Tufariello, Catherine 1963–

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Tufariello, Catherine 1963–

PERSONAL: Born 1963, in Ithaca, NY; married; children: one daughter. Education: State University of New York, Buffalo, B.A.; Cornell University, Ph.D.

ADDRESSES: Home—IN. Office—Department of English, Valparaiso University, Huegli Hall, 1800 Chapel Dr., Valparaiso, IN 46383. E-mail[email protected].

CAREER: Educator and poet. Taught at various colleges and universities, including Cornell University, College of Charleston, and University of Miami; Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, IN, instructor in English.

AWARDS, HONORS: Finalist, Book Prize in Poetry, Los Angeles Times, Editor's Choice selection, Booklist, and Walt McDonald First Book Poetry Prize, all 2004, all for Keeping My Name.


Keeping My Name, Texas Tech University Press (Lubbock, TX), 2003.

Author of chapbooks Free Time, published by Robert L. Barth, and Annunciations, published by Aralia Press. Contributor of poetry to anthologies, including Poetry, a Pocket Anthology, edited by R.S. Gwynn, Penguin Academics, 2001; The Poetry Anthology: 1912–2002, edited by Joseph Parisi and Stephen Young, Ivan R. Dee, 2002; and The Zoo Anthology of Younger American Poets, edited by David Yezzi, Zoo Press, 2004. Contributor to periodicals, including Poetry, Hudson Review, and Yale Italian Poetry.

SIDELIGHTS: Poet and educator Catherine Tufariello was born in Ithaca, New York, and raised in Amherst, in upstate New York. She studied English at the State University of New York at Buffalo, and earned her doctorate in American literature from Cornell University, writing her thesis on the poetry of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. She has taught English and writing at several universities, including Cornell, the College of Charleston, the University of Miami, and Valparaiso University. Her own poems have appeared in various periodicals, including Poetry, Hudson Review, and Yale Italian Poetry, and have been collected in two chapbooks.

Tufariello's first book of poems, Keeping My Name, won the Walt McDonald First Book Poetry Prize, and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in poetry for 2004. The poems have appeared individually both in periodicals and anthologies. Most of her poems are metrical and rhymed, and she has also done translations of medieval Italian love poets. Referring to an image of a girl dancing at a wedding in one of the poems, Ruby Olson, a contributor for Booklist, wrote that Tufariello "conjures such common-enough scenes so vividly that one's mind and heart are fully engaged." In an interview for the Valparaiso University Web site, Tufariello explained her work by saying: "One of the reasons I like to work in meter and rhyme is that it helps me to get some aesthetic distance on my experiences and make them accessible to others. A young woman recently told me after a reading that she found consolation in the poems because they confronted grief and doubt, but were ultimately affirmative and hopeful. That's one of the nicest compliments I've ever gotten."

Tufariello told CA: "When I was very young, in elementary school, I wanted to be a fiction writer. I loved reading stories, and the idea of creating my own imaginary worlds grew naturally from the pleasure of reading. Now and then I wrote fan letters to authors and most were generous enough to write back, which was very exciting. Getting their replies showed me that authors were real people, and that being a writer when I grew up was an ambition I could have. But in high school I started to recognize that plotting was not a strong suit. Nothing much ever happened in my stories; they were all about the characters' interior lives. And at age thirteen or so I fell in love with poetry in a serious way—Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and Ralph Waldo Emerson were early favorites—and turned my attention in that direction.

"The core or catalyst of a new poem is always words. I begin with a key phrase, or a line or two, rather than a subject or idea. And I never begin with the intention that I'm going to write a sonnet, or a poem in couplets, or in any other form. Rather, the first line or two (which often aren't the first lines of the poem) narrow down the infinity of possible forms to a few, and I feel my way from there. Occasionally a poem comes quickly and doesn't need much revision, and that's exciting. But usually the process is very slow. It often takes me months or years between the first inspiration and the finished poem, and I end up discarding a lot of drafts or partial drafts that don't work. It's a good thing the flights of inspiration are so much fun, because the rest of the process is often like working a fiendishly difficult puzzle. Of course, that has its own satisfactions.

"I've learned that form itself brings surprises, that the commitment to it is (when the poem is working, at least) liberating rather than confining. Rhyme, for example, brings an element of arbitrariness and serendipity into the writing process. The need to find appropriate rhymes often forces me away from my usual habits of thinking, conjuring up fresh images, carrying me farther afield than I would otherwise go. Poems, for me, are by nature cranky, recalcitrant, full of surprises, and insistent on being who they are. You can't do anything you like with them, any more than a parent can with a child.

"Since I began to publish my work, in the late 1990s, I've been happily surprised by the way it has connected me with other poets and with readers. Writing is by nature a solitary occupation. I never took creative-writing courses or belonged to workshops, and often it was hard to imagine that my poems could exist in the world as well as in my head. But soon after publishing my first poems in literary periodicals, in the late 1990s, I began forming a network of poet friends with whom I could informally share new work. I began to feel part of an artistic community, and that was very helpful after several years of working in isolation. And since the book was published, I've begun to make contact with readers as well. Doing readings has given me a better sense of which poems are most and least successful, and I feel privileged to be able to talk to readers and hear their stories. While the audience for poetry is small in relative terms, it does exist, and the people who love poetry care passionately about it. That's been very heartening to me. So what began as an avocation that drew me out of the world, into the privacy of my own mind, has in the end brought me back into it."



Booklist, April 1, 2004, Ruby Olson, review of Keeping My Name, p. 1342; January 1, 2005, review of Keeping My Name, p. 768.

Dark Horse, summer, 2005, Kathleen McDermott, review of Keeping My Name, p. 92.

Hudson Review, winter, 2005, R.S. Gwynn, review of Keeping My Name, p. 685.

Poetry, February, 2005, Brian Phillips, review of Keeping My Name, p. 403.


Poems Daily, http://www.poems.com/ (July 10, 2005), "Catherine Tufariello."

Poem Tree, http://www.poemtree.com/ (July 10, 2005), "Catherine Tufariello."

University of Portland Web site, http://lewis.up.edu/ (July 10, 2005), "Catherine Tufariello."

Valparaiso University Web site, http://www.valpo.edu/ (July 10, 2005), "Catherine Tufariello."