Kwame Dawes

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Kwame Dawes
Kwame Dawes at the Poe Room 2012
Born (1962-07-28)28 July 1962
Occupation poet, documentary writer, editor, critic
Nationality American
Education University of the West Indies

Kwame Senu Neville Dawes (born 28 July 1962, Ghana) is an Emmy award-winning 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] and editor-in-chief at Prairie Schooner magazine.[3][4] 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.[5]


Kwame Dawes at a reading in 2010.

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.[6] 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.[6] He studied and taught in New Brunswick, Canada, on a Commonwealth Scholarship.[7] In 1992 he earned a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of New Brunswick,[6] where he was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, The Brunswickan.

From 1992 to 2012 he taught at the University of South Carolina 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.[8] His project documented HIV/AIDS in Jamaica, interspersed with poetry, photography by Andre Lambertson, and music by Kevin Simmonds. The website "" is the culmination of his project.[9][10] He is director of the Calabash International Literary Festival, a yearly event in Jamaica.[11]

The poetry collection Speak from Here to There, was co-written with John Kinsella and was recently published by Peepal Tree Press this year. Dawes also has a poetry book titled City of Bones which is forthcoming from the Northwestern University Press.




Short stories[edit]

Non fiction[edit]



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

South Carolina Poetry Book Prize[edit]

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

  • Julia Koets (2012). Hold like Owls. University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 978-1-61117-084-9. 
  • Jennifer Pournelle (2011). Excavations: A City Cycle. University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 978-1-61117-093-1. 
  • Worthy Evans (2010). Green Revolver. University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 978-1-57003-932-4. 
  • DéLana R. A. Dameron (2009). How God Ends Us. University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 978-1-57003-832-7. 
  • Ed Madden (2008). Signals. University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 978-1-57003-750-4. 
  • Ray McManus (2007). Driving Through the Country Before You Are Born. University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 978-1-57003-702-3. 
  • Susan Meyers (2006). Keep and Give Away. University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 978-1-57003-670-5. 


  1. ^ "Kwame Dawes", British Council – Literature.
  2. ^ University of Nebraska-Lincoln blog
  3. ^ Kwame Dawes page, University of South Carolina.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Writers for Writers Awards, Editor’s Award.
  6. ^ a b c Roy Seeger, "Dawes, Kwame (b. 1962)", in Tom Mack (ed.), The South Carolina Encyclopedia Guide to South Carolina Writers, University of South Carolina Press, 2014.
  7. ^ Kwame Dawes page, Peepal Tree Press.
  8. ^ Kevin Kyzer, "USC’s Kwame Dawes Wins Emmy", Free Times, 23 September 2009.
  9. ^ "Professor Kwame Dawes wins Emmy for HIV project", Jamaica Observer, 23 September 2009.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Kwame Dawes biography, Poetry Foundation
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External links[edit]