Acclaimed author, poet takes the helm of Prairie Schooner

Kwame Dawes
Kwame Dawes

Prairie Schooner, the quarterly literary magazine published at UNL for the past 85 years, is charting a new course under the direction of its new editor, Kwame Dawes.

This fall, Dawes assumed the role as Glenna Luschei Editor of the magazine. The editorship is endowed through a gift from Glenna Luschei, a UNL alumna and former Prairie Schooner editorial assistant. In 2001, Luschei endowed Prairie Schooner in perpetuity through the University of Nebraska Foundation. Besides the editorship, the gift supports special editorial projects and annual awards recognizing outstanding contributions to the magazine.

“I just thought this was a fantastic opportunity,” Dawes said of his new role. “To take over a journal of the prestige, tradition and reputation of Prairie Schooner was an exciting idea to me.”

Dawes also joined the faculty as a Chancellor’s Professor and professor of English.

He said he aims to uphold the magazine’s tradition and strict code of ethics that guide judging for the magazine’s annual prizes. But he also looks to expand readership, attract more international writers to submit their work and incorporate more translated works. Efforts are already under way to revamp the magazine’s website and blog system.

Dawes most recently was a Distinguished Poet in Residence and professor of English at the University of South Carolina, where he taught since 1992.

He is the author of 19 poetry collections, three works of fiction, several books of literary criticism and aesthetics, four anthologies, and several produced plays. He also has several other forthcoming projects.

He reported on the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and contributed poems and other writings to the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, which earlier this year won the National Press Club Joan Friedenberg Award for Online Journalism. His recent released poetry collection, “Wheels,” includes some of those poems. That work also has been featured on PBS’ “NewsHour” and in USA Today.

His list of accomplishments includes an Emmy Award. He received the honor in 2009 for, his multimedia documentary project on HIV/AIDS in Jamaica.

He maintains many roles within the literary world. He is the programming director of the Calabash International Literary Festival, which is held annually in Jamaica. He also is the associate poetry editor of Peepal Tree Press, the leading publisher of Caribbean literature today, and he has served as an editor for a number of journals and book series.

He has an extensive record of publication, a diverse set of experiences and a global perspective that will aid him in his new role, said Susan Belasco, chair of the English Department.

“We are thrilled to welcome Kwame Dawes -- a citizen of the world -- who brings his extraordinary creativity and leadership to Prairie Schooner,” Belasco said. “Professor Dawes will build on the success of Prairie Schooner and attract new and emerging writers from all over the globe.”

Dawes succeeded Hilda Raz, who retired in 2010. Raz, who began teaching at UNL in the 1960s, became the editor of the Prairie Schooner in 1987 and founded the Prairie Schooner Book Prizes in poetry and short fiction.

— Jean Ortiz Jones, University Communications