10th anniversary celebration of MSU’s ‘Writer-In-Residence’ program heralds award-winning poet, playwright

Contact: Sarah Nicholas

Portrait of Kwame Dawes
Kwame Dawes (Photo Submitted)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—International award-winning poet, playwright and author Kwame Dawes brings literary depth and insight to Mississippi State as writer-in-residence, an annual program hosted by the College of Arts and Sciences’ Institute for the Humanities and the Department of English. This year the program celebrates its 10th anniversary.

Dawes will spend Feb. 27-March 1 engaging with students, staff and faculty, hosting a writing workshop and reading from his critically lauded published works. 

Dawes’ public reading—free and open to the public—will be held Feb. 29 at 7:30 p.m. in Taylor Auditorium of MSU’s McCool Hall. It also will be livestreamed on the College of Arts and Sciences Facebook page: https://fb.me/e/5jYwSxIkq.

Dawes’ 2017 publication “City of Bones: A Testament” (TriQuarterly Books, an imprint of Northwestern University Press) and 2019’s “Nebraska” (University of Nebraska Press) will be available for purchase at the book signing after the reading.

A free virtual writing workshop, also open to the public, will be offered Feb. 28 at 5:30 p.m. for anyone who enjoys writing and wants to glean insight from an accomplished author. Participants need to register in advance at www.ih.msstate.edu to receive the Zoom workshop link. 

“This marks the 10th year of the writer-in-residence program, which was initiated by Dr. Shalyn Claggett of the English department in 2014. It is a thriving program that has brought our students, faculty and wider community in direct contact with some of the most exciting, energizing and thoughtful writers of our day,” said Julia Osman, director of the Institute for the Humanities and an associate professor of history.

“In addition to widening our scope of literature and poetry, the writer-in-residence program helps each of us contemplate the human condition and walk around the world in another’s shoes,” said Osman, who chairs the program in conjunction with the English department. “Professor Dawes’ poetry and prose combine different regions, cultures and language conventions that help us contemplate what it means to be ‘home.’”

Author of 20 books of poetry and numerous other publications, Dawes is the Glenna Luschei Editor of ‘Prairie Schooner’ at the University of Nebraska, where he is a professor of English. He is a teacher in the Pacific University MFA Program in Oregon and co-founder and programming director of Jamaica’s Calabash International Literary Festival.

A Ghana native, Dawes spent much of his life in Jamaica and credits the island’s “lush” environment and reggae music as an influence in his writing. An actor, playwright and producer, an accomplished storyteller, broadcaster and former lead singer in Ujamaa—a reggae band—15 of Dawes’ plays have been produced, and he has acted in, directed or produced several himself.

In 2001 he was awarded the Hollis Summers Poetry Prize by Ohio University Press as well as the Pushcart Prize for his long poem “Inheritance,” also selected as part of the anthology celebrating 30 years of Pushcart Prize winners.

Dawes has received the Musgrave Silver Medal for contribution to the arts in Jamaica; a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award; the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award for service to the arts in South Carolina; and a Guggenheim Fellowship for Poetry. He also has been inducted into the South Carolina Academy of Authors. He received a 2009 Emmy award for LiveHopeLove.com, an interactive site based on his Pulitzer Center project HOPE: Living and Loving with AIDS in Jamaica.

The writer-in-residence program is assisted financially by the National Endowment for the Humanities through the Mississippi Humanities Council.

For more details about the College of Arts and Sciences, visit www.cas.msstate.edu.

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