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State of Wonder

Kwame Dawes: Form And Structure


Pacific University’s noted MFA program for writing has just wrapped up it’s summer residency. It’s a total immersion for writers who want to go deeper with their craft.

April Baer/Oregon Public Broadcasting

We dropped in for Kwame Dawes‘ lecture to the students in the closing days of the residency. Dawes is a decorated poet. In addition to his teaching post at Pacific University, he’s an English professor at the University of Nebraska, and co-founder of the Calabash Literary Festival in Kingston, Jamaica.

Dawes served up a challenge to his audience: to imagine the possibilities of the poetic line, and leave off with the idea that prose is the essential form of the written word.

After the lecture, we talked to Dawes about line and form, and about fostering diversity in the MFA world. Dawes was born in Ghana and raised in Jamaica. He’s worked in a range of academic environments — from Canada to the Carolinas — and he’s a faculty member of Cave Canem, an organization committed to African American poets and poetry.

Dawes also read for us. Here’s “Four Songs for Bernice” reflecting on a character created by the playwright August Wilson.

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