Kwame Dawes


Biography of Kwame Dawes

Kwame Senu Neville Dawes (born 28 July 1962, Ghana) is a poet, actor, editor, critic, musician, 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 and editor-in-chief at the Prairie Schooner. New York-based Poets & Writers has 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.

Kwame Dawes at a reading in 2010.

He grew up in Jamaica where he attended Jamaica College and the University of the West Indies at Mona. He studied and taught in New Brunswick, Canada on a Commonwealth Scholarship. As a PhD student at the University of New Brunswick, he was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, The Brunswickan.

From 1992–2012 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 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. His project documented HIV/AIDS in Jamaica, interspersed with poetry, photography by Andre Lambertson, and music by Kevin Simmonds. The website "Livehopelove.com" is the culmination of his project. He is director of the Calabash International Literary Festival, a yearly event in Jamaica.

Duppy Conqueror, Dawes' most recent book of poetry (Copper Canyon Press, 2013), joins new works of poetry with selections from fifteen previous books.

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For August Wilson

No one quarrels here, no one has learned
the yell of discontent—instead, here in Sumter
we learn to grow silent, build a stone
of resolve, learn to nod, learn to close
in the flame of shame and anger
in our hearts, learn to petrify it so,
and the more we quiet our ire,

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