weaver's 12th book, uses elements of Chinese spiritualism to deal with themes of the poet's childhood.

Another prize of $10,000, the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, went to Pittsburgh poet Yona Harvey. That prize is given annually for a first book by a poet of promise. The Kingsley Tufts award was established by Kate Tufts, the widow of a Los Angeles shipyard executive whose avocation was writing poetry.

This year's awards ceremony will be held April 10.

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