Born in Ghana in 1962, Kwame Dawes spent most of his childhood in Jamaica. As a poet, he is profoundly influenced by the rhythms and textures of that lush place, citing in a recent interview 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.
Kwame Dawes is the author of 12 collections of poetry. Collections include Impossible Flying (Peepal Tree, 2007) and Wisteria (Red Hen, 2006) which has also been set to music by Kevin Simmonds and premiered at the Royal Festival Hall in London England. In January 2007, Akashic Books published his novel She’s Gone. His novel Bivouac and his collection of poems, Back of Mt. Peace, were published by Peepal Tree in December 2009, Wheels in the fall of 2011 and Duppy Conqueror: New and Selected Poems, by Copper Canyon Press in 2013.
His awards include The Forward Poetry Prize, the Hollis Summers Poetry Prize, a Pushcart Prize, the Poetry Business Award, and an Emmy. His nonfiction writing includes the book A Far Cry from Plymouth Rock: A Personal Narrative (Peepal Tree, January 2007). Kwame Dawes, former director of the MFA program at the University of South Carolina, was founder and director of the USC Poetry Initiative between 2000-2011. Between 2005 and 2011 he was the executive director of the University of South Carolina Arts Institute. Since 2008, he has been the associate poetry editor at Peepal Tree Press. Kwame Dawes is the Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner and a Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Dawes is the director of the Calabash International Literary Festival’s Writer’s Workshop and a faculty member of Cave Canem.
Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffith