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Stateside Podcast: Award-winning poet Tommye Blount

Tommye Blount receives 2023 Whiting Award.
Willy Somma
Whiting Foundation
Tommye Blount receives 2023 Whiting Award.

Among the most prestigious awards in poetry is the Whiting Award. And this year, the award went to Detroit native Tommye Blount, a writer known for his poetry collection Fantasia for the Man in Blue. When Blount received the news that he was an award-winner, he said he was not in the best head space.

“Well, I was in the middle of a workday tantrum, actually,” Blount said. “And Courtney Hodel from the Whiting Foundation phoned me. I didn’t recognize the number and I thought it was a telemarketer or something. So when I answered the phone, my tone may not have been as polite as I would have liked it.”

Blount said he started crying after receiving the news. He joins the ranks of other honorees like Colson Whitehead, Daniel Alacon and Ocean Vuong. He said meeting and talking with some of the other honorees from this year made him feel like a “writer in the world.”

“I didn’t feel like ‘Little Tommye in his little apartment in Novi, going to Meijer,'" Blount said. “I felt like somebody.”

Now, Blount said he feels like he has more creative license to pursue more ambitious projects. He has met with different publishers and agents about his work and now thinks he may look into other forms of writing, like essays or plays.

“I’m gaining a bit of courage now that I didn’t have last year,” Blount said. “Settling into what the Whiting Award will allow me to do, has increased that courage, I’m like I can do the essay, I can tackle it.

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Mercedes Mejia is a producer and director of <i>Stateside</i>.
Dan Netter joined the Stateside team as an intern in May 2022 and is a senior at Michigan State University studying Journalism and Social Relations & Policy.