Saturday, April 12, 2008

Poems: Kwame Dawes

Late in 2006 I posted about a reading poet Kwame Dawes gave at Naïeveté Studios, and also referenced him when I wrote about poet Uche Nduka, whom I finally got to meet at this year's AWP conference. Kwame (b. 1962-) whose site bills him as "the busiest man in literature today," is a remarkable figure on many levels, not least because he manages to do contribute a larger portion of his time to community-based activities, not only in South Carolina, where he lives and teaches, but also in Jamaica, where he grew up.

One of the important and extraordinary projects in Jamaica he's been involved with for several years now is Hope: Living & Loving with HIV Jamaica, commissioned by the Pulitzer Center, which describes its various components.

Poet and writer Kwame Dawes travels to Jamaica to explore the experience of people living with HIV/AIDS and to examine the ways in which the disease has shaped their lives. The journey brings him in touch with people who tell their stories, share their lives and teach him about resilience, hope and possibility in the face of despair. Some are living with the disease; others have committed their lives to HIV/AIDS care.

Hope: Living and Loving with HIV in Jamaica is a multi-media reporting project: an extended essay by Kwame Dawes for The Virginia Quarterly Review (Spring 2008), two short documentaries for the public-television program Foreign Exchange, a collection of poetry inspired by his reporting, a performance of the poems set to music by composer Kevin Simmonds, and, an interactive web presentation that synthesizes audio and text versions of the poems, the Foreign Exchange videos, additional video interviews, the music, and photography by Joshua Cogan.

I can't copy any of the poems directly, so please click on the image below to read them and also hear Kwame Dawes read them, see the accompanying photographs, and learn about the people, stories and experiences behind them.

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