Kwame Dawes

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Kwame Dawes
Dawes at Split This Rock, 2018
Dawes at Split This Rock, 2018
BornKwame Senu Neville Dawes
(1962-07-28) 28 July 1962 (age 61)
OccupationPoet, documentary writer, editor, critic
EducationJamaica College; University of the West Indies; University of New Brunswick
ParentsSophia and Neville Dawes

Kwame Senu Neville Dawes (born 28 July 1962) is a Ghanaian poet, actor, editor, critic, musician,[1] and former Louis Frye Scudder Professor of Liberal Arts at the University of South Carolina. He is now Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln[2][3] and editor-in-chief at Prairie Schooner magazine.[4][5]

New York-based Poets & Writers named Dawes as a recipient of the 2011 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award, which recognises writers who have given generously to other writers or to the broader literary community.[6] In 2022, he was named "literary Person of the Year" by African literary blog Brittle Paper, an honour that "recognizes an individual who has done outstanding work in advancing the African literary industry and culture in the given year".[7]


Dawes at a reading in 2010.

Early years and education[edit]

Kwame Dawes was born in Ghana in 1962 to Sophia and Neville Dawes, and in 1971 the family moved to Kingston, Jamaica, when Neville Dawes became deputy director of the Institute of Jamaica.[8] Growing up in Jamaica, Kwame Dawes attended Jamaica College and the University of the West Indies at Mona, where he received a BA degree in 1983.[8] He studied and taught in New Brunswick, Canada, on a Commonwealth Scholarship.[9] In 1992 he earned a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of New Brunswick,[8] where he was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, The Brunswickan.


From 1992 to 2012, Dawes taught at the University of South Carolina (USC) as a Professor in English, Distinguished Poet in Residence, Director of the South Carolina Poetry Initiative, and Director of the USC Arts Institute. He was also the faculty advisor for the publication Yemassee. He won the 1994 Forward Poetry Prize, Best First Collection for Progeny of Air. He is currently a Chancellor's Professor of English and Editor-in-Chief of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a faculty member of Cave Canem, and a teacher in the Pacific MFA program in Oregon.

Dawes collaborated with San Francisco-based writer and composer Kevin Simmonds on Wisteria: Twilight Songs from the Swamp Country, which debuted at London's Royal Festival Hall in 2006, and featured sopranos Valetta Brinson and Valerie Johnson.

In 2009, Dawes won an Emmy Award in the category of New Approaches to News & Documentary Programming: Arts, Lifestyle & Culture.[10] His project documented HIV/AIDS in Jamaica, interspersed with poetry, photography by Andre Lambertson, and music by Kevin Simmonds. The website[11] is the culmination of his project.[12][13] Dawes is director of the Calabash International Literary Festival, a yearly event in Jamaica.[14]

In 2012, the African Poetry Book Fund arose, with Dawes as the founding editor.[15] He and five other internationally regarded poets serve on the reading board to annually publish the winning manuscript of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, a new and selected/collected volume by a major living African poet, the New-Generation African Poets Chapbook Boxset (comprising collected chapbooks of emerging writers, with special emphasis on those who have not yet published a full-length collection), and contemporary works of new poetry by select African poets (solicited and unsolicited manuscripts).[16]

In 2016, the event Respect Due: Symposium on the Work of Kwame Dawes featured participants including Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, Shara McCallum, Vladimir Lucien, Ishion Hutchinson, Linton Kwesi Johnson, John Robert Lee, and Lorna Goodison.[17] Goodison in her contribution described him by saying: "...he is the embodiment of the African Jamaican, born as he was of Ghanaian and Jamaican parents, and he moves with ease and authority between multiple worlds. Everything about Kwame’s art is multi-dimensional."[18]

