Luther Hughes BA ’16 Has Been Awarded Numerous Prizes in 2020

luther hughesPhoto Credit: Kenderick Richardson
Hughes has recently been awarded the 2020 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship and the 2020 92Y Discovery Poetry Prize

He was “known” in his hometown, Seattle, WA as a dancer, but Luther Hughes Poetry BA ’16 had a secret passion for writing. Hughes never thought he’d be a writer, but he enjoyed writing poems, short stories, and essays throughout high school. It was a secret that only his closest friends and a few classmates were in on. It wasn’t until after Hughes graduated from Green River Community College, that he realized he wanted to go to school for poetry. 

Hughes first heard of Columbia College Chicago from a Facebook Ad, and after some additional research he decided to sign up for an information session. On choosing Columbia, Hughes says that he was hooked once he learned that he could earn a degree in poetry and that his professors were still practicing writers.

Today, Hughes focuses on his poetry. When asked on how he’d describe his published works Hughes notes, “at large, they focus on intimacy and desire. However, these poems do this by way of Black death and suicidal ideation, by way of nature and the city, and by way of family.” His debut book of poems, A Shiver in the Leaves, will be published by BOA Editions in Fall 2022. A selection of Hughes’ poetry can be found on his website, here.

Hughes mentions that part of being a writer and a part of the literary landscape is to submit your work for fellowships and awards. And this has paid off for him in 2020. Recently, Hughes has been awarded the 2020 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship and the 2020 92Y Discovery Poetry Prize. The Poetry Foundation and Poetry magazine award the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship to young poets and is intended to encourage further study and writing of poetry. Each poet receives a $25,800 prize, making the fellowships among the largest and most prestigious awards available for young poets in the United States. The 92Y Discovery Poetry Contest has been launching the careers of major poets for over 60 years. As a winner of the 92Y Discovery Poetry Contest, poets receive a reading at 92Y, publication in The Paris Review Daily, a two-night residency at the ACE Hotel and $500 each. When asked what Hughes plans to do with these awards, he plans to “live and continue being the best me possible.” Read Hughes’ winning entry for the 92Y Discovery Poetry Contest, It Is February, here.

Hughes says that Columbia taught him how to become a better community member and how to become more business savvy when it comes to your art. While he was at Columbia, he started a Black poetry club, started a literary blog (which is now Shade Literary Arts), sat on various other Black-led student clubs, made it up the SGA ladder from Senator of Creative Writing to being the first openly queer Black student President. 

On advice for current students who are thinking about getting into poetry, Hughes recommends, “Read everything and everything. Watch TV. Listen to music. Study things outside of poetry. Eat an apple. Eat a donut. Have sex. Hug a tree.”


Sarah Borchardt
Communications Manager