Kwame Dawes: An Archive of Online Poems

To read, to read closely and be surprised, to study the craft and range a poet can teach us to reach toward, these are some of the deepest gifts that editing gives poets. These gifts become multiplied in the rare example of Kwame Dawes, whose available online publication offers readers 80+ poems to consider and whose craft, the contributors’ essays in this symposium teach us and the poems we gathered confirm, is entwined with an ethical and visionary project.

While exhibiting “an aesthetic which unites body, emotions, and intellect and brings into a single focus the political, the spiritual and the erotic,” the poems also showed us Dawes’ remarkable breadth and consistency: breadth in subject matter, language and form, consistency in the poems’ interrogative diligence and precision. This breadth and precision guided us while arranging the poems—rather than alphabetically or by date—through an exercise of collaging lines from them into a single piece (footnoted below).

We hope this archive offers you, as gathering it did us, an opportunity and space in which to “slow down the blink.”

—Poetry International Staff, with quotes from the work of, respect due, Kwame Dawes

Online Poetry Publications by Kwame Dawes [01]

“Tornado Child” [02],
“Coffee Break.” [03] Poetry Foundation.

“Before You.” Narrative Northeast. [04]

“Rita,” “Hope’s Hospice.” Badilisha Poetry X-Change. [05] [06]

“Slop Bucket” [07],
“Coffin Riders” [08],
“The Gay Olympian Considers an Argument at a Friends and Family Gathering Before Leaving for Sochi,” [09],
“The Wounded Dancer.” Speakeasy, Wall Street Journal. [10]
* Post-publication note: for all of Dawes’ Olympic poetry, see Poetry of the Games. For a categorized list of all of Dawes’ contributions to Speakeasy, see here. Two additional poems from this series—one part of the original archive, one added by special request—appear later in this list .

“Purgatory” [11],
“Outside the Courthouse.” The Missing Slate. [12]

“Détente” [13],
“Seventeen.” Tupelo Quarterly. [14]

“Portmore,” “Making Ends Meet,” “A Vanity,” “Cleaning,” “African Postman.” Universe of Poetry. [15] [16] [17] [18] [19]

“Stop Time.” The Missouri Review. [20]

“What God Says,” “Creek.” Plume. [21] [22]

“Flack,” “If You Know Her,” “The Old Woman on the Road” & “Old Man Under Pecan Tree,” “Pennies,”“Exile: Reading the Sky,” “The Burden,” “Thieving,” “The Transaction,” “Iron.” Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noire 13.2-3 [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] [30] [31] [32] (note: “Man” & “Two Plants” appear in Issue 14.1).

“If You Know Her.” Speakeasy, Wall Street Journal. [33]

“Avoiding the Spirits.” Narrative. [34]

* Added to archive post publication: “Rehearsing Mourning at the Hotel Sankara.” Speakeasy, Wall Street Journal. [88]

“Rituals Before the Poem” [35],
“Among the Dithering Feathers.” Valparaiso Poetry Review. [36]

“Border” [37],
“An Unfinished Life” [38],
“Blossom.” The Normal School. [39]

“Journey Man.” TriQuarterly. [40]

“Rope.” Rattle. [41]

“Parenting.” The Chattahoochee Review. [42]

“Making a Deal” [43],
“In This Saying.” The Kenyon Review. [44]

“Marked,” “Ezekiel, Chapter Twenty-five,” “Faith,” “Elegy for Herouy.” Small Axe. [45] [46] [47] [48]

“Guyana 1966,” “Marriage & Verse,” “Forgetting,” “Hair.” Moko Magazine. [49][50] [51] [52]

“News from Harlem.” Verse Daily, via Hayden’s Ferry Review [53]

“Equations.” The Baffler. [54]

“Fire.” American Poetry Review. [55]

“Light like a Feather, Heavy as Lead.” Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas. [56]

“Tombs,” “Boy in Blue,” “Job,” “Storm,” “Salt,” with photography by Andre Lambertson, in “City of Dust, City of Stones.” Virginia Quarterly Review. [57] [58] [59] [60] [61]

