Inspiring Ghanaian poet and editor Kwame Dawes is one of five honorees for the 2021 PEN America Literary Awards for Career Achievement. The honorees, who cut across diverse fields of performance, poetry and theatre, include Canadian poet Anne Carson, American performance artist and playwright Daniel Alexander Jones, American poet Pierre Joris, and American filmmaker and director of Oscar-nominated Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom George C. Wolfe.

Dawes received the PEN/Nora Magid Award for Magazine Editing (valued at $2,500) for his editorial role at Prairie Schooner. The award honours “a magazine editor whose high literary standards and taste have, throughout their career, contributed significantly to the excellence of the publication they edit.”

Prairie Schooner was founded in 1926 as a quarterly journal at the University of Nebraska Lincoln. Kwame Dawes assumed editorial leadership in 2011, presiding over its growth for the next decade. African authors since published in the journal include Romeo Oriogun, Cheswayo Mphanza and Joshua Chizoma.

Read the judge’s citation below:

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“Born in Ghana and raised in Jamaica, Kwame Dawes serves as the Glenna Luschei Editor of the journal Prairie Schooner and is an editor for the African Poetry Book Series at the University of Nebraska, where he serves as the Chancellor’s Professor of English. Dawes is an active literary advocate for literature around the world: he cofounded and serves as the artistic director of the Calabash International Literary Festival, which takes place in Jamaica. Dawes has also worked as an HIV/AIDS advocate in this country and in Jamaica, and is the author of several books of poetry.

“A bold and visionary editor, he has both proved the ongoing validity of the literary journal and taken it to new places. His publication, Prairie Schooner, constantly demonstrates excellence and innovation. For a decade it has consistently published work that is rigorous, aesthetically diverse, and compelling. Nine years ago, Dawes oversaw an expansion into podcasts, with Air Schooner.

“At a time when we constantly hear laments for the death of reading at the hands of technology, Dawes’s work suggests that with enough energy and imagination, the landscape can be rearranged. He is the perfect recipient of the PEN/Nora Magid Award for Magazine Editing—an editor whose commitment and taste have added vital force to American and World Literature.”

Go here for more on the honorees.

Congratulations to Kwame Dawes.