Winner, Hollis Summers Poetry Prize
Kwame Dawes is one of the premiere reggae poets of our time. A musician, actor, scholar, and writer with roots in Ghana, the Caribbean, and Canada, Dawes is one of those rare artists who can move from lyrics to poetry in a single beat. In this new collection of poetry suffused with raw sensuality and a reggae aesthetic, Dawes presents a collision of sounds, tensions, and rhythms. Drawing deeply on his experiences in Africa, the Caribbean, Canada, England, and the American South, Dawes seeds his poems with questions of inheritance and "hieroglyphs of belonging. "
His portrait of an old man on a tropical beach is shaded with memories of colder places. In the 11-page title poem, "a dialect of ire" unfolding like "the hung man dangling/from a live oak," Dawes transforms the poetry of protest into a compassionate search for the "dusty graves" of his ancestors, insisting that his readers look beneath "affinities of skin, sin and suffering" to the roots of a brutal inheritance. In "Excursion to Port Royal," he confronts the abject hunger of history.
Like Dawes's earlier work, the poems in Midland treat the mysteries of displacement, loss, and belonging. Now, he has added to this mix the slavery upon which the American South was built and which continues to haunt it today. Midland is Dawes's seventh poetry collection and the first to be published simultaneously in Canada and the US. Prior to publication, it was awarded the Hollis Summers Poetry Prize from Ohio University Press.
Kwame Dawes is truly a poet with an international voice and a burgeoning international reputation. Dawes was born in Ghana of Jamaican parents and grew up in Jamaica. He spent time as a child in England, and later studied and taught at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton. He is the founder and lead singer of Ujaama, a reggae band that reunited in 2000 to open the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival in Fredericton. Now a professor of post-colonial literature at the University of South Carolina, Dawes is a frequent presence on the Canadian cultural scene as a consultant on race relations and the arts, and as a commentator on CBC Radio. Dawes's first collection of poetry, Progeny of Air, won England's Forward Poetry Prize in 1994. Since then, he has published five collections, including the widely praised Resisting the Anomie. Kwame Dawes is also the editor of Talk Yuh Talk, a collection of interviews with Caribbean poets, and Wheel and Come Again, the landmark anthology of reggae poetry.
"The one African diasporic poet par excellence? It's Kwame Dawes. "
— George Elliott Clarke
"He is young, highly original and intelligent, possessing a poetic sensibility that is rooted and sound, unshakable and unstoppable, both in its vibrancy and direction. He writes poetry as it ought to be written. "
"Full of passion. .. Dawes infuses a sense of richness in even the smallest image or idea. Every line is full and powerful without exception. .. These are not just the thoughts of a single individual but thoughtful works that can speak to many different people in profound ways. .. This book will inspire. "