Kwame Dawes

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Kwame DawesBorn in Ghana and raised in Jamaica, Dawes’ work is “profoundly influenced by the rhythms and textures of that lush place” and with reggae music. He has published fifteen collections of poetry, including Back of Mount Peace (2009); Hope’s Hospice (2009); Wisteria, finalist for the Patterson Memorial Prize; Impossible Flying (2007); and Gomer’s Song (2007).

Actor, playwright and novelist, he won an Emmy for, an interactive site based on his Pulitzer Center project, HOPE: Living and loving with AIDS in Jamaica. Dawes is Distinguished Poet in Residence, Louis Frye Scudder Professor of Liberal Arts and founder and executive director of the South Carolina Poetry Initiative. He is the director of the University of South Carolina Arts Institute and the programming director of the Calabash International Literary Festival, which takes place in Jamaica in May of each year.

Tornado Child

For Rosalie Richardson

I am a tornado child.
I come like a swirl of black and darken up your day;
I whip it all into my womb, lift you and your things,
carry you to where you’ve never been, and maybe,
if I feel good, I might bring you back, all warm and scared,
heart humming wild like a bird after early sudden flight.

I am a tornado child.
I tremble at the elements. When thunder rolls my womb
trembles, remembering the tweak of contractions
that tightened to a wail when my mother pushed me out
into the black of tornado night.

I am a tornado child,
you can tell us from far, by the crazy of our hair;
couldn’t tame it if we tried. Even now I tie a bandanna
to silence the din of anarchy in these coir-thick plaits.

I am a tornado child
born in the whirl of clouds; the centre crumbled,
then I came. My lovers know the blast of my chaotic giving;
they tremble at the whip of my supple thighs;
you cross me at your peril, I swallow light
when the warm of anger lashes me into a spin,
the pine trees bend to me swept in my gyrations.

I am a tornado child.
When the spirit takes my head, I hurtle into the vacuum
of white sheets billowing and paint a swirl of color,
streaked with my many songs.

From Midland (Ohio University Press, 2001)



Reading | February 22, 2011

Black Archipelago: Writing and Performance from the African Diaspora | April 14, 2005
Donna Hemans, Merle Collins, Derek Walcott, Linton Kwesi Johnson, M. Nourbese Philip, Nathaniel Mackey, and Kwame Dawes Panel

Panel: Part 1

Panel: Part 2

Black Archipelago: Writing and Performance from the African Diaspora | April 12, 2005
Kwame Dawes and Nathaniel Mackey Reading

Black Archipelago: Writing and Performance from the African Diaspora | April 12-20, 2005
Merle Collins, Kwame Dawes, Donna Hemans, and Mark McMorris Reading