In 2018, Dawes was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.[19] In 2019 he was one of the eight recipients of the Windham-Campbell Prize, alongside Ishion Hutchinson (Jamaica), Danielle McLaughlin (Ireland), David Chariandy (Canada), Raghu Karnad (India), Rebecca Solnit (US), Young Jean Lee (US) and Patricia Cornelius (Australia).[20]

In 2021, Dawes succeeded Ted Kooser as host of the news column American Life in Poetry.[21]

Awards and honours[edit]




Short stories[edit]

Non fiction[edit]



  • Wheel and Come Again: An anthology of Reggae Poetry. Goose Lane Editions. 1998.
  • Twenty South Carolina Poetry Fellows. Hub City Press. 2005. ISBN 978-1891885-39-6.
  • Red: Contemporary Black British Poetry. Peepal Tree Press. 2009. ISBN 978-1-84523-129-3.
  • Fugue and Other Writings. Peepal Tree Press. 2009. ISBN 978-1845231-09-5.
  • (with Colin Channer) So Much Things to Say: 100 Poets from the First Ten Years of the Calabash International Literary Festival. Akashic Books. 2010. ISBN 978-1-936070-07-7.
  • Home Is Where: An Anthology of African American Poetry from the Carolinas. Hub City Press. 2011. ISBN 978-1891885-80-8.
  • (with Jeremy Poynting) Hold Me To an Island: Caribbean Place: An Anthology of Writing. Peepal Tree Press. 2011. ISBN 978-1-84523-163-7.
  • Jubilation!: Poems Celebrating 50 Years of Jamaican Independence. Peepal Tree Press. 2012. ISBN 978-1845232-04-7.
  • Seven Strong: Winners of the South Carolina Poetry Book Prize, 2006–2012. University of South Carolina Press. 2012. ISBN 978-1-61117-093-1.
  • (with Marianne Kunkel and James Englehardt) The Prairie Schooner Book Prize: Tenth Anniversary Reader. University of Nebraska Press. 2013. ISBN 978-0803240-43-8.
  • (with Marjory Wentworth) Seeking: Poetry and Prose Inspired by the Art of Jonathan Green. University of South Carolina Press. 2013. ISBN 978-1611170-92-4.
  • (with Chris Abani) Eight New Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Boxset. Akashic Books/African Poetry Book Fund. 2015. ISBN 978-1617753-55-8.
  • (With Chris Abani) New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set – Tatu. Akashic Books/African Poetry Book Fund. 2016. ISBN 978-1617754-51-7.
  • Kwame Dawes, ed. (2016). When the Rewards Can Be So Great: Essays on Writing and the Writing Life. Pacific University Press. ISBN 978-0988482-74-6.
  • Kwame Dawes, ed. (2016). A Bloom of Stones: A Tri-lingual Anthology of Haitian Poems After the Earthquake. Peepal Tree Press. ISBN 978-1845231-92-7.
  • (with Matthew Shenoda) Bearden's Odyssey: Poets Respond to the Art of Romare Bearden. Northwestern University Press. 2017. ISBN 978-0810134-89-8.
  • (with Chris Abani) New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set – Nne. Akashic Books/African Poetry Book Fund. 2017. ISBN 978-1617755-40-8.
  • (with Chris Abani) New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set – Tano. Akashic Books/African Poetry Book Fund. 2018. ISBN 978-1617756-23-8.

South Carolina Poetry Book Prize[edit]

Dawes established the South Carolina Poetry Initiative's annual book prize competition, and edits the winning manuscripts.