“Fly” [62],
“White Pigeon” [63],
“Prelude” [64],
“Badge” [65],
“Breath” [66],
“Getting High” [67],
“Dumb” [68],
“Heroes” [69],
“Miracle” [70],
“Mother and Child” [71],
“In the Hospital” [72],
in Ashes, with photography by Andre Lambertson, Virginia Quarterly Review.Dea

“Lesson,” “The Idea of Her,” “Time,” “Island Memory.” BOMB. [73] [74] [75] [76]

“Death: Baron Samedi” [77],
from “Impossible Flying” [78],
from “Inheritance, I” [79],
from “Inheritance, VII” [80],
“African Postman,” Poetry International Rotterdam. [81]

“Genocide, Again” [82],
“Gone Fishing.” Ecotone. [83]

“A Good Woman Blues.” Narrative. [84]

“Talk.” Academy of American Poets. [85]

“Death.” Vandal Poem of the Day. [86]

“Horns.” Poetry Magazine. [87]

A part of Respect Due: Symposium on the Work of Kwame Dawes

[01] All memory is fiction
[02] when the warm of anger lashes me into a spin
[03] just like that, in the time
[04] where the road loses its way
[05] raging over the uneasy grave of the rhygin dread;
[06] broken, placid as saints, hobble
[07] their names, the parade of painful loss
[08] where the body loses its sense
[09] because you fear the silence that will consume,
[10] twist and contort to hold a smooth line—
[11] a path to understand the tears
[12] the crowd heaves like breath
[13] waiting to tell a lie, waiting
[14] in storms, the decay of barren soil,
[15] ever glorious. Everything is flat here,
[16] and all them leave is trouble
[17] before my bones take over. For
[18] sometimes you have to wipe
[19] under heavy lids, and your skin tight as leather
[20] eats away at the talc; a body
[21] because of love, and because God says
[22] stare at the opening sky
[23] in this twilight the rain stippling the eastern window
[24] and pray she will come back to you,
[25] touch you and remind you
[26] to keep those spirits where they must
[27] bloom, leap into wild giant
[28] lavender of wisteria. Then you feel
[29] light for a spell, easy in your skin
[30] of the language of the ancestors
[31] back from the grounds in the string
[32] with simple verbs scrawled all over
[33] them forever; you will see the way
[34] when at sunset the congregation gathers
[88] giving bodies, the humanity of our failings, the sweat, the taste of
[35] the meaning of poetry. The poet will beg for mercy
[36] from the sea. I have been losing hold
[37] on a barren street; trees thick,
[38] the cold and then a dose of
[39] the horror—in the gloom it is
[40] like that. Every song you sing
[41] pulling hard on the knot to keep our
[42] searching and not finding, all those hills
[43] in souls, but it is an easy sale when
[44] you have labored over for years
[45] with the spilled blood of despair
[46] dropped into the open pot, simmered.
[47] Faith multiplies itself
[48] reducing you to a shadow.
[49] I remember everything, and nothing at all;
[50] the contempt, the betrayal: this is verse.
[51] Normal even when my chest tightens
[52] the self-shaving that is, now that I have left
[53] a man who knows what we must.
[54] The calculation is simple enough:
[55] dreams, moving through the earth,
[56] swim, like prophesy in waves
[57] and the entanglement of steel,
[58] counting the words, searching.
[59] It, too, collapses,
[60] will gleam through the tender;
[61] what it is to bleed and sweat, we taste
[62] so low, dear Lord,
[63] grow smaller.
[64] No answers. You have given
[65] how they gutted you
[66] full of groove and hope
[67] and the ashes come,
[68] the city swallows us,
[69] its stars, but leaves
[70] shimmering like an oil slick on my street
[71] the chain of desire, and sweetness
[72] from your eyes,
[73] boys and girls who seem desperate for a language
[74] to sip water, to slake the graveled throat. In the day,
[75] transparent thin things.
[76] A sharply sloping plain
[77] about you: that you know the power
[78] of people saving their strength,
[79] their feline gleam, mischief riddled.
[80] I carry the weight of your shadow always
[81] and the world will carry on its weary march
[82] where you left a row half done,
[83] will know the famine of orphaned days.
[84] When you wonder how long you will be
[85] a river of lament, find the howl
[86] dies. By dawn you know death,
[87] and light—slow down the blink.

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