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Photo by Don J. Usner

Kwame Dawes

Photo by Don J. Usner

Kwame Dawes is a writer of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and plays. Born in Ghana in 1962, Dawes spent most of his childhood and early adult life in Jamaica. As a poet, he is profoundly influenced by the rhythms and textures of that lush place, citing his “spiritual, intellectual, and emotional engagement with reggae music.” His book Bob Marley: Lyrical Genius remains the most authoritative study of the lyrics of Bob Marley.

Dawes has also published twenty collections of poetry. His most recent titles include City of Bones: A Testament (Northwestern University Press, 2017); Duppy Conqueror (Copper Canyon Press, 2013); Wheels (2011); Back of Mount Peace (2009); Hope’s Hospice (2009); Wisteria: Poems From the Swamp Country (2006), finalist for the Patterson Memorial Prize; Impossible Flying (2007); and Gomer’s Song (2007). He has also published two novels: Bivouac and She’s Gone, winner of the 2008 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction. In 2007 he released a memoir, A Far Cry From Plymouth Rock: A Personal Narrative, called “a poet’s eloquent meditation on the complexities of history, race and the oft-broken promise of America,” by Geoff Dyer.

His many awards include The Forward Prize for Poetry for his first book, Progeny of Air, (1994), The Hollis Summers Prize for Poetry (Midland, 2002), a Pushcart Prize (2001), Hurston/ Wright Legacy Award for his debut collection She’s Gone (2008), the Poets and Writers Barnes and Noble Writers for Writers Award (2011), and a Guggenheim Fellowship for Poetry (2012). In 2019, he received the Wyndham-Cambell Literature Prize in Poetry.

Dawes is Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner and teaches at the University of Nebraska and the Pacific MFA Program. He is also Director of the African Poetry Book Fund and Artistic Director of the Calabash International Literary Festival.