Kwame Dawes

Poetry

2019

Ghana/Jamaica/United States

Kwame Dawes’s visceral, memorable, and urgent lyricism results in a poetry of compassion, moral seriousness, and depth that resonates across continents.

Kwame Dawes is a critic, editor, and poet born in Ghana and raised in Jamaica. The author of twenty books of poetry and numerous other works of fiction and nonfiction, Dawes is profoundly influenced by the aesthetic, intellectual, and political traditions of the Afro-Caribbean diaspora. His debut poetry collection Progeny of Air (1994) dramatizes issues of home and migration, innovation and tradition, freedom and entrapment. He has continued to investigate and deconstruct these binaries in later work, revisioning the Biblical story of Esau and Jacob in Jamaica (Jacko Jacobus [1996]), for instance, and imaginatively explores racism and segregation in mid-twentieth century South Carolina (Wisteria [2006]). Dawes is a daring ventriloquist with a polymathic intelligence, and his expansive body of work shows lyric mastery, narrative force, and a profound sense of the historical and geographic roots of poetry. Among his many awards and honors are the Forward Prize for Poetry (1994), a Pushcart Prize (2001), the Musgrave Medal (2004), and a Guggenheim Fellowship (2012). He A founder of the African Poetry Book Fund, co-founder of the Calabash International Literary Festival, and a former Chancellor of the American Academy of Poets, he is currently the Glenna Luschei Editor-in-chief of Prairie Schooner and a Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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This award was a surprise to me, and a pleasant one especially because it honors poetry. It is gratifying because in its short period of existence the Windham-Campbell Prize has shown itself to be an award that seeks to have international importance, and that celebrates what its judges deem literary excellence. I have little doubt about the impact that this award will have on my career as a writer.
Kwame Dawes