Kwame Dawes

Photo by Eliza Griffiths.

African Diasporic Literature

Anyone seriously interested in understanding contemporary Jamaican live and literature must encounter reggae as a cultural phenomenon that has engaged the spiritual, political, social, erotic, and racial dynamic of Jamaican society. Understanding reggae’s role in the word today is to understanding the complexity and post-modernist reality of the popular culture in the late twentieth century. For Kwame Dawes reggae is a lens through which to examine the cultural, political and social development of Caribbean society and with which to encounter the larger world. As a writer, Dawes has found an aesthetic grounding in reggae music. However, his interest in reggae extends to his scholarly work which argues that any reading of contemporary Caribbean literature can not be done effectively without a rasp of reggae music. His lectures and seminars on reggae (which he has conducted in colleges and universities around the world) constitute an engaging introduction to the range and complexity of reggae music and a rigorous exploration of its position as a defining aesthetic force. Dawes seeks to demonstrate that reggae artists are some of the most astute and gifted poets and polemicists to have emerged in the Caribbean in the last forty years. Kwame Dawes is an expert on the music of Bob Marley and his books on reggae and reggae’s impact on Caribbean literature speak to his fascination with this subject. His lectures and talks are a fitting introduction to the manner in which popular culture is fitting matter for serious scholarship.

The fact is that Caribbean poets have generated a significant body of interesting work that is worthy of critical attention. Kwame Dawes’ introductions to Caribbean poetry allow him to expose others to the work of poets that have been giving voice to the landscape language and personalities of the Caribbean for decades. His books Talk Yuh Talk: Interviews with CaribbeanPoets and Wheel and Come Again: An Anthology of Reggae Poems, along with his numerous essays and reviews on the work of Caribbean poets, form the basis of his lectures and seminars on Caribbean poetry.

In these lectures he traces the aesthetic and formal concerns of the poets from the region and does so by closely examining the poetry of some of the regions most important poets.

Jamaica Open Book

 “The poet's language is vivid and visceral; his courage and honesty blaze a path in poem after poem. This is the music of survival and transcendence. Indeed, the poetry of Kwame Dawes makes the impossible possible.”Martin Espada



Reggae Aesthetics

Anyone seriously interested in understanding contemporary Jamaican live and literature must encounter reggae as a cultural phenomenon that has engaged the spiritual, political, social, erotic, and racial dynamic of Jamaican society.  Understanding reggae's role in the word today is to understanding the complexity and post-modernist reality of the popular culture in the late twentieth century. For Kwame Dawes reggae is a lens through which to examine the cultural, political and social development of Caribbean society and with which to encounter the larger world. As a writer, Dawes has found an aesthetic grounding in reggae music. However, his interest in reggae extends to his scholarly work which argues that any reading of contemporary Caribbean literature can not be done effectively without a rasp of reggae music. His lectures and seminars on reggae (which he has  conducted in colleges and universities around the world) constitute an engaging introduction to the range and complexity of reggae music and a rigorous exploration of its position as a defining aesthetic force. Dawes seeks to demonstrate that reggae artists are some of the most astute and gifted poets and polemicists to have emerged in the Caribbean in the last forty years. Kwame Dawes is an expert on the music of Bob Marley and his books on reggae and reggae's impact on Caribbean literature speak to his fascination with this subject. His lectures and talks are a fitting introduction to the manner in which popular culture is fitting matter for serious scholarship.

Poetry Workshops

Kwame Dawes conducts workshops in the writing and appreciation of poetry for writers at all levels of their development. He has led workshops throughout the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. In 2002 he led workshops with the Arvon Foundation, Poetry International and the Poetry School in the UK, he has been a regular workshop leader and tutor for the Spread the Word arts organization in London. Dawes designs workshops according to the needs of a particular group or organization. His workshops approach writing through a series of imaginative exercises that are geared at generating strong poetry.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Kwame is a Chancellor Professor of English at the University of Nebraska where he teaches post colonial literature and theory, African American Literature, and Caribbean Literature, and where he is a member of the creative writing program at UNL.

Prairie Schooner

Kwame is the Glenna Luschel Editor of Prairie Schooner an eighty five year old quarterly featuring the best poetry, fiction, non fiction and reviews from the US and abroad. PS’s new innovations include a lively website, an online transnational e-feature Fusion, a dynamic blog presence, and a collaboration with The African Poetry Book Series and Fund. PS runs an annual Book Prize

African Poetry Book Fund

Kwame is the founding Series Editor of the African Poetry Book Fund and Series. The APBF Publishes four new books if Poetry from Africa each year while running the Sillerman first book prize for African Poets and partnering with the Brunel University African Poetry Prize.


kwamedawes.com “Majestic is the word that comes to mind reading the finely wrought poems of Kwame Dawes...a sublime talent is needed to fashion poems of such capacious grace and energy." Terrance Hayes

Calabash International Literary Festival

Kwame is a co-founder along with Colin Channer and Justine Henzell of the Calabash International Literary Festival Trust, whose mission is to promote the literary arts of the Caribbean through festivals, workshops, seminars and publications. For over a decade the Trust has mounted a literary festival that has been dubbed one if the best in the world. Kwame has been programming director of the festival since its inception.

Pacific MFA Program

Kwame is a faculty member at the highly regarded Pacific MFA program in Oregon, which is ranked among the top five low residency programs in the country.

Cave Canem

Kwame is a faculty member of Cave Canem, an organization committed to African American poets and poetry. Kwame organized workshops with Cave Canem in the south through a series called Cave South.

Peepal Tree Press

Kwame Dawes is the Associate Poetry Editor of Peepal Tree Books where he acquires and edits the best in Caribbean Poetry. Peepal Tree Press is the leading publisher of Caribbean Literature today. Kwame also edits the fledgling drama series of Peepal Tree Press.

South Carolina Poetry Book Series

Kwame is the founding editor of the South Carolina Poetry Book Series which is published by the University of South Carolina Press. The series publishes the SC Poetry Book Prize and poetry collections and anthologies by SC poets.

Updated 29/7/2012