African Poetry Book Fund[edit]

Dawes is the founding editor of the African Poetry Book Fund (APBF). The series itself was started in 2014 and established through the generosity of Laura Sillerman and Robert F. X. Sillerman. The goal of the APBF is to promote and publicize "the poetic arts through its book series, contests, workshops, and seminars and through its collaborations with publishers, festivals, booking agents, colleges, universities, conferences and all other entities that share an interest in the poetic arts of Africa."[33]

  • (Co-editor with Chris Abani) New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set – Tano. Akashic Books. 2018. ISBN 978-1617756-23-8.
  • (with Chris Abani) New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set – Nne. Akashic Books. 2017. ISBN 978-1617755-40-8.
  • New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set – Tatu. Akashic Books. 2016. ISBN 978-1-61775-451-7.
  • (with Chris Abani) Eight New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set. Akashic Books. 2015. ISBN 978-1-61775-355-8.
  • (with Chris Abani) Seven New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set. Slapering Hol Press. 2014. ISBN 978-1-94064-658-9.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Kwame Dawes" Archived 8 January 2011 at the Wayback Machine, British Council – Literature.
  2. ^ "Kwame Dawes". Department of English, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Retrieved 1 February 2023.
  3. ^ "Endowed Professors and Chairs", College of Arts and Sciences, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
  4. ^ Kwame Dawes page, University of South Carolina.
  5. ^ "SC Book Festival | A New Chapter in Essay Writing".
  6. ^ Writers for Writers Awards, Editor’s Award.
  7. ^ "African Literary Person of the Year". Brittle Paper. Retrieved 28 December 2022.
  8. ^ a b c Seeger, Roy, "Dawes, Kwame (b. 1962)", in Tom Mack (ed.), The South Carolina Encyclopedia Guide to South Carolina Writers, University of South Carolina Press, 2014.
  9. ^ Kwame Dawes page Archived 15 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Peepal Tree Press.
  10. ^ Kyzer, Kevin (23 September 2009). "USC's Kwame Dawes Wins Emmy". Free Times.
  11. ^ HOPE: Living & Loving with HIV in Jamaica.
  12. ^ "Professor Kwame Dawes wins Emmy for HIV project", Jamaica Observer, 23 September 2009.
  13. ^ Holleman, Joey (9 January 2011). "Haiti, through a poet's eyes". The State. Archived from the original on 15 January 2011. Retrieved 22 February 2011.
  14. ^ Kwame Dawes biography, Poetry Foundation.
  15. ^ "About ABPF". African Poetry Book Fund. Retrieved 1 February 2023.
  16. ^ "Publish with ABPF". African Poetry Book Fund. Retrieved 1 February 2023.
  17. ^ "Respect Due: Symposium on the Work of Kwame Dawes". Poetry International. 9 June 2016. Retrieved 29 April 2023.
  18. ^ Goodison, Lorna. "Respect Due To Kwame". Poetry International. Retrieved 29 April 2023.
  19. ^ "Kwame Dawes",
  20. ^ Obi-Young, Otosirieze (14 March 2019), "Professor Kwame Dawes Awarded $165,000 Windham-Campbell Prize, Alongside Seven Others", Brittle Paper.
  21. ^ KHGI (9 September 2020). "Kwame Dawes named successor for national "American Life in Poetry" column". KHGI. Retrieved 3 November 2020.
  22. ^ "Kwame Dawes". Windham–Campbell Literature Prizes. 12 March 2019. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  23. ^ Anuonye, Darlington Chibueze (22 December 2022). "Prof. Kwame Dawes is Brittle Paper's 2022 Literary Person of the Year". Brittle Paper. Retrieved 24 December 2022.
  24. ^ "Resisting the Anomie" at Amazon.
  25. ^ "Bruised Totems" at University of Wisconsin Digital Collections.
  26. ^ "I Saw Your Face" at Amazon.
  27. ^ "Wisteria" at Amazon.
  28. ^ "Impossible Flying", Amazon.
  29. ^ "Hope's Hospice and Other Poems (Peepal Tree Caribbean Poetry)", Amazon.
  30. ^ "Speak from Here to There", Amazon.
  31. ^ "City of Bones: A Testament (Triquarterly Books)", Amazon.
  32. ^ "Natural Mysticism: Towards a New Reggae Aesthetic" at Amazon.
  33. ^ "Support ABPF". African Poetry Book Fund. Retrieved 1 February 2023.

External links[edit]