Kwame Dawes, a Ghanaian Jamaican poet, has been selected as a finalist for the $50,000 Neustadt International Prize for Literature for 2022. The prize is presented by Oklahoma-based World Literature Today to recognize a writer’s “significant contributions to world literature.” The winner of the Neustadt Prize has often gone on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Dawes was chosen on the basis of “Prophets,” which is considered representative of his work. In addition to the $50,000 prize, the winner will be presented with a silver replica of an eagle feather, a prize certificate, and a festival hosted in their honor.
Born in Ghana and raised in Jamaica, Dawes is the author of 22 poetry collections, the most recent of which is “Nebraska: Poem,” which was released in 2019. He is also the author of fiction and nonfiction works and plays. As the co-founder of the Calabash International Literary Festival, Dawes frequently collaborates with musicians and artists to create performance pieces based on his poems. Kwame Dawes was awarded the Windham-Campbell Prize for Poetry and is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. He is also the Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of Nebraska and the Glenna Luschei Editor of “Prairie Schooner.”
The Neustadt International Prize for Literature was established in 2003 and is endowed by the Neustadt family. According to Robert Con Davis-Undiano, executive director of “World Literature Today,” the 10-member jury consists of top-tier international writers who are charged with assessing the work of their peers. Davis-Undiano believes that literature is critical to the ability to identify what makes us human, and the work of the Neustadt jury continues a tradition of paying “a contemporary tribute to the place literature has in our lives.” The winner will be announced on October 26, 2021 at the 2021 Neustadt Literary Festival, an event hosted jointly by World Literature Today and the University of Oklahoma.
In addition to Dawes, nine other finalists were chosen and include Jean-Pierre Balpe of Francefor “Herbier Anglais;” Natalie Diaz of the United States for “Postcolonial Love Poem;” Boris Boubacar Diop of Senegal for “Murambi: The Book of Bones;” Michális Ganás of Greece for “A Greek Ballad: Selected Poems;” Micheline Aharonian Marcom of the United States for “Three Apples Fell from Heaven;” Naomi Shihab Nye of the United States for “The Tiny Journalist;” Ludmilla Petrushevskaya of Russia for “There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby;” Cristina Rivera Garza of Mexico for “The Iliac Crest;” and Reina María Rodríguez of Cuba for “The Winter Garden Photograph.”
Previous winners of the prize include Ismail Kadare, Czesław Miłosz, Gabriel García Márquez, and Edwidge Danticat.
Photo – Kwame Dawes Facebook